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5/10/2007

Kansas Weather

Drought, tornados, rain, hail, and flood waters seem to be plaguing the middle part of the country. The recent EF5 tornado that devastated Greensburg, Kansas, had most everyone watching television and tracking the storm as it blasted its way across the state. The monster tornado turned not only buildings and equipment to rubble; it also turned lives upside down. Perhaps no other place on earth can one find the kind of resolve that is born and bred into Prairie People. The plains are the very definition of change. Seasons come and seasons go and prairie people know that changing weather is exactly what this ecosystem is all about. We learn to bend with the wind. If we get blown down we pick ourselves up, turn into the wind and go it one better. That is exactly what the world is seeing in Greensburg. Roll up yer shirtsleeves and get to work! That IS the spirit! 
 
In the aftermath of an intense weekend of violent weather rivers swelled out of their banks. News reports announced that some locations were about to experience record flooding. It was all very ominous.  
 
Im not trying to say that the reports of flooding were unimportant. When mamma nature cuts loose you can bet nothing we do is going to stop her from getting it done. Pretty humbling, but like I say, we bend.  
 
As for records, there are records and then there are records. Official records for Kansas have only existed for maybe 150 years. But early residents of the prairie recorded a flood of near biblical proportions in 1844. William Bent was one of many traders stranded on the plains because of high water. Bent left his wagon train traversing the plains by traveling between the rivers on the high ground. The rivers were said to be overflowing the valleys from bluff to bluff. Men harvesting prairie hay over 20 years later found driftwood high on the bluffs above the Smoky Hill River indicating a flow of water that we have not seen since official records have been kept.  
 
The opposite extreme has been recognized in the dust bow of the 1930 s. Most folks consider that to be the granddaddy of all droughts, one by which all other droughts are measured. That drought is usually described as a ten year event. However, a drought of equal annual severity occurred in the mid 1600 s on the plains lasting a full 30 years! Archeological evidence reveals an ecological disaster. The prairie was blowing dust just as in the dust bowl of the 1930 s only the grass had not been plowed out, it had just died. The vast herds of buffalo grazed it to nothing as they usually did. Without rain nothing grew back and the soil was laid bare.  
 
Don t tell me about record this or record that. Any ecologist will tell you that an ecosystem is a living entity that ebbs and flows. Cycles are what nature is all about. When you live on the prairie you know that down deep in your soul. White Antelope knew that as he sang his death song in the face of a world that had turned upside down for the plains tribes. Nothing Lives Long, Only The Earth And The Mountains. No, nothing lives long, but while we live nothing can dampen our resolve to be. That is our heritage. That is who we are.  
So Long, 
The Cowboy 

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