The calves, kicking their hind legs up high, were cavorting
over the pasture. A sign of rain puffy clouds
floated in from the west, but no rain fell. The wind shifted,
tree leaves showed their underneath sides and tall grass leaned
westward, but there were only a few sprinkles. Finally the
weatherman said, "Possible scattered showers today, tonight
and tomorrow." He missed it again! The most reliable weather
information of all, in the early ’50s, was that "All
signs fail in dry weather."
Chub and I had bought this small, worn-out farm because my
dear old dad, said, "The west 80 will produce enough to pay
interest and taxes on the entire 160 acres."
The land had not been tilled for four years, and there were
puny corn stalks, with unpicked nubbin ears, in the 18-acre corn
field. It was a sorry sight. Dad said, "I’ll help you
clean it up and enrich the soil," so we bought it for only
$30 per acre. First, Chub had lime and fertilizer spread on the
cornfield and part of the pasture land, but money was in short
We borrowed two things: money for the down payment and farm
machinery from Dad. He and Chub plowed and planted that cornfield
the first year and began the long task of tearing out old fences,
plowing in gullies and grubbing cut roots and sprouts from the
rest of the farm. Luckily, they didn’t work on the biggest
gully in the poorest part of the farm. Money was going out, but
none was coming in.
We soon learned why farmers watched the sky and looked for
signs of rain, why weather was a ready topic of conversation on
the party line, at church, in town on Saturdays and at auction
sales. Mark Twain said, "If you don’t like Missouri
weather, wait a minute." Will Rogers repeated the adage,
"All signs fail in dry weather." And old farmers taught
us that "possible showers" not followed by a good
soaking rain was a sign that dry weather was coming. We got ample
rain that first year.
Chub and Dad kept clearing and leveling fields but didn’t
get to that big gully. Corn sprang up in neat rows on many acres
that second year. But when it was knee high, many people prayed
for rain and stared at cloudless skies. Radio announcers called a
sunny day "nice weather," and farmers winced at the
sound of those words. They needed rain and lots of it.
Corn leaves went limp when it was waist high, and rain still
didn’t fall. The weatherman predicted, "Possible
scattered showers." As roots reached farther down for
moisture, little tassels formed on shoulder high stalks; leaves
turned yellow and soon began to rattle in the hot winds. This
crop would never make grain! University of Missouri’s Ag
Extension agents distributed information and directions for
making temporary storage for chopped corn using trench silos,
also called pit silos.
Chub hired a bulldozer to reshape that big old gully into a
deeper, wider trench. Lined with huge, black plastic sheeting, it
made a usable silo. Field choppers harvested the immature corn,
and truckers stored it in the pit, which had natural drainage.
More heavy plastic sheeting covered the corn to keep it from
spoiling and old auto tires held it in place. In time, the corn
fermented to make ensilage, which cows love. Chub fed it out,
bringing the cows through the winter in good shape.
Now, more than 40 years later, the fields are in grass for
grazing, and we’re adding lime and fertilizer and
watching the sky for rain clouds.