Palabras Pintorescas - Faith in the weather gods

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By Editha Bartley

My faith in the weather gods is restored after that big rain — and snow — storm, coming almost on schedule in early May. Hopefully the pattern will continue as La Niña may have dived into the deep of the ocean, for a long time.

Back in the ‘50s when we still lived in Las Vegas and Jim worked for our Public Service Company, he would always plan his vacation time in early May.

We could then load up our kids, a whole truck full of tools, and sort of camp out here at the ranch. The seven log cabins used by our dude ranch guests almost always needed a loving hand (and many cuss words) as he fixed all of those little things that tend to become very large if let go. Fences needed to be fixed, cement needed to be poured in many different areas — from solid gate posts to steps and sidewalks — all outside jobs that are difficult to impossible to do when it rains. I wish I had a nickel for the times he’d say, “Why couldn’t it just wait to rain until next week?” as he sipped yet another cup of coffee near our big wood cookstove.

Now I wonder why he didn’t plan a vacation for June, when it was traditionally drier. And soon after we moved up here full time in 1962, these old mountains brought us heavy, wet snowstorms. And snowstorms bring killing freezes as well, so nobody up here ever plants a garden before the 10th of May, at least.

Some of my best gardens have been planted in June when the soil has finally warmed up. Our weather patterns used to be predictable. Branding was always done in late May, when it was past the May rainy spell, and the cattle could then be sent into our higher pastures, where the grass was already lush. The no-rain-in-June time was always a big worry. But there was enough of a snowpack high up on the mountain to keep the creeks flowing, and the acequias then had ample water.

It was automatic. It always rained, hailed, and we had a big lightning storm on the Fourth of July. Our dudes wanted to get in two good rides a day up on our sometimes bushy horseback trails, and this was hard to do between rainstorms. The last place one needs to be when lightning pops up is on a horse. And then there was the usual battle with those bright yellow rain slickers, always tied on behind the saddle, that dudes could never get untied, particularly when it was hailing and raining hard. The horses were also looking for cover, usually under a big spruce tree, and that was also a no-no because of the lightning. The wrangler always got soaked, because he or she had no time to put on that slicker. The dudes always came first. That’s another trail rule. Miracles do happen. We never had any kind of serious wreck with these wet events.

The thunderstorms came almost daily during July and August, but the dry weather returned in September, just in time to put up the annual hay crop.

Since everything in nature tends to go in cycles, I really do wonder what this summer will be like. We have already had record breaking warm days at this Gascon station. The rains brought cold weather, so I know a frost is very possible. And, possibly because of the climate change, we now have brown recluse spiders living at 8,000 feet. My near neighbor and I have been bitten by them, and this is a very painful, dangerous bite. So do be careful as you enjoy springtime in the Rockies.

Editha Bartley  lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.