Friday, March 06, 2009

Neither Rain Nor Hail

When I’m in Floresville I do business with the local mom and pop operations in town as much as possible. We have a Wal-Mart there and an H.E.B. But we also have vegetable stands like Bush’s in Stockdale and a farmers’ market on Saturday mornings in Floresville. The Wilson County Hardware & Lumber store downtown on 3rd Street is one of my favorite places to trade.

The hardware store is one of those requiring the aid of the clerk at the front desk for you to actually find something you are looking for. Items are arranged helter-skelter on crowded dusty shelves in infinite variety, vintage, and volume. If you ask, the elderly proprietor walks directly to the item and pulls it down, hands it to you, rings it up, and puts it in a brown paper bag. On the other hand, if you are not specifically looking for a rattrap or a toilet intake valve, you might find some pleasure in walking the narrow aisles and browsing.

Last spring I was in the store for rattraps. A family of field mice had determined that living in our house while we were gone was convenient. They chose the clothes dryer as their mansion and chewed the wires to the starting mechanism and I needed to evict them. With the assistance of the man up front, I found the traps and proceeded to check out.

The gentleman held my debit card at arm's length and squinted at it. “Creech,” he said. “Any relation to Lillie Creech?”

“She was my grandmother. I’m taking care of her place now.” I guessed the man was old enough to be my dad, probably near eighty.

“I knew your grandfather, Irvin. He delivered mail to our house when I was a kid,” he told me. “He was regular as clock work. I would go out to the road to wait for him every morning. Sure enough, his Model A would show up on time.”

“When the oil fields started going in the big trucks would tear up those county roads something awful. ‘specially when it rained. Sometimes it would be days before he could get his car back down our way.”

“My mother always mail-ordered chicks to raise in the spring. One time the chicks came in and the road was too big a mess for Mr. Creech to get there. He went to the feed store and bought a starter kit and cared for those chicks for a couple of weeks until he could deliver them.”

I’d never heard that story before. You don’t hear tales like that in Wal-Mart.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Dry Spell

Last weekend I made my first trip back to the farm since December. The early signs of spring were emerging. The young peach tree growing crookedly by the tool shed is covered with pink blossoms attracting a half dozen black butterflies. The red oak on the side of the shed is putting out its buds on every branch. I walked under its branches and heard a buzz like flowing electricity. I looked around for the source of the sound and noticed that every bud had its own honeybee. They were everywhere. It was the last day of February and it was 96 degrees by the afternoon. It is spring in South Texas.

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time the fields were green with the emergence of our wheat crop. But we were on the leading edge of a drought that would profoundly affect much of the state over the following year. We are in the middle of it now and there is no end in sight.

September 2007-May 2008 (the period during which we had wheat in the ground) was the driest on record (25% drier than the previous record). Last June was the second driest in history. The rest of the summer, fall, and winter did nothing to improve conditions. Forecasts are for things to continue or worsen at least through May. As you can see on the map, Wilson County is right in the middle of the most extreme drought conditions in the state.

Jesus said that God causes rain to fall on both the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). That would be nice.

I don’t know what role drought plays in the ecology of the land, but I do know that dry periods in the spiritual life are seasons of preparation for something new. The desert serves as the setting for important events in the lives of God’s people. Moses, Israel, Elijah, David, Jesus, and Paul all spent time in these dry places. It is the case in the lives of God’s people that the dry periods prepare us for more.

I’m eager for the rain to fall in Floresville. I look forward to the wildness of the land when its thirst is fully quenched. Meanwhile, we plant nothing and wait on the only one who can provide rain.