John Denver got more than a few things right in his playbook of songs. Most of all, though, he nailed it when he sang of those Wild Montana Skies.
This summer, more than any of the other 11 summers that I have spent on the prairie, I have never been more in awe of the sky. And I have never seen those skies produce more widespread damage to crops, property, and wildlife than this year.
So on a recent July evening, the thunderheads started building to the west, and the men folk brought in the hay baler for some maintenance. Given the history of the storms we've had over the past few weeks, it generally puts you at ease to stay a little closer to some shelter when the storms start rolling down the valley.
The National Weather Service isn't helping us ease our tensions either. The warnings have become more ominous this summer. "Special Weather Statement in effect until further notice, golf ball size hail, possible tornadoes, this storm has a history of damaging property, frequent cloud to ground lightning," and the list goes on and on and on. One cool thing about living in the middle of nowhere during dangerous weather season is that the National Weather Service will actually call to warn you, in person, if they see potentially life-threatening weather patterns moving towards your home. And they often call post-storm to see how close their models actually were to what was happening. One of the perks of country life, I guess.
It puts the Wizard of Oz storm into a bit of perspective for me.
And then, just like that, the sun starts shining, the birds start chirping, and we wish the people to our southeast a bit of luck. You've heard of Big Sky Country, right? Yeah, we're in it. We can see thunderheads that are 300 or more miles away. You look at the clouds and you think they are hanging on the next county over, but then you look at a radar and they are actually in a different state.
I have personally been lucky so far this year and have not actually been in a hail storm. Danish Cowboy...not so much. He has been hailed on three different times. In three different locations. On this particular evening, he had a mirror broken out of his pick-up. On the first occasion, he was at home and we lost a great portion of our crops, a few windows, the roof of our hay swather, and house siding. Not to mention there was a great deal of damage to my garden. Unfortunately, gardens are not insurable. Thankfully, everything else is.
I'm not really sure what happened here, but this branch came from that tree behind it. I'm no lumberjack, but trees don't just break off and fall that way without some weird wind action happening.
Storms are not limited to the evenings. I went out for a run at 7:00 a.m. one morning last week and the sky was blue. When I left for work one hour later, this sinister looking cloud was moving in quickly. It still boggles my mind that you can actually see the weather fronts, and not just on the map.
When you're a farmer and mother nature brutalizes all of your hard work, you just have to roll with the punches and keep on smiling. Because really, what the hail else are you gonna' do?