Rain rarity for some country folk

By Glenda Price: Columnist

It rained the day I wrote this column. I saw it, stood in it, tasted it. It was good.

Ranch folks, especially those of us who grew up in the drought years of the 1950s, have permanent cricks in our necks from looking up at the sky watching for rainclouds.

We’ve heard of a paper called a Rain Check, but we’ve never actually seen one.

The first time I traveled through the Midwest, I saw all kinds of crops growing beside the road. The land was rolling hills, and those crops were growing on hillsides, in the little valleys and even on top of the hills.

I was amazed. “I don’t understand how they irrigate that stuff on such unlevel land,” I said. My husband laughed a really long time before he finally caught his breath long enough to say, “It rains here. They don’t have to irrigate.”

If water does happen to fall out of the sky, we don’t just stop what we’re doing and watch. We go out in it. Being on horseback in the rain is one of life’s most fun activities. Your saddle gets wet, and you sort of stick to the leather. If you’ve been working cattle, the smell of steam coming off your sweaty horse mixes with the wet leather scent. Your bridle reins feel slick. Water drips off your hat brim.

You can’t help singing cuz you’re close to paradise.

Most of the time, though, yellow slickers stay tied to our saddles. One cowboy I know untied his slicker one day and put it on just to see how it felt. His horse never had seen or heard such a floppy, noisy thing so he plopped cowboy, slicker and all, in the unrained-on dust.

My father-in-law, when he knew we were coming to visit, always said, “I hope you get stuck (in the mud) between here and the highway.”

Country folks don’t need a television weather announcer to let us know if it’s really, actually going to rain. We only have to look out in the pasture. If the horses are galloping and prancing, and the cattle are raising their tails and acting frisky — it’s gonna rain.

In the American Southwest the Fourth of July is the for-sure rain day, even in the middle of a drought. Most of our towns have rodeos that day. At one memorable “rodeo in the mud,” a saddle bronc rider rode fine, grabbed onto the pickup man, looked down at the muddy ground, and hung onto the pickup man. Their landing made quite a splash.

The pickup man’s horse had never seen mud. His wreck was even more spectacular, but everybody survived.

A bull rider bucked off, jumped to his feet and ran straight into the bull’s rear end because he couldn’t see through the mud in his eyes. The bull, totally discombobulated, quit bucking and ran back into the chute.

At a roundup camp a young wrangler excitedly announced, “It’s rainin’ all over the world!”

An old hand grinned indulgently and asked, “How do you know?”

“I got up on the wagon wheel and looked!”

Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: glendaprice00@comcast.net