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Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Niobrara Was the Colour of Latte - a Sandhills Hailstorm

The river was the colour of latte, the sky a mixture of dark purples and milky greys, and there were drifts of white under the eaves of the red house.

We were awoken by hail banging against the window. There was a dull roaring sound from the hills and the front door had blown open. There was no electricity – plenty in the heavens of course – and although the kitchen light did flicker dimly a couple of times, it soon died.

Outside – well, it’s a painful business talking about outside. The tomatoes are more or less wiped out. I think one or two may struggle on but they have been set back a couple of weeks.

The French beans have also been knocked back, but I think they’re sturdy enough to make it – some of them, at least. The beets I’m not sure about. Their leaves have been pounded flat, but they do have new shoots at their core and are pretty sturdy.

The zucchini squash I am fairly upbeat about. The larger leaves have holes shot through them, the others seem bruised, but there appear to be enough sound ones to suggest they might recover. We’ll find out over the next day or two. And who knows, it may not be too late to re-sow all of the above.

As to the lettuces, well crop one is mashed. They look like the cabbage we used to get served for school dinners. May recover, may not. The seedlings of crop two are more or less drowned in wet sand. But the good news is, we ate the first thinnings last night with our T-bone steaks. They were nice. Gritty, because I didn’t wash them thoroughly enough, but nice. And, as an old lady said to me the day I moved to Yorkshire in 1973, ‘you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.’

After the hail and rain stopped, I took a short walk up the track and onto the tops. The wind had dropped, the storm was retreating to the east, trailing a whitish veil of rain or hail.

Nevertheless, it was soon clear that if I were to get this posted this morning I’d have to shoulder the laptop in one of our waterproof sacks and walk up to the ranch. We were due up there for ten in any case. Kitty & Matt had planned a trip out to the Snake river, and an ancient Native site, south and east of here. We’ve been keen to see the place, because we suspect it tallies with a site Mari Sandoz marked on one of her many maps as the spot where one M. Laboue established a trading post in 1830 and conducted business with the Sioux and the Ponca. She suggests that he was the first white man to settle in the Sandhills.

However, it seems unlikely that we’ll get there today. We have no idea yet what the road is like from the ranch house to the highway, but it won’t be good. It was only just recovering from Friday night’s storm and still had patches of standing water when I looked along it yesterday. I certainly can’t see us getting Mercy out of here, not today at least. The small lake which appeared to block our exit has already shrunk quite a bit, but the track is gouged in several places and there are a few horribly soft spots.

Aha! Electricity. Out goes the scented candle A. found in the lounge, and on goes the main light.

Given that we have to trudge up that hill soon – although right now there’s a fresh lot of rain and thunder coming in – I’m going to keep this brief. As they used to say on Fireball XL5 - or was it Thunderbirds? – ‘Anything can happen in the next half hour.’

Tomorrow – if the good Lord wills it and the creeks don’t rise – I’ll write about our long day out yesterday in search of another historical site. And by way of whetting the reader’s appetite let me trail the fact that we succeeded.

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