It may be scary to think about it, but this semi-arrid country can have screwed-up weather patterns. 1948 was a year to remember. Spring was nearly over when attacking thunderheads brought waves of water bearing clouds that emptied themselves for days. It caused havoc for the rest of the year. Farm equipment was getting stuck all during the last half of the growing season. Combines did the same thing in August. The Mielke brothers sank a large tractor in June when they hadn’t learned to stay away from soft spots.
The first part of May, before the invasion of heavy rains, everything was calm west of Davenport. Winter wheat was standing tall. Farmers were busy plowing or working their dusty summerfallow fields.
May 15th was on a Saturday, so I parked my tractor in a low spot in the field so crooks wouldn’t be able to find it for stripping purposes. The following Monday, inches of rain came down so fast on the summerfallow that it couldn’t hold it all. The torrent buried my tractor, and plows in four and a half feet of sky water.
Not having the buoyancy of Noah’s Ark, only the steering wheel and fenders were sticking out of that overnight made lake. A near shoulder high wading job had to be done in order to hook a long pull chain to the tractor. Howard Janett came to the rescue by placing his tractor on not-too-solid ground. His Cat had to dig five cat track holes in different places in the process of dragging my tractor up to the shoreline.
This was a pretty lake that the rain storms made. On the east shoreline, the clean summerfallow ran into the lake. On the other side, standing wheat rose out of this body of water and extended up over a slope.
There was 80 acres in that field that never made it into summerfallow that year. Out here at Rocklyn, the month of May recorded 9.60 inches of rainfall. A drier streak hit Davenport where 8.71 inches of rain fell in May. By taking Davenport’s lower figure, more rain fell that month than fell in the whole year of 1929, when nature left only 7.30 inches of rain.
That year of instant lakes, rainfall tried to taper off by just dumping 3.01 inches in June. However, lakes in the fields stayed around, and took up farming space ’til the next year, when the year’s moisture was less than 10 inches.
The summer of 1948 was long remembered. Sugar and I had no logical reasons to seek out lake resorts, as we had our own lakes. We did miss the sights of friendly bathers. But it was a novelty to park the combine near the waters edge, and take a shallow swim before devouring our harvest lunch in the shadow of the self-propel.
One soon learned not to combine too close to those freshly made lakes that didn’t have thousands of years to develop a decent shoreline. Tempting looking wheat heads caused P. H. Janett to drive his combine too close to the waters’ edge. He did a good job of miring his self-propel harvester to a hopeless depth. Albert Stuckle’s tractor got it out, but not without bending the harvester’s drive wheel axles.
The new generation farmers figured it must have been a year of high yields. It was no such thing! In those days, there was no fertilizer laying around to dump on those rain soaked fields. The wheat roots didn’t even bother about going down with the surplus water that was loaded with leached nitrogen. In fact, the roots just stayed near the moisture laden surface where it was warm and comfortable.
What was the total rainfall here at Rocklyn’s Independent Weather Research Dept. for 1948? The record book shows that 27.04 inches had been dumped out of our leak-proof rain gauge during that stormy year.