Upper Green River - Wyoming
At the risk of beginning with a blinding flash of the obvious, I’d like to say something: It’s hot. No kidding, you say. It’s so hot I saw a jackrabbit carrying a hydration pack. It’s so hot my chickens are laying omelettes. It’s so hot I saw two trees fighting over a dog. You get my drift…
It’s an easy point to make, really. I saw a map the other day from NOAA that showed drought index information for every county in the US. It was pretty startling. There were a few counties in northern Maine, north Florida and in Washington and Oregon that were labeled in green – meaning temperatures had been mild and rainfall had been above average. But for the vast majority of the nation, indeed for a swath starting in southern California to western Pennsylvania, from south Texas to North Dakota the map was ablaze in oranges, reds and purples – areas of moderate to extreme drought. My home state Wyoming was purple from border to border.
No one who lives west of the 100th Meridian does so for very long without experiencing these “drouth summers”. Lots of us recall 1988, when Yellowstone burned. There was more moisture in a 2x4 you bought at the lumber yard than there was in living trees that year. I was just a little fellow during the drought of the 1950s, when month after month rolled by without a drop of rain. But all of us know it when we see it. The pasture grass simply never grows. There isn’t enough water to irrigate it, and all you can do is stand there and watch it turn gray, like ashes under your boots. The ridges above the Green look like Afghanistan, and the little sage grouse you saw in May just seem to have disappeared. The river lies low under the banks.
When the water’s warm and low like this, I don’t fish much. The fish in my home water are stressed enough without me. Even on my best days I doubt I’m much stress to them, but I don’t want to kill one unnecessarily. I wait and I pray for rain…and sometimes it comes.
It came the other night. With a flash and a bang that sent the dog scurrying for cover, an afternoon thunderstorm blew in and when it was done with 20 minutes of raging, horizontal frog-drowning downpour, it settled in and rained all night. We left the windows open in the house just so we could hear it, and when we got up in the morning it was a whole new world. The country was as fresh as if Creation’s dew was still upon it. And the smell…the smell was indescribably beautiful. I told a friend that day that I didn’t think you could truly appreciate the smell of rain unless you came from dry country like ours.
As for me, I think I’ll go fishing. And then I’ll pray for more rain.