Like most Americans, I watched news of Hurricane Irene’s soiree along the East Coast. While I am sure there was damage done with her passing, I need not look further than out my front door to watch a much more devastating but less newsworthy catastrophe unfold. The drought I refer to is not as spectacular as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and the like, but I assure you, it has proved a more lethal, silent, and effective killer than any of the above this year.
As I type, an accurate thermometer registers 111 degrees from the shade of my front porch. We have suffered days, weeks, even months in sweltering heat with no rain. The ground is parched and cracked, the grass dead; desert termites encase the last of grass carcasses with mud tubes, adding insult to injury to those that might have saved a pasture for grazing.
While someone from Phoenix or Death Valley California may say this is an every-year occurrence, they do not live near large concentrations of beef and poultry farms like those near my home in South Central Texas. We raise more cattle than anywhere in these United States. Or we once did, anyway...
As I speak, broilers are dying by the droves while farm managers and workers watch helplessly. Cattle, horses, sheep, goats and pigs hide in what little shade they can find, panting. Some will die. Whole herds of cattle appear at overstrained livestock auctions around the state. Most ranchers have no hay to feed their animals; some no longer can provide water for them to drink.
Wildlife also suffers; who knows how many thousands will succumb and die today.
Trees are dying. It may be a while before you notice, but notice you will.
There was a catastrophe today, but it had nothing to do with Hurricane Irene.
Texas is burning.