Welcome! Log In Create A New Profile

Advanced

seven year drought

seven year drought
April 23, 2016 08:44PM
What sorts of experiences can others of you relate about the seven year long (longer in some parts of Texas) drought of the 1950s? The various water districts and river authorities of the state refer to it as the "drought of record," and every drought period is compared to it for relating just how dry it is. One-hundred thousand Texas farmers abandoned the land, leaving farming forever. The drought prompted serious changes in both agricultural practices (the center-pivot irrigation system was developed in response) and water storage for cities (Dallas built several reservoirs in the late fifties and 1960s, after Lake Dallas fell to 11% of capacity).

Despite individual years being drier than any one year in the 1950s, and despite those with long memory of the combination of weather and economic hardship of the 1930s perhaps thinking otherwise, no period in history approaches the 1950s for severity of drought.

Elmer Kelton, famous western novelist, wrote about the experiences of western Edward's Plateau ranches and farms and one small town in his award winning book, _The Time it Never Rained_. I highly recommend it.

For me, a small boy, the cracks in the Houston Clay soil of Dallas were amazing. My family moved to Dallas in 1956 from sandy lands in western Texas, and I'd never seen anything like those cracks. To me, they must have been caused by an earthquake.

Correction in edit: My family moved to Dallas in 1955, not 1956.

Dave McNeely



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/01/2017 05:49PM by old man from dallas.
Re: seven year drought
April 25, 2016 08:53PM
Starting in '55 or '56, Cabell Dairy sold water in those square, half-gallon waxed milk cartons. Sales weren't great in the cities---Dallas kept on squeezing out drinking water from somewhere---but those half-gallon cartons were huge sellers in the rural areas where the drought caused wells to sour or run dry. The water was available in stores and with home delivery along with milk and other dairy products.

Rusty
Re: seven year drought
April 26, 2016 09:22AM
I was still a few years away, but my mom remembered it. She remembered how hot it was, and buying bottled water. She also said that Highland Park had artesian wells, and opened up public faucets, for people to fill jugs (but I've never read that anywhere).
Re: seven year drought
April 26, 2016 09:34AM
sharkins Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I was still a few years away, but my mom
> remembered it. She remembered how hot it was, and
> buying bottled water. She also said that Highland
> Park had artesian wells, and opened up public
> faucets, for people to fill jugs (but I've never
> read that anywhere).

Dallas also had artesian wells, which had been closed for many years, but were reopened during the later stages of the drought. Dallas had begun importing water from Lake Texhoma, which is saline, but barely potable. I remember going to Stevens Park in Oak Cliff to get water from a spigot there, and that there were many people lined up with jugs. The water was hot, which puzzled me as a child. We had relatives who got their water from wells, and it was always cold. In a child's way, I tried to puzzle out why the water was hot, and reasoned that it had something to do with the hot weather we were experiencing. Of course, the water came from deep geological reservoirs.

I wonder if there has been any exploration of using that aquifer as a source of geothermal heat for homes and commercial buildings. It should be quite usable.

Dave McNeely
Re: seven year drought
April 26, 2016 09:35AM
Dallas had those wells also. the one we used was on Hampton at Stevens Park golf course.
Re: seven year drought
April 26, 2016 12:49PM
I remember the artesian well in Highland Park very well. My
Grandmother thought the water had curative properties and stopped by to drink a glass which she always brought along just in case we drove down Lakeside. My cousins and I were obsessed with the old, wooden bridge over Exall Lake, which was conveniently located next to the artesian well. it was blatent quid pro quo: a trip to the bridge in exchange for a glass of "rotten egg water". The wells were still open at least into the early sixties.
During the drought we were only allowed to fill our inflatable swimming pools on watering days, about twice a week I think.
In the days before everyone had air conditioning that was tough on kids suffering from record heat. I also recall lots of blue northers and dust storms during that time.
Re: seven year drought
April 26, 2016 08:16PM
I have lots of memory (fragments?) of much of what has been mentioned. My grandmother's neighbors drilled a well in their backyard in the 5800 block of Belmont just a half block east of the streetcar line running down Matilda and another half block from the original Hockaday at Belmont and Greenville. I remember the water taste --ugg-- its salty nature; the sometimes strange rusty color, etc. The most memorable thing to me, however, was going 100 miles south to Waco to visit my aunt where the water tasted so much worse that Dallas water seemed acceptable.

I could go on to tell my wife's story of having to move from Brady to Abilene because her farming family simply couldn't make it, but that story has been recounted by Elmer Kelton and others. Texas Monthly (July, 2012) has an excellent article about this whole matter.

Mike
Re: seven year drought
April 26, 2016 08:28PM
In O.C., things seemed to be status quo. All I can remember was our brown St. Augustine yard and my mother fretting over having to drink and bath in water from the Trinity. I do remember getting abundant chigger bites and having to bath in a tub with 2 inches of water and creosote. I smelled like a telephone poll. Jim
Re: seven year drought
April 27, 2016 05:02AM
Born and lived in Greenville, TX until we moved to NOLA 52-53. Moved back to Greenville in 53. By then so many farmers/ranchers had migrated to town, there were virtually NO jobs to be had. Moved to Dallas/OC 54-55. My main memories - White Rock Lake completely dry and the boats that were aground there. The whole lake bottom was cracked and dry looking but if you tried to walk on it you would break thru to the mud below. I do remember the dust storms. I remember starting out Hwy 80 on the way to visit relatives in CA. As we started thru FW a dust storm hit and we could barely breath even with the windows rolled up and then only with a wet cloth over our noses.
Re: seven year drought
April 27, 2016 05:17AM
My memories of that period are pretty well in common with everyone else but the one that still makes me smile was when Dallas hired a rainmaker sometime in that period by the name of Dr. Crick to seed clouds in in the area. Don't remember any positive results from his efforts nor many positive comments about the scheme from the adults in our realm. LOL
MWT
Re: seven year drought
April 28, 2016 06:59AM
"wonder if there has been any exploration of using that aquifer as a source of geothermal heat for homes and commercial buildings. It should be quite usable."

Dave...They do now and fairly recently in the last few years. I can't remember the details and particular Dallas area schools but as a general contractor construction estimator I recollect bidding the jobs requiring geothermal heating. All I recollect is that many wells were drilled for each building and lines ran from each well up to the building. All this work by the HVAC/Mechanical subcontractor.
Re: seven year drought
April 28, 2016 03:39PM
Mr. Freeze Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My memories of that period are pretty well in
> common with everyone else but the one that still
> makes me smile was when Dallas hired a rainmaker
> sometime in that period by the name of Dr. Crick
> to seed clouds in in the area. Don't remember any
> positive results from his efforts nor many
> positive comments about the scheme from the adults
> in our realm. LOL

I seem to recall an article where Dr Crick claimed something like a 350% increase. But I don't recall as compared to what, and of course 3 1/2 times zero is still zero.
Re: seven year drought
April 28, 2016 04:11PM
When the drought broke in 1957 with devastating floods and tornadoes, there were some claims by adults of my acquaintance that the cloud seeding contributed to those disasters. However, I doubt that cloud seeding was responsible, or even practiced, when the clouds that brought on the downpours and worse occurred.

Dave McNeely
Re: seven year drought
April 29, 2016 02:14PM
If I remember correctly, this person was going to seed the clouds with AgNO3 which turns the skin black. Perhaps it was some other silver salt. Jim
Re: seven year drought
April 29, 2016 05:57PM
jgoodman Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> If I remember correctly, this person was going to
> seed the clouds with AgNO3 which turns the skin
> black. Perhaps it was some other silver salt.
> Jim

AgI(2) (Silver Iodide)

The practice has come a long way: [en.wikipedia.org]

Dave McNeely



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/29/2016 06:05PM by old man from dallas.
Re: seven year drought
February 20, 2017 10:23PM
mreagant Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>" the original Hockaday at Belmont and
> Greenville. "

I thought that the original Hockaday was on Belmont at Skillman. Or did it extend all the way from Skillman to Greenville? I delivered DMN on Skillman in that vicinity in the late fifties.

Dave McNeely
Re: seven year drought
February 22, 2017 05:11AM
Is there any reason why the immediate Dallas area would be prone to more extended drought than the surrounding area? Archeologist S. Alan Skinner has noted that from around 1300 AD/CE up to the historic period when European exploration began, few remains of native peoples have been discovered in the immediate Dallas area, despite the fact that earlier remains have been found here, and remains in this period (from 1300) appear fifty miles from Dallas in almost every direction. He proposed that a period of serious drought, extending for centuries, may have caused native peoples to abandon the area in this period, leaving it as an open area for native peoples arriving from the east ahead of the flow of settlers from the US at the beginning of the historic period (Skinner, “Where Did All The Indians Go?” The Record of the Dallas Archeological Society, 42:3 (1988), 101-104).
Re: seven year drought
February 22, 2017 10:33AM
TedACampbell Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Is there any reason why the immediate Dallas
> area would be prone to more extended drought than
> the surrounding area?
Archeologist S. Alan
> Skinner has noted that from around 1300 AD/CE up
> to the historic period when European exploration
> began, few remains of native peoples have been
> discovered in the immediate Dallas area, despite
> the fact that earlier remains have been found
> here, and remains in this period (from 1300)
> appear fifty miles from Dallas in almost every
> direction. He proposed that a period of serious
> drought, extending for centuries, may have caused
> native peoples to abandon the area in this period,
> leaving it as an open area for native peoples
> arriving from the east ahead of the flow of
> settlers from the US at the beginning of the
> historic period (Skinner, “Where Did All The
> Indians Go?” The Record of the Dallas
> Archeological Society
, 42:3 (1988), 101-104).

Fifty miles in every direction would be beyond (except for the Paris and Sherman areas) the main extent of the Houston Clay soil and Blackland Prairie. That soil, though exceptionally fertile, requires special approaches for farming to produce the large yields for which it was noted in the nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries. Containing a much higher proportion of clay than almost any soils anywhere, it shrinks dramatically when dry, and forms extensive cracks. The White Rock Escarpment, though not farmed, would also lose productivity to a greater degree than locations with deeper soil, due to the extensive surface outcroppings and otherwise shallow depth of the limestone bedrock.

The period you note was a period of extreme drought in much of the Southwest, and was responsible for abandonment of a number of Native American settlements in New Mexico and Arizona iirc from my readings. The same phenomenon had occurred earlier, around 800-1000 CE, in that area also, I believe. The soil conditions in the Dallas area certainly exacerbate the effects of drought.

If the speculation regarding drought is correct, it might be recorded in the Cross Timbers forests. These forests are not on Houston Clay, but rather on sands and sandy loams, but due to topography and shallow bedrock (in places) also exhibit extreme responses to drought. Some trees in the Cross Timbers were known to be over 500 years old late last century, which would put them into the time frame you mention:

[www.uark.edu]

Dave McNeely
Re: seven year drought
February 23, 2017 01:20PM
Fantastic. Does the Houston Clay sit over the Austin Chalk?
Re: seven year drought
February 23, 2017 01:54PM
TedACampbell Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Fantastic. Does the Houston Clay sit over the
> Austin Chalk?

Yes, but the Austin Chalk is exposed as bedrock on the White Rock Escarpment and in creeks (with White Rock Creek being a notable example). The Houston Clay is the black gumbo soil of North Texas. There is a web page, I think maintained by University of North Texas, that describes North Texas geology in depth, and gives itinerary for geology field trips. I'll look it up, but you could probably find it, also.

Dave McNeely
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login