These Ozarks Hills: Times of Drought Force Us to Do What We Can

Jul 5, 2012

This is Marideth Sisco for These crispy Ozarks Hills. Have you had enough of this weather? If you're a school age person, you're already shaking your head over the mess the grownups have made of this old planet earth. It's climate change, of course and these are the consequences, they're saying. We just studied that in social studies. And math. And current events. They may be right, and the fires in Colorado -- and Utah -- and just down south of town, lend some weight to that opinion. Those of us of a certain age, though, are more likely to look back at the summers of 1951, 52 and 53, and say with a sigh, here we go again. We've seen this before, and we hope and pray to whoever is listening that it's not going to be that bad this time. But then we hear that farmers who usually sell their excess hay are now looking to buy some, and that those who raise cattle are thinning their herds now before winter catches them stock heavy and forage light. So we know a drought when we see it, and we know, either from our own experience or those who came before us, what to do in response. We do what we can, and weather the rest. The situation became personal to me in the past few weeks, even though I don't own a large farm and my well, so far, is sufficient to water the garden. A week or two ago my air conditioner started making a noise somewhat like someone dismantling a cat. A friend and I tinkered with it a while but couldn't get it to come back to life. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not about to complain about a dying air conditioner, especially that one. I actually found it on the ground sprawled on its back outside the window where it used to fit, because the termites had gotten to that window and it could no longer contain it -- did I say I live in a house that's actually older than me by a good 25 years? Anyway, I bought the house, fixed the window and eventually, on a whim, reinstalled the air conditioner, and it actually worked. That was four years ago. It has definitely earned its keep. But it died, and with many kinds of assistance of kind friends and able-bodied neighbors, the old one went off to become a table next to the vegetable washing station outside the garden, and the new one was installed in its place. I'm sitting here enjoying it now. But then earlier this week, in one of those unhappy chains of happenstance, my refrigerator died -- the one I'd bought at a moving sale at such a bargain. And the holiday was upon me. What was a frugally-minded, useitupwearitout old hillbilly to do? Well, first, I recalled that another refrigerator, a fairly new one, was residing in the house my friend Pat had just moved from. I called her and we easily struck a deal. We'd make the exchange early in the day on the fourth. And then we remembered, almost simultaneously, that we were not the forty-something-year-olds that used to move with ease things like refrigerators and pottery kilns. We were now 60-somethings. So again, what to do. Now years ago, a farmer needing assistance would just go out and ring their dinner bell at a time nowhere near dinner, and the neighbors would come to see what was up. Those that didn't have a dinner bell would blow a cow horn. I went on Facebook. Several friends commiserated, some said they'd come but it would have to be later. And then Mary Bishoff volunteered John. I like John. He's always ready to help - and his mechanically adept mind is always ready to see a problem as a challenge to be met. And he met it, trundling a friend's trailer and a recycled refrigerator dolly over Pat's very long and overgrown lane, trussing up the fridge and bouncing it back down the lane and across several up hills and down over to my place, then removing its doors so it would fit through the very old doorway. There are neighbors and there are friends. And there are a few saints among them. John and Mary were that to me that very hot holiday morning. I guess what I'm trying to get at also has to do with something that came from a conversation this week with a friend whose mother is in her declining days and other family members are facing equally difficult challengs, and who lamented that there was so little she could do to help. You just have to do what you can, and that will have to be enough, I told her. In these days of drought and suffering, maybe due to climate change, maybe not, that, I think, is the task before us. Just to see what is before us, and do what we can. If, indeed, the world is warming, as research is becoming pretty certain about, it only wastes time and breath to argue about whether human activity is a part of it. If we are among the causes, then we must do what we can to remove our actions from the equation. If we are not, then we must do what we can not to squander those resources that are dwindling to a precious few. This land that is so poor and yet so bountiful, so hardscrabble and yet so unutterably beautiful has already taught that lesson to those of us who have managed to not just live, but thrive on its almost bare bones. Do what you can, and things will work out. A mantra for hard times. There was this married couple driving through the Ozarks one early summer day when they came upon a field where workers were picking strawberries. There was a roadside stand and several crates of berries stacked alongside. They decided to stop. The woman said to the man, "get us a flat so I can make shortcake, and ask them what they do with the berries they don't sell. Surely they don't sell them all." So the man got out, got the berries, and asked the question. The farmer said, "Well, we eat what we can, and what we can't, we can." The man nodded and came back to the car. "Did you get an answer," the woman asked. He said "Well, I did, but I didn't understand it. He told me they ate what they could, and what they couldn't, they could." And so it is. This is Marideth Sisco, celebrating this independence holiday week by doing what I can, in these Ozarks hills.