Good Ol’ WyomingWritten by Dennis Sun
Published: 01 September 2011
In mid-July my wife Peggy and I were in south central Texas for a family wedding, and, after hearing the horror stories about the drought and numerous wildfires, I figured we ought to drive instead of fly to see for ourselves. I realized that driving around Texas in July would most likely test our sanity, but it was worth the drive, and it did make us appreciate good ol’ Wyoming more.
I was not prepared for what we were to see. Here in Wyoming we talk about drought, and some of us saw it during the ‘30s and ‘50s, and we all knew we were in a drought in the late ‘90s and around the first of this century, but this drought that takes in eastern Arizona and all of New Mexico and runs across Texas to southern and western Oklahoma is bad, and I mean bad. Our hearts go out to those who are involved in agriculture without irrigation pivots in that huge area.
We drove down on Highway 287 through Lamar and Springfield, Colo., and one could safely say that not much grew there this spring, and the farther south we drove it only got worse.
The western part of the Oklahoma Panhandle has some of the most devastated country I’ve ever seen. There were a few green weeds along the edge of the highway, but otherwise it was old shrubs and dirt, and I mean just dirt. The BLM range cons in Wyoming who always complain about the percent of bare ground in your pastures would absolutely vapor lock if they saw this country.
The drive through cotton country in Texas from Dumas through Amarillo, Plainview and Lubbock was dry, but the wheat and cotton were harvested and the country is full of pivots. Then we started to get into the country that has burned due to all the wildfires around Sweetwater. When you get on a high rise, it’s burnt up as far as you can see. The Hill Country north of San Antonio is dry, and not much has grown this spring and summer, but there is a lot of country that is just brush and big cactus. Some of that country can’t raise livestock until it’s been cleared, even without the drought. We drove back up the eastern side of the Panhandle, where it wasn’t so bad. Even though it was still really dry, it did look to be good cattle country.
Around the whole drought area there are many livestock going to market, and after being sold they go directly to the packers, many of them for hamburger. Numerous producers are looking to the northern plains to find pasture for their cattle, while others say that, with the high prices, they’ll just sell. Many good horses are also headed north, and tons of hay are heading south.
These affected livestock producers in the drought area are in a real pickle. At least they have high prices when selling, but it still hurts to sell the livestock you’ve spent years building up. I visited with a few along the way, and they are really down. Hopefully the tropical storm that was moving up through Mexico this past week will bring them some relief.