On Drought and Frailty

“We’ve lost… what’s 300 times 30?” He did the quick calculation. “Yeah, 9,000. Somewhere around 9,000 ears of corn this season. The meteorologist says this might be the worst drought since the ‘30s.”

Out at the Farm, the leaves are browning. The food is drying up. Ashes to ashes. Dustbowl to dustbowl.

I rode down through southwest Arkansas last week. The cows in Grannis are skinnying up. Their skin hangs loose across lean muscle and they eat crispy Bermuda. If they could beg, they plead for rain. They’d ask to have their ponds refilled; they’d ask for a fresh green shoot or two. My traveling companion says, “I wouldn’t want to be a cattle farmer this year. They’ll have to take ‘em to market early and that’ll hurt.” I stare past highway mirages and say, “yeah” as if I know something about the cattle market. But it’s evident that something’s not right. Cattle ought not to look this way.

Mike and I spoke about the weather at length last night. We went on like two eighty year old farmers at the coffee shop, the kind that wear Carhart overalls and John Deere caps. “It’s humbling,” he says. “Without rain, the Farm’s going to keep losing produce and there is nothing we can do to change that.”

He takes a slow breath; it’s telephonic pause that says listen closely.

“Corn and cattle won’t be good this year. But we’ll just truck it in from the Midwest, and if it fails in the Midwest, we’ll truck it in from California, and if it fails in California, we’ll truck it up from Mexico. The rich, we’ll transport food in from foreign lands. Fill our bellies to the point of forgetting. We’ve lost what it means to be dependent on our own land. We’ve forgotten that drought is a reminder of frailty.”

I agree. Respond “umm-hmm.” Give him space to tie it together.

“And if we truly remembered those things,” he said, “we’d pray for rain like we actually believe in God.”

Today it will be 97 degrees, but there is a 40% chance of precipitation. If it fell, it’d be the first rain to hit the Farm in 8 weeks. Today, I’m going to pray like I believe in God.

Join me.


**Anecdotally, a recent study has noted that we currently consume 3 calories of fossil fuels to grow 1 calorie of food.  In addition, we use another 7-10 calories of fuel to produce and transport that same calorie of food.  This is not a post on bioethics or stewardship, but the statistics make one wonder about the current course of food production.

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12 Responses to On Drought and Frailty

  1. Greetings, from Fredericksburg, Texas, where everyone is selling their cows because we’ve reached official Emergency Drought–only 5 inches of rain in 10 months when we should be at 20 inches. Believe me, even unbelievers are praying. We are frail. We are afraid.

  2. TW says:

    2 hours to the south and west of you they are selling cattle because farm ponds are drying up. Talked to my parents last week and they are trying to hold on while people around them are selling.

    On the ability to truck goods in…that’s interesting since just returning from Africa and the realization that this solution is not possible for much of the world.


  3. I am in Texas. Please Jesus send rain. I have a poem about this and the poem ends wondering why Jesus is riding away in the back of someone’s pickup truck.

    Droughts make it hard to trust God, but they force me to remember that this is the way God made the world. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it doesn’t.

    Mark Roberts recently told me that he is trying to let this drought help him remember what how much he should thirst for God. I like that.

    And I’d like some rain, please, God. Our river is flow is down 15%. It is hot. We are thirsty.

    • sethhaines says:


      Last night the rains came to Northwest Arkansas. Thinking of my friends in Texas. Noticing that the jet stream didn’t dip down far enough. Any relief yet?

  4. Sam Van Eman says:

    Seth, I like the paragraph on “if it fails…we’ll truck it in.” I know people still suffer, even if it’s remotely available, but you’re right that availability numbs us somehow to our dependence.

    • sethhaines says:

      The numbness to dependence worries me. I wonder in how many areas of my life I lose that sense of dependency. Sometimes, I wish our world was more awake to it.

  5. Sam Van Eman says:

    Plenty of areas for me. I try to drink the medicine I give to college students when I tell them to consider limiting something on their dream list. Buy a house without a garage, for example, if a garage is an item on their top-ten. This becomes so hard as income improves.

    • sethhaines says:

      I would argue that it almost become impossible as income improves. I think (and I’ve lived a little of this) that we have to be willing to limit everything on our dream list. House with garage = house without garage. BMW = Ford. Best food and drink = home roasted chicken and a $10 bottle of wine. We could go off record and talk about this for a while.

      All that being said, I LOVE you thoughts. You put some language to some things I’ve been trying to express. Thanks, Sam!

  6. Sam Van Eman says:

    It’s a good conversation to have, Seth, and I’m glad to know you’re thinking about this stuff. I could be doing more in the way of teaching/thinking/promoting, but it hasn’t been on my radar as centrally as other items in the past year or so. It’s good to get my convictions stirred again.

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