Back in the early 2000s, Nebraska rancher and farmer Karen Ott began telling the outside world, via periodic emails, how drought was crippling her corner of Nebraska.
From that time forward, Ott has continued her dispatches, which she calls “The Face of Drought.''
Her latest post from the Panhandle touches on an unexpected way the much longed-for and overdue precipitation has affected the play of farm children.
Here's her post:
“Two years ago, as if by magic, a castle sprang up in our back yard, its lofty towers, hidden entrances, and secret passages acting as powerful temptations to bright-eyed boys more accustomed to playing make believe in, and around, the farmstead's ordinary outbuildings.
“When working outdoors I'd often see them dashing along the upper-most battlements, their forms outlined against the Nebraska-blue sky, their childish voices drifting like windblown cotton. To me the castle was unchanging, to them it was a time-traveling shape-shifter with the power to be anything, and go anywhere: On a single summer afternoon they might visit a newly discovered alien planet, the Scottish highlands, and the early 1800's — each experience fueled by boyish enthusiasm, and unbridled imagination.
“Some days they're feudal Kings, shouting out orders to unseen subjects, threatening beheadings and dungeon chains if disobeyed, on others they don the noble code of medieval knighthood and fight back to back, kindred spirits protecting a flag fashioned of irrigation canvas, discarded shovel handle, and baling twine….
“During the past two weeks, the straw-bale castle has shrunk in size as its walls are torn down and distributed among the various corrals. Days and nights of snow and slush, and temperatures ranging from the low teens to the mid-thirties, have Dale (Karen Ott's husband) bedding the herds nearly every other day. Calving is seldom a picnic in the park, but mamas birthing babies in crowded, muddy conditions is something else altogether.
“Despite calving difficulties Dale is quick to (say): 'For a year I've been praying for moisture. I'm not about to start complaining when it finally arrives.'
“Our fields, including those planted to winter wheat, are soggy wet. Another castle in the making, another year of time travel, lies beneath the miracle of this prayed-for spring snow.
“Hallelujah and Amen.”
To sign up for Karen Ott's email dispatches, contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org