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Summer Rains, Some Aren't

A devout cowboy lost his Bible while he was mending fences out on the range.

Three weeks later, a cow walked up to him, carrying the Bible in its mouth.

The cowboy couldn’t believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the cow’s mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “It’s a miracle!”

“Not really,” the cow said. “Your name is written inside the cover.”

The story comes from my cousin Walt in Roseville, California. I tried it out on my dog, Fibber, who has seemed a little despondent during the dog days of summer.

Fibber gave me a look and said, “Cows can’t talk.”

I’ve been a little depressed myself. Our thermometer said 115 yesterday, and it was 117 just down the road.

The story about the Bible got me to thinking about miracles. I’m sure there have been some, or I wouldn’t still be here. I may have overlooked the miracles while looking for the jackpots.

But I remember one morning in the 1940s. I was eight or nine years old, and I was lying on my back in the grassy meadow at General Springs, on the crest of the Mogollon Rim.

There was nothing in the sky but my daydreams– not a cloud of any kind.

Then, suddenly, a whisp of cloud appeared right over me, fluffy as feathers appearing out of nowhere. I know now why that happened, and it doesn’t make it any less impressive.

Warm moist air, circulating counterclockwise off the Gulf of Mexico as it does in summer, had been superheated as it passed over the desert. The Mogollon Rim, which rises to 7,500 feet in that area, bumped the moist air up into cooler strata. A thunderstorm was being born.

I’ve watched a lot of thunderstorms build in the last 60 years, and prayed for a good many more than I actually saw.

But I didn’t have much else to do that day, and I watched while God built a storm as stirring as the 1812 Overture.

The little wisp of cloud grew in mass, and was joined by others. By midafternoon, the sky was completely covered with dark clouds, dimming the light to a premature dusk.

An ominous stillness set in. The sighing of the pine trees was the background music of our lives. It was so constant that I didn’t notice it until it stopped, just before the storm.

Soon, there was again a stirring in the air, and wind. It was as though the clouds were blowing down on us, as in an ancient cartoon drawing, stirring up the dust and pine needles.

By now, we were hearing rumbles of thunder, distant but getting closer, rapidly. Unseen bolts of lightning lighted up the dark clouds overhead.

Then the full symphony was on us. Sizzling bolts of lightning, accompanied by a drenching rain. The Rim is built up of layer on layer of sandstone, and I always imagined that that brittle structure magnified the shaking of the earth when a solid bolt went down.

We huddled in our little log cabin while Dad talked to the storm. He was a firefighter for the Forest Service, and he thought like lightning. He was pretty good at predicting where he’d be fighting little fires that evening.

We’d count the seconds from the time a bolt went down: One–two–three–four–five. WHAM. Five seconds meant the strike was a mile or more away.

One–two–WHAM. Flinch and giggle. The old wooden telephone on the wall pinged when lightning went down near the phone line, a copper wire stretched from tree to tree through the forest.

We called these storms “summer rains” back then. Now they are called “the monsoon,” because the counterclockwise circulation is like that in southern Asia.

The monsoon is late, and forecasters say it won’t bring as much rain as usual. (My personal feeling is that the monsoon never brings as much rain as usual.)

The irony in this turn of events was predictable.

Last winter and spring were much wetter than usual. We had more rain that we’d seen in a dozen years.

Arizonans have notoriously short memories. I wouldn’t remember a wet winter, but I have Journals to remind me how I gushed about the gorgeous garden that sprang up on the desert. Now the Garden of Eden is knee-high fuel, drier than a sack of feathers. Wittmann Swamp dried up, displacing six rare Gadsden Blue frogs.

More than a quarter of a million acres of Arizona has burned so far. There’s some smoke in the air, but not many clouds.

What does that tell you, Lord?

Last 5 posts by Jim Cook

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