Around the middle of May 1995, I assembled a crew of cowboys and neighbors to help round up and brand. While we were out horseback, one of the cowboys told me that he had been getting up extra early in the mornings and re-reading The Time It Never Rained, Elmer Kelton's classic novel about the drought of the Fifties.
Drought was on our minds that year, since we’d just come through an unusually dry winter and spring.
An hour later, it was pouring rain. We were two miles from the corrals and we got soaked. Out of twelve cowboys, not one had brought a rain slicker. In this country, a guy gets out of the habit of carrying his slicker. By the time he needs it, he either can't find it or it has fallen to pieces from dry rot.
I had to reschedule my branding four times. The last two weeks in May, it rained almost every day. The calves got so big, I thought we might have to import some draft horses to drag them to the fire.
Finally, the first week in June, I sneaked in and grabbed two days that were dry enough for branding. At three o'clock on the second day, we drove the last bunch of cattle two miles west to their summer pasture. At 3:45 we started back to the headquarters corrals.
By this time every cowboy was studying the dark, twisting clouds overhead. By the time we closed the west pasture gate and started down the hill into Picket Canyon, we were hearing the rustle of raindrops in the cottonwood trees.
Our pace quickened. When we reached the pens at 4:15, lightning and thunder were crashing around us and the rain was coming down in a steady roar. I never saw cowboys move so fast. Those horses were thrown into stock trailers in a matter of seconds and nobody stayed around for cookies and lemonade.
They didn't even say goodbye. What they had on their minds was that eleven miles of dirt road between us and the highway, and what a half inch of rain would do to it.
They all got out, and it's a good thing they left when they did. By eight o'clock that evening, we had four and a half inches of rain in our gauge. Picket Creek and Turkey Canyon were running like rivers.
The two mares I'd left up for the night were standing in water up to their knees. Two ricks of firewood I had cut and stacked over the winter were floating down Picket Creek.
I waded to the barn and took a quick look inside. When I saw the air compressor floating around and fifteen sacks of horse feed under water, I closed the door. I didn't want to know the fate of my portable generator, electric fence charger, and two chain saws.
In Texas, sometimes it never rains…and sometimes it never quits.