Over 100 miles of black countryside–as far as the eye could see–right up to the pavement of 2-lane US Highway 95 going north from Winnemucca NV through southern Oregon to Boise ID.
As I started North out of Winnemucca, a digital road sign warned me to “expect delays at the Oregon border.” I commented to myself. “More construction ahead,” since delays are the normal warnings for construction on a federal highway. No mention was made of fire, or smoke. And vehicles were approaching from the North. So I concluded that people were getting through.
Just before the Oregon border, the black country began. And I could smoke curling into the air some distance away. Cars were still coming through from the North. My 1/2-ton pickup truck was the only vehicle coming from the South.
Over 100 miles of blackened, seared, and still hot terrain! What an unnerving, desolate feeling washed over me. These gently rolling hills did not support timber. This was cattle-grazing land. With barley and some wheat grown–those “amber waves of grain” we sing about in July. Crops that help to feed the West.
Fires burning in Colorado, gobbling up almost 400 luxury homes. Fires burning along the foothills in Utah, dramatically shifting eastward just before a 500-home development overlooking Utah Valley. Fires burning in New Mexico, with tornado-like winds driving smoke clouds that obscure vision and fill lungs. Shriveled and dying trees in Texas that struggle mightily to survive three waterless years in a row.
And meanwhile, back in the Midwest, silage corn and corn dedicated to ethanol for fueling vehicles at reduced cost, withers, dries, and awaits an early plow–26 states and over 1,000 counties declared disaster areas so farmers can borrow money to replant. As well as weather the disaster until the rain comes.
I heard the news.
I watched the news.
I read the news.
Not until, I drove that 100+ miles of burned-up countryside, did I fully grasp the perils our beloved America faces. Do you know that first the weather begins to change. Then the hot winds and moistureless skies appear. Then the crops die. The animals disappear. The birds and insects desert us. And famine looks us in the face.
We are dairy farmers. Seventh-generation farmers. And we are back to 11-cent milk. Better than the 9 cent milk of 2008, but not much better! We still lose money on each and every cow, each and every day. We’ve just had a cap placed on the amount of milk we can produce. Seems Americans are drinking more jazzed-up sports drinks filled with stimulants. And drinking less milk. And even in the midst of a hot summer, consuming less ice cream. Putting less butter on their machine-made waffles. And asking for less cheese on their pizza. Yogurt alone, is carrying the weight of the dairy industry!
Bernanke’s grim report on the state of the American economy, which is recovering much too slowly and incompletely after 4 years, is somehow not as daunting for me as those blackened acres. A finality looking me in the face.
My perennial optimism that a thorough airing of the political issues facing America this election would wake us all up–Democrats and Republicans alike–is still present . Barely.
So where is the rainbow? Where the shimmer of rain drops? In a sky where the drops fall too high up to hit the ground. Dry rain they call it. Lightning flashes without water. Dry lightning they call it. Igniting more fires from this Western tinder-box.
Where is the rainbow? Where do I go for relief?
To the Family History Library and the world of genealogy! Where the indexers hit over 10 million names indexed in just 24 hours! A record that I applaud! Where the 1940 census for the whole US is now 60% indexed. Where ancestors can be shaken from the records, and fit like pieces of the jig-saw puzzle, into place. Where your ancestors are almost as fun to retrieve as my own. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle.
PS Your favorite genealogist is a little more sensitive to the plight we all face, regardless of where we live in this great land of ours. And if our ancestors could do it, we can too. Mine crossed the ocean. Crossed the plains. Crossed the nation on railroad cars. And delivered newspapers by hand and sleigh. If they could do it. I can do it.
PPS Stay tuned for a much more positive, all is right in the world of genealogy, approach next episode. I am here at the Family History Library conquering Tazewell County Virginia and its early residents–origins in Fauquier and Loudoun counties meeting origins in Pittsylvania county and leaving a whole new legacy behind as they migrate into Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, and points West..
PPSS I have honey bees and robins in my yard this year–first time in 5 years! That is a positive.