Water Conservation

January 1, 2011

Elmer Kelton’s The Time It Never Rained

This is Charlie Flagg’s story – a decent, honorable, small-time Texas rancher caught in the unrelenting grip of the 1950s seven-year drought. Charlie’s struggle with the lack of rain subtly stresses the other pressures brought to bear on the self-reliant Flagg and his neighbors. As the drought grows more intense, these increasingly desperate men face a growing dilemma – accept the questionable assistance of federal and state farm aid programs, which will subject them to stifling bureaucratic regulations, or remain free of the inevitable government-imposed constraints on their freedoms. Flagg, with the aid of his increasingly skeptical banker, resists the siren song of government help while his less independent minded neighbors climb aboard the gravy train of “free” government services.

Along with his Hispanic ranch hands and pressed to the limits of human endurance, Flagg struggles to survive this longest and most severe drought in living memory…an unfathomable foe in harsh and unforgiving West Texas. German-origin farmers watch their cotton plants bud, bloom and then wither while neighboring ranchers witness waterholes recede to undrinkable puddles of rancid mud, prairie tall grass curl and die to the roots…even weed patches shrivel, smothered by hot, persistent drought-fed winds.

Underlying this prolonged natural devastation is an ongoing complex human drama, the slowly evolving cultural relationships that preceded the 1950s drought and that would continue to exist long after the rains came. The Anglo and German farmers and cattleman had wrenched this land first from its original occupants, the Comanches and other indigenous tribes, and then from the Mexicans, whose claim had always been transitory, and who – unlike the Indians – adapted somewhat to the ways of these newcomers.

These cultures – white and Mexican – developed a necessary dependency on one other in order to survive in this harsh environment. Yet, they maintained a mutual, uneasy wariness; a deliberate separateness, complicated by the even more transitory presence of still another Mexican subculture – the unending trickle of poor illegal immigrants, the wetbacks.   Despised by second-, third-, and fourth generation Mexican-Americans who were threatened economically by the wetbacks’ enduring presence, and hunted by the whites for the laws they broke simply by trying to escape the unrelenting poverty in their homeland, made worse by the drought…still, they came.

Flagg, a compassionate, law-abiding man, refused to employ the passing migrants. After all, their mere presence represented a law broken. But he fed, clothed, and provided temporary shelter for many of them as best he could, and then sent them on their way. Thus, the multi-layered saga that author, Elmer Kelton, so masterfully brings to life in The Time It Never Rained is more than the seven-year battle to survive a long, dry spell. It spotlights the seemingly endless struggle among the dominant West Texas cultures to resolve their deep differences stemming from language barriers, skin color, and deeply ingrained prejudices based on generations of conflict over land, water and mutual mistreatment.

Complicating the deeply ingrained cultural issues is yet another concern…the new and growing conflict between independent-minded individuals – men like Charlie Flagg – and their growing reliance on different levels of government and the faceless bureaucrats who quickly take control of their lives.

This is a well-written book with deep messages…both subtle and not so subtle…regarding cultural issues and man’s growing reliance on government. I would rate it PG for youngsters, but I doubt that the book would attract many young readers. In my opinion, adults with a propensity for reading westerns and a curiosity about West Texas history would enjoy this book.


Tropical rainfall in September in the Lower Rio Grande Valley interrupted the final phases of harvest of the area’s 145,000 acre cotton crop, according to Rod Santa Ana, Texas A&M AgriLife Communications specialist, Weslaco. This field north of McAllen was harvested but not before rains kept the grower from stalk destruction, a state-mandated operation designed to prevent overwintering of boll weevils. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

After prolonged drought, South Texas producers are now struggling with too much moisture

On Sept. 16, the rains were continuing without any let up in the forecast, which was discouraging for South Texas growers of cotton and citrus
by Water News of Texas


37 Percent of Texas now in Extreme to Exceptional Drought – up 30% in 3 months

All drought categories expanded across parts of Texas, resulting in Exceptional Drought covering virtually all of the Texas panhandle
by Water News of Texas


The good, bad, and dried out realities of Texas’ water supply – A one year comparison of Texas Lake Levels

While portions of Texas are bone dry, other lakes runneth over. - An Infographic comparison of Texas Lake Levels from 3/17/13 to 3/17/14.
by Water News of Texas


Texas Droght 2-25-2014

Abnormally Dry to Moderate Drought conditions up 20% across Texas in past three months.

Texas' Great Plains region is facing fourth consecutive summer of drought - 92% of Texas is Abnormally Dry, and 67.88% of us are now in Abnormally Dry to Moderate Drought conditions, That's up from 47.17% three months ago.
by Water News of Texas


Drought returns to Houston… Has received less than half its normal rainfall

Cold temperatures this winter have masked drought conditions. Before last weekend's warm-up, the city of Houston was experiencing its seventh-coldest winter on record, according to the National Weather Service.
by Water News of Texas


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