Hard earth and hard truths

Robert Hensley/Flickr
Robert Hensley/Flickr

Two weeks ago, Lubbock reached the longest streak of rainless days in its recorded history. Weather forecasters were claiming that the city was drier than Death Valley.

The streak finally ended last Friday with a sprinkle that hardly dampened my dog Pickle’s ears. But by Monday, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, a newspaper from the flattest place on earth, was saying that the worst effect of the drought was yet to come.

The newspaper was referring to the threat of wildfires, like the one that killed three young people a year ago in Gray County. Their names were Cody Crockett, his girlfriend Sydney Wallace, and their mutual friend Sloan Everett. The fire and smoke had gotten to them when they were outside trying to save the lives of cows and calves.

I’m not a rancher, so I’m not in danger of losing my livestock to wildfires. And I’m not brave enough to run into a fire in order to save a calf or cow, or even my dog Pickle, as much as I like to think I would. I’m afraid of almost everything that I can’t control.

A moment ago, I shivered a little when I heard what sounded like a violent rainstorm. But when I went out to see how bad it was, I recognized the sound as the cooing of thousands of doves that were balancing on the power lines as far as I could see or pecking through the dry stubble in the fields of harvested grain.

With that many doves, the gray hawk that glided by me at eye level was bound to have a feast.

The thing I like about droughts is that they make it easier for Pickle and me to take long walks along the dirt roads that run between the fields. Even a moderate rain can turn those roads into quagmires.

There’s one drought, though, that I wish I’d never experienced. It was in 2005, a year my younger daughter and I were living in an abandoned farmhouse on the edge of a canyon. It was the year that our dog Madonna died. I loved Madonna. I buried her in front of the farmhouse, but the earth was so dry and hard, it took me hours to dig the grave deep enough. She was a retriever and, like Pickle, a big one.

My daughter is married now and living in town. Pickle and I have moved to a rented backhouse on a cotton and milo farm. And Pickle is fast approaching the age that Madonna was when she died. I’m aging fast, too.

The bad thing about a drought now is how much harder it will be for me to dig another grave.

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Dennis Covington, who died in April 2024, was the author of six books, including Salvation on Sand Mountain, a finalist for the National Book Award. His final book was Revelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World.


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