Dry Times


The past two dry years have been tough on the Great Blue Herons here, resorting to year-round rodent hunting to sustain themselves. With a measureable flow for only 18 days this year, absorbed before it made it to the Kaweah River, Dry Creek peaked at 9 cfs on April 3rd, compared to the 2010-11 season when Dry Creek ran until September 4, 2011. It’s too late for the chance of showers (and thunderstorms) today and tonight to help our feed or the herons much other than settle the dust and temporarily change the smell of things with only 5.67” of rain since October 2013. Those are the numbers, but one look at our April feed conditions says it all.

An image branded in my brain during the devastating Drought of 1977 is that of a Great Blue Heron fishing from the concrete bank of the Friant-Kern Canal near Exeter that gave me hope, that demonstrated their adaptability to me. No wonder they have become our totems—now if we can just take their lead.

5 responses to “Dry Times

  1. John- with any of your drought posts, the “like” selection should be interpreted as “like-minded”… I’m sure there is a sense of empathy in the touch of those who make that choice after reading your chronicles…


    • I understand, Jane. After a lifetime here, it’s all new ground for me, something worth chronicling, whether photos or poetry, for posterity. We are beyond ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’ our circumstances that have been like a roller coaster ride emotionally, our operational plans changing weekly throughout this supposed ‘rainy season’. We know how resilient nature, and in particular our grass for cattle, can be as we try to emulate its drive to survive the hard times. And it will, and so will we. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      And contrary to my statement that yesterday’s forecast chance of rain might not help much, little did I imagine nearly 2″ of rain. It will help. Already the red, purple and brown filaree is greening, lifting its leaves here in the lower country. Up high, this extra moisture at a time that is typically the end of our rainy season, will grow more feed, though more than likely, it will be dry in a few weeks, but will help sustain our cows through the summer months.

      Anything can happen: After two successive drought years, it finally began raining in early April of 1948 as my Dad was shipping all his steers. It rained throughout the months of April and May and he claimed he had green grass through the end of June, grass that typically is dry and mature by the 10th of May. He bought more steers and shipped those in early July. I’m not saying it’s going to happen that way this year, but we know it can.


  2. Whenever I fret about the survival of the great blue herons here in the East, I take solace and find peace in knowing that they are in so many ways prehistoric, and have been around “forever.” Your perspective on your great blues there deepens that sense of solace. Thank you for your heron photo and essay. And for your poetry, your moving, quenching poetry born of the drought.


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