Gully Washers and Goals


                “Man, oh man!” my teen age cousin exclaimed as he slipped out of the bed in our basement bedroom and stepped into ankle deep water.  Outdoors the wind blew and  an inch of rain poured from the heavens.  Water spurted from the cracks in the foundation and leaked in the east windows. We spent the next hour cleaning up the mess. 

 Mopping up our old house’s basement after a heavy rain happened on a fairly regular basis in the early years of our life on the ranch.  The house sat about halfway down a slope that empties into a creek that runs through our corrals.  Every time Mother Nature unleashed a gully washer water ran in the basement.

Mostly what we remember about the late 1970’s and all of the 1980’s is the dry years, but even in the midst of the dry, there were significant rain events.  May 9, 1986 was memorable.  Everyplace else in the area might have had the wettest May on record this year, but the Lowry area got 12 inches of rain that day.  Bridges and culverts along Swan Creek washed out.  The Jim Gregory family evacuated their house in Lowry, and Donna gave birth to JT later that day.   Everybody had water in their basement that night.  That was to be expected, but Rock Hills Ranch had water issues whenever it rained enough to make the creek run.  If the creek ran, our driveway usually flooded accompanied by heavy water erosion in the waterways.

Last Sunday (6-14-15) morning we had a gully washer like we haven’t experienced for a while.  With 1.35 inches in a little over an hour, the rain was a heavy gray curtain that obscured our view of the far corrals.  The house stayed dry –only a rain of Noah like proportions will flood the basement of this house. The creek ran wide.  A few years ago we wouldn’t have gotten to church because the creek would have run over the driveway.  It wasn’t on Sunday. The culvert by the mailbox should have been gushing onto the neighbor’s pasture.  It wasn’t.  By evening, there wasn’t a puddle anyplace.  The water all soaked in.  So what changed between our nephew’s night time wading experience and now? 

When we first started running cattle, bare spots could be seen between clumps of grass in our pastures.  Thirty years ago we switched to a rotational grazing system.  The healing process takes time but now the ground is completely covered.  The grass residue slows the water down and allows it to quickly infiltrate.  My rancher’s stated goal is to not let a drop of water leave the ranch.  Last Sunday was a goal realized.