It was a couple of years back that we made a swing through central Texas, exploring towns and places we hadn’t been. Texas had been in the throes of an extended drought, over five years of insufficient rain. The effects of the drought were obvious at every turn, fields left fallow, crops stunted and brown, sales of goat and cow herds.
It was early afternoon when we rolled into the little town of Llano, TX, northwest of Austin. Carol spotted a Mexican restaurant, for a late lunch. As forward scout, she scoped out the parking situation and reported we could fit into the parking lot.
Inside, the restaurant had mostly emptied from lunch and soon it was just us and a rancher, seated a couple of tables away. He turned towards us and asked if the RV was ours. It was the obvious question, but it began a conversation. Over the next few minutes he asked about our travels and our lifestyle.
When the opportunity arrived, I asked, “What’s been the effect of the drought?” “Well sir, I’ll tell ya. I’m not a big rancher, just a couple thousand acres for hay, goats and cattle.” He continued, “I couldn’t water when the wells went dry. I was growin’ hay for my livestock and to sell, but that went south after the first couple of years. Then, I needed to buy hay for my livestock, but with no rain, what little hay there was got expensive.”
“I don’t suppose hay was something you could get at the local feed store?”
“Naw, and pretty soon nobody had it. Now, I’m like Roy Rogers; I got my horse and my dog. The 300 head of cattle went first, then I sold off over 80 goats. So many in the same situation didn’t make it easy, but I basically sold off all I had but the land. Now, I’m just an ex-rancher.”
Our meal came and the conversation took a backseat for a moment.
“I got this granddaughter” he spoke, “she’s five.” “She’s an only child and always around adults. She even talks like an adult.” “Our youngest is like that,” I replied, “but a bit older now.” He continued, “Julie called me a while back.” “Whatcha need miss Julie?” I asked when I answered the phone.
“Granddad, I need a vacation and I think you need a vacation too.”
“Well, Julie, if we was to take a vacation, what would we do?”
“Granddad, I want you to take me somewhere I’ve never been and show me somethin’ I’ve never seen.”
I had to ask, “So, what did you do?”
He paused a minute and then said, “I took that little girl to Mississippi and we watched it rain.”