Thirsty Dirt and Rainmageddon

Earlier this spring south Texas was the happy recipient of record rainfall, ending several years of pretty severe drought almost overnight.  Reservoirs went from completely empty to spilling over the flood-gates in a matter of a few days.  During that time, we had the pleasure of dealing with up to two feet of running water flowing down our road, up to three inches of standing water in the yard, a flooded septic system, and a whole host of other flood and rain-related things.  We mostly celebrated, though, because it had been so long since we’d had good rain.

Almost as quickly as the drought ended, it started again.  It rained like crazy all spring, and the moment summer pulled the calendar from one page to the next the rains stopped.   For the last three months we’ve had at most half an inch of rain in total.  Typically, summer brings an average of 3-6 inches per month.  It’s been amazingly dry, to the extent that the weather guessers have taken to calling what we are in now a “flash drought.”

One consequence of the rapid drying of the ground around here is that the dirt shrinks; and when it shrinks, it cracks.  When I was much younger, I came down here for training, and was struck that this place could have ground so dry it had cracks three feet deep while being humid enough to be foggy at 75 degrees.  After living here for a while, I realize those three-foot cracks were small.  Some of the ones here on our homestead are probably twice that deep.

Just like the drought quickly ended and re-started, it ended again.  We were hit with the remnants of an unusual eastern-pacific hurricane that hit Mexico before dumping huge amounts of rain across most of Texas.  We didn’t get the eight to ten inches predicted, but we did get just under four yesterday, and almost all of that within about a two hour period.  The ground was definitely thirsty, because it drank up the water as fast as it could come down out of the clouds.  The picture at the top of this article is of one of those deep cracks that had opened up in the ground during the dry spell drinking up a stream of water flowing faster than I could make a garden hose flow.  By the time I took this picture, over two inches of rain had fallen, so it’s not like this flow had just started.  That crack must have swallowed hundreds of gallons.


Life can be funny sometimes.  Things we often tend to view in absolutes can become quite fuzzy or even inverted when the context is right.  One example I’ve experienced very recently is an inversion of the concept that it’s bad to be unwanted.

Most of us spend a good portion of our lives trying to be something or someone who is wanted.  We develop skills that are wanted by employers.  We seek to be wanted by friends and love interests.  We often find ourselves trying to acquire stuff and abilities that place us in a position to be envied.  I think it is a part of human nature to want to be something admired or desired by almost everyone we meet.

When I was a kid, I was a klutz who was usually among the last to be chosen when it came time to pick teams for any kind of sport (a situation, incidentally, that hasn’t really changed).  I hated feeling unwanted, and as a result I pretty much quit trying  to play sports in the first place.  As a young man, I didn’t fit in with the “in crowd” (who incidentally have for the most part had fairly miserable adult lives if reports are to be believed) and was an unwanted strap-hanger or outsider.  I hated it enough that I quit going to youth activities at church to avoid feeling unwanted.  I wanted to be wanted.

Fast forward many years, and I am now waiting to find out where the Air Force is going to send us for the next four years.  For some unknown reason, the personnel gods decided to completely ignore my preferences and the recommendations of my senior leadership and opted to recommend me to the “cables” office at the office of the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF).   This office is basically a glorified 24-hour a day, 365 day a year answering and generalized executive services staff for the SECDEF.  It’s not the kind of thing I’ve spent years and years in school only to spend the last years of my military service on.  In fact, one of my friends from a previous assignment had worked in that office before, and the first thing he said when I called him was: “You’ll HATE it!”  Based on his subsequent descriptions, I’m certain he was right.

The way I found out about the personnel system’s intentions was a call from the chief of the cables office, a Navy Captain (Colonel equivalent).  He was concerned that I didn’t have enough “operational experience” in my background.  He expressed hesitation and reservation in hiring me, and made it sound like the job was something to be coveted.  He seemed to suffer from the same delusion many Air Force fighter pilots are under that being an “operator” qualifies you for everything, and that anyone who hasn’t done what they’ve done couldn’t possibly be as good at anything as they are.  I’m not sure what planning and executing operations has to do with answering the phone and filing emails, but I answered his questions and sent him a more detailed resume anyway.  Along the way, I think I might have mentioned the fact that I hadn’t exactly volunteered for the position (didn’t intend to submarine the job, but sometimes Freudian slips are hard to avoid).

I didn’t hear anything back from them for a week, waiting the whole time for the dreaded notification that my assignment had been finalized.  By Thursday (one week since sending my resume), I sent a short note to the Captain asking if he needed any additional information and if they had made a decision yet.  He informed me that they were still deliberating and had received another nomination from the personnel center.  The only way they would have gotten another nomination would have been if they asked for one.  The message, intended or not, was that they weren’t happy with my background.  Yesterday this was confirmed when they sent me a message telling me I was not selected for the position.   I guess answering phones is too tough for someone as unexperienced and uneducated as I am.  It’s never felt so good to be unwanted.  I cried all day… tears of joy that is.

The only down-side to this tale, however, is that while the cables office was waffling and “deliberating,” people were being matched against all the other less than awful jobs on the must-fill list.  The entire job-matching process is supposed to be complete tomorrow, and the personnel system didn’t get the message I wasn’t accepted until yesterday.  They are probably going to plug me against one of the must-fill jobs that nobody volunteered for, since almost all the rest will have already been filled by now, and they don’t have a lot of time to do anything different.   Man… I can’t wait to find out what other hell-hole of a job they think my PhD and varied experience qualifies me for.


It would appear we are off to Albuquerque where I will for the first time be in a position that actually has the potential to utilize all that over-hyped and high-priced education the military paid for.  Michael has trouble pronouncing it, instead using a word that is more of a cross between an albatross and a turkey (albaturkey).   The other kids just have trouble spelling it.

A Day on the Farm with Michael

Editor’s Note:  Liz started this with Michael a while ago, but hasn’t been able to convince him to finish it.  Rather than wait for what will probably never happen, I’ve decided to post what he’s done so far for the benefit of people who want a view of our world through the eyes of Michael.  Who knows what this would have looked like had Michael finished it, but for now, enjoy the sneak peak.   –Peter

Today Michael and I decided to make a book.  He asked me to take pictures of “bugs, animals, chickens, Thornton, and cracks in the dirt.”

The adventure begins…

“I’m standing on the chicken roost.”
“These chickens are having a happy day ’cause we didn’t mess around with them.”
“This is what eggs look like.”
“This is a striped rooster.”





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