Relentless heat rules the tablelands of the Llano Estacado. Dry-land crops do not exist. Irrigation pumps continue their assault on the already stressed water bearing Ogallala Formation. Much of the water in its sedimentary rock pores is paleowater dating back to glacial melt water from the most recent ice age. The aquifer replenishes slowly from playa lakes and our third year of drought bodes a significant set back. How much longer can we mine the ancient waters? Will farming survive this decade on the high plains of New Mexico?
Cooper and I venture onto the morning prairie in 68°F temperatures borne on light southeasterly winds. Prairie flora still flourishes in response to last week’s rains. Yet far and wide three days of moisture show little residual impact on the bone dry soil. Later this afternoon thermometers will peg out near the century mark. Yesterday’s waterholes make fine-grained, homogeneous slates of mud for Cooper’s paw prints. He obliges and after investigating several mud holes lies down next to a blistered clay bed where he sipped water just days ago--not a drop to drink.
There is a hush over the prairie. Meadowlarks no longer proclaim their individual territories with cheerful song. They congregate in lone elms. Without ephemeral pools of water, I have yet to hear the harsh mating calls of a Great Plains Toad. Flying insects lie dormant, except for occasional dragon flies and spider wasps. Horned lizard, snake, and terrapin encounters are few and far between.
We make a rest stop at a prairie oasis in the shade of a solitary elm. Whispers of morning breeze in its sparse canopy are the only sound. It reaches into my heart and encourages reflection on the tenacious beauty of this harsh land.
- © Ilija Lukić 2013 -
|Not A Drop To Drink (Cooper)|
|Sand Sage (artemisia filifolia, aka Silver Sagebrush)|
|Brother To The Sun (carduus nutans, aka Nodding Thistle)|
|All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go (gaura mollis, aka Lizard Tail Gaura)|
|Hello Sun (desmanthus illinoennsis, aka Prairie Mimosa)|
|Thistle Supernova (carduus nutans, aka Nodding Thistle)|
|Withered Sun Rays (carduus nutans, aka Musk Thistle)|
|Llano Shade Tree...Just Kiddin'|
|Yesterday's Water Hole|