Q: I recently learned that the man I’ve been dating for the last three or so months hates it when it rains. It’s “depressing,” he says. By contrast, I love the rain. I’m happy when it rains. He’s originally from Oregon and I’m a native Texan, which may explain things. But whatever the case, does the relationship stand much of a chance given our very different views of rainfall?
Emily McDavid, Brady
A: Not to be the bearer of bad news, Ms. McDavid, but the Texanist has consulted the Fine Advice Team’s Stormy Relationship Center and the models he’s looking at do indicate a brewing disturbance on the horizon. The hot air mass emanating from the unstable Northwesterner with whom you are currently keeping company is creating some volatility in the atmosphere, and the futurecast suggests that chances of a breakup appear to be somewhere between possible and probable. The Texanist’s latest advisory reads: plan accordingly.
And one thing you might consider including in those plans is to let your suitor know that y’all’s budding romance would benefit greatly if he had a clearer understanding of another volatile relationship—that being the one between your home state and its rainfall.
The Texanist, it should be said, agrees with your view of rain 100 percent, as does just about everyone he knows. In fact, the Texanist isn’t sure he’s ever met anyone who has as low an opinion of precipitation as your Oregonian beau. Then again, the Texanist isn’t sure he actually knows any Oregonians. But the Texanist is well enough acquainted with the country’s climatography to realize that the Northwest United States, where Oregon is, generally doesn’t want for rain.
Here in Texas we do generally want for rain. Except for those times when too much rain falls too quickly and we don’t want for anything but the rain to stop. It’s been said, most notably by the nineteenth-century Galveston meteorologist Isaac Cline, that “Texas is a land of eternal drought, interrupted occasionally by biblical floods,” and that’s a fair assessment. Though Texas has indeed been besieged by occasional terrifying deluges, it’s the parched periods that consume the bulk of our attention. We’ve had some real doozies, such as the decades-long mega-droughts that roiled Texas during the medieval era and the sixteenth century. Or the prolonged droughtiness that plagued a population of soil tillers encountered by the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca in 1535 near present-day Presidio, where it hadn’t rained for a reported two years. Or the one in 1822 that doomed the first corn crop of Stephen F. Austin’s first colony. Or the terrible one of the 1950s, which inspired writer Elmer Kelton’s famous novel The Time It Never Rained. And then there was the one in the early 1980s that was so bad that impossibly hardy mesquite trees, whose taproots can descend dozens, even hundreds of feet below ground, withered.
And it gets worse. Such dry spells are also often accompanied by dust and sandstorms and grasshopper plagues and desiccated cattle and dry swimming holes. And deadly wildfires. The devastating drought of 2011, you might recall, caused the worst fire season ever known to Texans, burning some three million acres.
It’s for all of those reasons and more that Texans such as yourself have historically appreciated rain, especially farmers and ranchers and firefighters and swimmers and drinkers of water, which, now that the Texanist thinks about it, covers pretty much everyone under the hot Texas sun. There have, in fact, been poems and prayers and dances and songs that were written and recited and danced and sung with an eye toward convincing the weather gods to let loose with a few buckets. Are you familiar with the great Texas music man Doug Sahm’s “Oh Lord, Please Let It Rain in Texas”? It’s a fine example. Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Hill Country Rain” ain’t half bad, either.
And when such high-minded efforts fail, physical action sometimes ensues. As the Texanist’s old colleague S.C. Gwynne chronicled for Texas Monthly back in 2003, a man named R.G. Dyrenforth was, in the late 1890s, the first and only person to be employed by the U.S. government with the task of making it rain by setting off gigantic explosions in the sky. He did this in a number of West Texas locales, where he arrived armed with “boxcars filled with gunpowder, dynamite, ‘rackarock’ explosives, cannon, mortar, and exploding kites and balloons.” Dyrenforth’s efforts failed, but the desire for rain here in Texas was such that even after those failures were a matter of public record, King Ranch owner Robert Kleberg still hired the “cloud compeller” to compel the clouds above his South Texas spread. (Adding yet one more failure to the public record.)
The Texanist could go on and on. Again, like you, he loves the rain. (As he writes these words, in fact, his heart is a little lighter than usual because Texas has been experiencing an atypical bout of late-spring rainfall that has left much of the state looking greener than the Beaver State’s own Willamette Valley.) Perhaps with a better understanding of the situation, some coaxing from you (unlike rain, changes of minds can be coaxed with a little noise), and a little more time in Texas under his belt, your rain-hating boyfriend may come to love the rain too. Or, at a minimum, come to appreciate it. Absence, after all, makes the heart grow fonder. It’s true for football season, Hill Country peaches, and the apple of one’s eye, and it will likely prove true for your apple’s attitude toward rain, especially after he’s spent enough scorching summers in this arid region. In fact, your prevailing worry, the Texanist thinks, ought not to be that your newfound significant other will never develop a suitable appreciation for precipitation. It’s that he’ll eventually find his parched and dusty soul longing for the drizzly embrace of Oregon and abscond for the West Coast, leaving you, Ms. McDavid, high and, well, dry.
Thanks for the letter and please keep the Texanist apprised of the situation. As things develop he’d be more than happy to update his forecast.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.