Monsoons, Dogs, & Drought

July 2, 2024
Tom Poland

By Tom Poland


A spring long ago … It rained and rained. And then it rained some more. The rain gauge brimmed and our yard turned quagmire. It rained so long our Boston terriers couldn’t walk. We thought they had tick fever. A plump bloodsucking tick wasn’t the problem. A fungus had rendered the areas between their toes raw and red. The vet told us to soak their diseased paws in bleach. My father and I stood them in a basin of Clorox as they howled. If we’d cut their feet off, it would have been more merciful. It’s a memory I want to forget, but you cannot kill memories, and we readily summon up seasons when Mother Nature turns extreme.

Seems every so often I’ll say, “I’ve never seen it rain so much.” I’m saying it now. My pilgrimages to the rocky shoals spider lilies keep getting rained out. That’s not happened before. I fear this mini-monsoon-like season is a lost cause. “There’s some things in life you can’t explain, so I’m talking to God, praying for rain,” sang Henley. The prayer is working. Don’t you know, though, come July-August when corn is burning and dust devils spin across fields, when lawnmowers sit idle, and Copes gray treefrogs mute, we’ll wish we had some of this rain that keeps on keeping on.

Yes, when Sirius rises at dawn and the sultry Dog Days commence we’ll plead for rain. Superstitions will bloom like wildflowers. Some will hang dead snakes in trees. Many will wash their car to summon rain. Others leave umbrellas at home, a sure rainmaker. All will pray for raindrops, drizzles, showers, rainstorms, cloudbursts’ downpours, deluges, and storms. But no flood. Just heavy showers of dogs and cats.

“If it keeps on raining the levee’s gonna break,” sang Plant. Maybe not this summer. We’re having a curious year. So far we’ve seen rarely seen cicadas and we’ve seen rarely seen Northern Lights. Will we see a rarely seen drought thanks to Sirius, ancient Greek, seírios, for scorching?

In this year of strange happenings I suspect we might contend with that dire word, “drought” as we did when my father lay in his deathbed during the scorching summer of 2003. Death was on his mind, not his, but that of two giant oaks. He sent me to our church to water the oaks out front. Every day, late in the afternoon, water those oaks with a green hose. The ground sucked that water in and yet it still seemed thirsty.

Today the oaks and their deep green leaves, washed by rain live on, free of dust. And yet I find a strange beauty along dirt roads’ shoulders. Trucks raise dust, the fine powdered kind that coats leaves like some manifestation of pollen. You can lick your fingertip and write your initials on the leaves. A fine mud clings to your fingertip. When I do what I just described, I think of my father’s oaks.

Drought and rain and rain and drought. This tandem gives songwriters and novelists good material because deep inside we fear extreme weather. Cormac McCarthy: “In the oncoming years a terrible drought struck west Texas. There was no work in that country anywhere. Pasture gates stood open and sand drifted in the roads and after a few years it was rare to see stock of any kind ….”

He also wrote this. Read it aloud. “The rain had ripened all the country around and the roadside grass was luminous and green from the run-off and flowers were in bloom across the open country.” Luminous and green—that’s the landscape I’m seeing. The rain keeps falling. “Here Comes the Rain Again” goes the song Lennox sings. Tell me do your dogs find it painful to walk? What do you do for them?

No bleach I pray.



Georgia native Tom Poland writes a weekly column about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and culture and speaks frequently to groups in the South. Governor Henry McMaster conferred the Order of the Palmetto upon Tom, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, stating, “His work is exceptional to the state.” Poland’s work appears in books, magazines, journals, and newspapers throughout the South.

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