A persistent drought plagues the Llano Estacado. Just after midday I set out to assess the state of ranching and agriculture on the tablelands northwest of our town. Disheartening images of an immense, tinder-dry cattle range set the tone for my excursion. I pause and watch a lone plowman easing his tractor along the symmetric boundaries of an irrigated crop circle. I’m in awe of this land with the endless horizons and the tenacity of the people living their lives in such minimalist grandeur.
Scarce autumn rains and winter snows continue to deepen drought conditions and threaten the livelihood of ranchers and farmers on the vast expanse of the Llano Estacado. Over the last six months farmers defy the odds and manage to nurture meager crops of winter wheat for livestock forage. Vegetation also fights wind erosion of their fields. Now they must prepare their acreage for summer crops. By mid-April the chances of a freeze are all but gone. Those who make a living off the land pray for May rains to get their crops off to a good start. Irrigation is an alternative, but adds costs of pumping water and maintenance of center-pivot systems. Taxing a depleted aquifer without rains to replenish it is a double-edged sword.
© Ilija Lukić 2011
|Llano Cattle Range|
|Crop Circle Farming|