Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By John Davis

Loving rain in the spring time


April 11, 2017

As I’m writing this column (on Tuesday, April 4), we seem to be in the middle of our monsoon season. By my count, using figures set out in newspaper weather reports, we’ve received over 1.4 inches of precipitation since the middle of March.

Somewhere around 4 a. m., on Monday, April 3, that moisture, to my surprise, turned to a heavy wet snow. If weather proceeded in an orderly manner, the snow would have started the moisture parade back in March, and then turned completely to rain going into April. But, as I’ve said before, the weather is not orderly. Normal, chaotic is what the weather is.

When you grow up in Worland, you don’t consider rain as people do in most of the country. I remember a time in Laramie, I think it was in May 1968, when it started to rain, and I ran to the window to watch it rain. My wife, Celia, who grew up in Toronto, later told me that her thought was, “What a hick.” But now, after some 50 years of living in Wyoming, she, too, runs to the window to watch it rain.

Rain has always been associated in my mind with things being right with the world. When it rains in Worland, I feel that everything is going to turn out well. What I find sterile and depressing is day after day of clear, sunny skies.

You don’t have to be an expert climatologist to see the effect of moisture in our country; all you have to do is to drive from Worland to Powder River Pass. Just going to Ten Sleep you ascend to a place with something like 50 percent more moisture, and the land around Ten Sleep shows it; everything is greener, especially in the summer months. Going up to about 7,000 feet produces another transformation. If you take the old highway (on the south side of US 16), you start to run into real forest. At Squaw Creek, huge Douglas firs create a kind of cathedral, a look you don’t get at any place lower on the mountain. And this increase in moisture, with its attendant increase in green, growing plants, continues as you keep going up, until you reach tree line, near Powder River Pass, where the climate is too harsh to allow trees to grow. But the amount of moisture continues to increase; I think that the top of Cloud Peak is the place in the Big Horn Basin that gets the most moisture, some 40 inches a year (versus 6-8 for Worland).

I come by my perspectives honestly. In Worland as a boy, I would hear grown-ups speak approvingly anytime there was a good rain. I remember, especially, my father, who used to comment about the big rains in April, referring to them as “million dollar rains.” By that he meant that the farmers who already had their seeds planted would gain greatly by those good April rains.

This attitude toward rain is not something that only developed in the last 70 years: from the beginning, our settlers recognized the importance of rain. An editorial published in the Worland Grit in late April 1914, after heavy rains had fallen, not only shows how our forefathers felt about rain, but how exuberantly they greeted life in general:

“And it rained, and it rained, and it rained, and the ground got soaked, soaked, soaked, and the crops should be good, good, good, and the range will have grass, grass, grass, and the cattle will be fat, fat, fat, and the oil boom will be on, on, on, and the people of this section will prosper, prosper, prosper.”

John Davis was raised in Worland, graduating from W. H. S. in 1961. John began practicing law here in 1973 and is retired. He is the author of several books. John and his wife, Celia, were married in 1967, have two adult sons, and several grandchildren.


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