What can YOU say in six sentences?
The ground in southwestern Oklahoma is so thirsty, pissing on the dirt doesn’t even leave a wet spot.
Less than six inches of rain this year and blistering heat have drained small ponds and creeks. Larger ones are ringed by a hard gray crust that resembles the elbows of old men.
To add injury to insult, the devil came last month to reap what the drought sowed.
Flames cooked rattlesnakes in their dens, transformed oaks to charcoal, grass to ash, and they turned cedars into Roman candles, fueled by their own juices.
Even before the scorching, cattlemen were either selling cheap or stubbornly importing bad hay from neighboring states.
My friend Jay told me of the night he and the ranch’s owner strode a rocky pasture, breathing smoke and watching the flames advance. They walked without flashlights beneath a moonless, yet eerie amber sky.
The firefighters had arrived from out of state and at night, and they didn’t listen to the man who knew his land’s topography and the wind’s proclivities. More was lost than saved.
Jay and the rancher, helpless to save a single tree on their own, watched the fire burn. Ahead of it, shapes on four legs fled, while a sea of embers winked menacingly for days in its wake.
The rancher, who dealt in feeder calves, sold every head, and he’ll have to wait two or three years to start fresh, if he wants his land to recover properly. He also had to lease ground for his sheep, his living and eager weed killers.
But at least his residence and barns were spared. In nearby Medicine Park, some weren’t so lucky.
The fire burned for four days, the crews eventually concentrating on saving homes in their paths. Nearly 40,000 acres are now fit for only Tim Burton’s imagination.