Some people can always complain

Sometimes I feel as if I’ve spent my whole life looking up at the sky, hoping to see rain clouds. That’s left over from being a child during the infamously drouthy 1950s I’m sure.

These days I’m joined by the city folks who usually ignore such things. We’re all looking up hoping to see some fluffy white — or dark blue even better — clouds in the middle of all that blue sky.

It’s not pleasant to look at the sky and see smoke and flames instead of rain clouds. People are even praying for rain, which reminds me of my cowboy dad’s opinion of that. He was “agin” it. He said, “We’re not running this outfit, God is, and He knows what He’s doing. If we had rain right now it might cause a worse calamity, like getting overrun with grasshoppers and other water-loving critters.”

Still, I’m keeping my eyes pointed upward toward the sky much of the time. If water does actually fall I want to go out and stand in it, taste it, smell it, tromp in the mud it makes.

There’s an old joke that goes: “We get three inches of rain a year,” the oldtimer said with a smile. The visitor from the East asks, “Why are you smiling?” to which the oldtimer replies, “It came yesterday. Beautiful.”

That’s optimism, which most of us Southwesterners share. We even brag about finding the bright side of whatever disaster we’re facing, sometimes while we’re in the middle of the mess. There are some notable exceptions, though.

We knew one old rancher, named Caleb, who made a career of being what he would no doubt call “crusty,” and what the rest of us would consider cranky as a rattlesnake who’d lost his fangs. He lived alone, which we all thought was because nobody would put up with him.

He always came to the coffee shop, and the guys found him entertaining in his peculiar way. If somebody asked, “How’s your calves, Caleb?” he’d grumble, “They’re getting thinner by the day. I swear they’re losing weight ‘stead of gaining. Probably cuz their mamas can’t make enough milk offa that greasewood and prickly pear. If’n we don’t get rain soon those lizards are gonna be the only thing left on my place.”

One day he thought about those lizards a bit more and said, “I may hafta learn how to rope those boogers and cook ‘em. That’ll be all there is to eat.”

“You could butcher one of those skinny little calves,” somebody suggested, which elicited a snort from Caleb. “They’re so bony they wouldn’t be any good.”

Finally, it did rain – one of those thunder-crashing, water gap smashing, arroyo ripping rains that crashed down all day and into the night.

The coffee shop crew couldn’t wait to hear Caleb’s reaction. He surely couldn’t complain now. When he finally showed up several days later, he was asked, “So, how’s everything at your place now?”

He growled, “Those lizards all turned to alligators and they’re eatin’ my calves.”