The Ice Cream Party, by John R. Erickson

Tuesday, August 07, 2012 | By John R. Erickson


    The summer of 1998 was the most unpleasant and demoralizing summer in my memory. June and July brought searing heat, brutal winds, range fires, and no rain.

    Our grass, what little we had, appeared to be dead. Our ponds dried up and the springs slowed to a trickle. I could hardly stand to drive through our pastures. The suffering and desolation ate into my spirit.

    It didn’t help at all that Perryton, just forty miles to the north, was getting every raindrop from every cloud that passed by. In the month of July, Perryton received ten inches of rain! At church, I heard people complaining about having to mow their lawns, and the pesky mosquitoes.

    Mosquitoes? On our whole ranch, we didn’t have a single mosquito. We couldn’t have rented a mosquito. They had all packed up and moved out. I had never dreamed that I would ever miss mosquitoes, but I did. That’s how bad it was.

    The rest of Texas continued to suffer through the heat and drought, but in August we got some relief. What broke our drought wasn’t cloud-seeding or even my rantings and ravings. Kris and I decided to have an ice cream party at the ranch.

    It was a gathering of the neighbors—neighbors being the families who lived on adjoining ranches. Our closest neighbors, the Clapps, lived seven miles away. The DeArmonds had to drive twenty-five miles from their home on Pat’s Creek.

    It took us days to prepare for this big event. We had to mow and clip and trim the yard and the picnic grounds. Kris cleaned the house and mixed up the ingredients for two freezers of homemade ice cream.

    The company arrived at seven. Clouds had begun to stack up in the south, but we had seen this teasing ritual before and paid it no mind. We knew what would happen. The hateful clouds would build directly over our ranch, then scoot off to the north and drop their rain on Perryton.

    We would not be tricked into believing that it might rain.

    We moved the food down to the picnic grounds, set up lawn chairs, and visited for a while. I don’t know what the ladies talked about, but we men had only one subject on our minds: the dry weather. Cowboys in a drought are pretty dull conversationalists.

    Kris called for us to eat. A damp wind was blowing in from the southeast and those clouds were getting darker and moving our way. Ha! Did they think we were going to fall for their theatrics? Not a chance.

    In defiance of the phony, counterfeit clouds, we filled our plates and dared them to rain out our party.

    The first fat raindrops slapped on the chinaberry trees overhead, but we were fearless and held our ground. We stuck out our tongues at the clouds and mocked them. “Weenie clouds! Cheap two-bit frauds!”

    You know, it worked. If we had run for the house right away, the clouds would have scudded on by, but once they saw that we were eating homemade ice cream, they were forced to do something.

    The rain came in sheets and buckets. It rained snakes and weasels and pitchforks. We held out until were sure the clouds had been properly provoked. Only then did we make a dash for the house.

    We got drenched, the party was ruined, and the ladies had to sacrifice their hairdos for the cause, but it was well worth it. These drought clouds won’t produce for free. To get an inch of rain, you have to toss ‘em a bone.

Tags: Weather, Ranching, Panhandle, Perryton
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