LeRoy Pennysaver & News - page 11

PantingBeneath theHeat
Anyone who enjoys living in
Western New York will tell you
that one of the things that makes
it interesting is the change in the
weather. “If you don’t like the
weather, wait fifteen minutes.”
Well, we’ve been waiting weeks
for a change in the weather. Hot
ty thin, especially if your favorite
season is the cool spring or fall,
and you look forward to the first
As Iwrite this, the rain iscoming
downataprettygood rate.My rain
gauge is broken, so I don’t know
howmuch rain fell, but Idoknow,
that it’s not enough to break the
drought. Infact Iwasmakingplans
this morning about what to do in
case my well went dry and I still
mayhave todealwith that.
According to one account that I
have read, the early 1960s were a
periodofdrought for theNortheast,
which was followed by a relative
wet period.We came toLeRoy in
1969, apparentlyduringawet sea-
son. Ourwell is relativelyshallow
and it has never gonedry, but I do
rememberat least twicewondering
if we would be hauling water to
horses and having to take clothes
up to town to wash. I don’t even
want to think about anout house.
lection of “NewEnglandFarmer”
magazines from 1825 and 1826.
They are fascinating to read and I
discovered that in1825 theNorth-
eastwas comingout of afive-year
drought. One article about the
drought mentioned how difficult
articlebegins:“In thisseasonwhile
nature topant beneath theheat ...”
It’shard to imagine thedifficulties
of dealing with a drought nearly
two hundred years ago. Almost
Some houses, like LeRoy House,
had cisternswhich stored rainwa-
ter forwashingclothes, but during
a drought, those cisterns were
Lowwatermeant thatmillponds
were low,andflourmillsmightnot
be operating. The articles in the
New England Farmer
are written
in a style unfamiliar to a modern
reader. From the July 1825 issue,
the author writes about trying to
sleep at night in a “tegument of
gossamer would prove a burthen
too grievous to be bourn” and the
leaves of corn “curled like aman-
uscript ofHerculaneum.”
“Hot weather papers from all
quartersspeak inglowing termsof
the latevisitationsofhigh tempera-
ture and the deadly consequences
tomen,women, horses, fishes etc.
warmerdays;andnights inwhicha
aburthen toogrievous tobebourn,
is not remembered nor recorded
- - -Moreover the country in this
neighborhood is parched with
drought. The leaves of the Indian
corn are curled like a manuscript
ofHerculaneum, theearsseemhalf
roasted, more or less, in the husk,
and the puny potatoe appears in
a far way to be baked in the soil
before it is dug. We are happy to
learn, however, that the drought
hasnotbeengeneralorat leastuni-
versal. Timely and copious local
showers have favored some parts
of the country, and inothers some
of themost important crops were
gathered before the dry weather
had injured them.”
The ground was so hard, (the
author described the ground as
“adamantine”) that some farmers
couldnotplow.“Itwould takeyour
mightyploughand8oxen to tare it
upwithout rain. The corn is about
asmuch aswill fattenour hogs.”
The drought continued in some
places into1826:“In thisneighbor-
hood they have been very severe
and we believe, unparalleled. We
may have had as dryweather, but
we have no recollection nor any
account of such extreme drought
so early in the season. It of course
becomes to our farmers to use the
bestmeanswhichhuman industry
and ingenuitycandevise toprovide
some substitute for the deficiency
of our usual crop of hay and to
prevent hoed crops from being
drieduporblastedby thewithering
influence of a cloudless sun and a
sky and atmosphere which afford
neither dewnor rain.”
Consider that during this time,
women did not wear shorts and
and long skirts. Electric fans –
much lessairconditioningwerenot
anoption. Therewereno showers,
and if during a drought, the farm
pond dried up, there wasn’t a
place for theboys togoswimming.
gone swimming in 1825!) There
were no ice cooled drinks or ice
cream. And food spoiled quickly
in thehotweather,much less, food
was prepared over an open fire or
in a wood stove. If the well went
dry, therewas nobottledwater for
saleat thegeneralstore. If thecreek
went dry, therewas noway to get
water to the livestock.
WesternNewYork seems to be
in the worst part of the drought
thisyear.One reportmentions that
Avon is particularly hard hit. Erie
andNiagaraCounties are not see-
ingmuch rain in this recent batch
of storms. Themeteorologists are
saying that this is theworstdrought
since 1943. Let’s just hope it
doesn’t last for a couple of years.
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