How Dry Is It?

Sidekick Ed McMahon says to Johnny Carson, “And just how dry is it?” Instead, of answering him, the camera switches to Doc Severinson, who leads the orchestra in a rendition of the old 1930s theme song, “It ain’t gonna rain no more, no more, it ain’t gonna rain no more. How in the heck can you wash your neck if it ain’t gonna rain no more?”

Good question. Even the Irish are having difficulty finding enough water to wash their necks. Europe is awash with sunshine. The forecast here in Albuquerque, though, presently is for rain. I’ll believe it when I see/feel it. The Rio Grande winds through, or better, trickles through our dry city. If it doesn’t rain soon, they’re going to change Albuquerque’s name to Dry Riverbed City. “76 trombones led the big parade…parched they marched along the dry riverbed.”

Weathermen and weatherwomen get transferred to Albuquerque by the major networks. Some of them never see rain the entire time they work here. They forecast wind, heat, pollen count, tumble weeds, dried out cow skulls, and sunny days, but not any moisture. “Why did I bring an umbrella?” they ask. The lack of moisture drives some of them crazy.

And hot? It is so hot this time of the year that the food truck operators grill their sandwiches on the sidewalk in front of their trucks. Starbucks moves its coffee urns outside in the afternoon to save on electricity. “Go green, sunburn the bean!”

People in the Midwest and East know what the heat index is. It’s a measure of the discomfort produced on a really hot day by a conspiracy involving both the temperature and the humidity. It’s the “feels like” temperature. If it’s a hundred degrees and the humidity is oppressive, say, it slaps you in the face when you open the door to go outside, you might say it feels like 137 degrees.

Out here in the arid part of the country we have something similar. We call it the dehydration index. When negative humidity, say a negative 60, combines with the temperature, it can feel like “It hasn’t rained in 200 years! My eyes, my nose, my skin…I’m parched!” Most people don’t know about the dehydration index, so please note that it isn’t a measure of how hot it feels today. It’s a measure of the feeling that the last rainfall was decades and decades ago.

Of course, if you’re retired like me, you don’t have to be out in the dry heat nearly as much as those who work outside or those who swelter getting into their blazing hot vehicles for the commute home. And speaking of the hot-as-blazes drive home, a strange thing happened to Mr. Fred Icicles here in Dry Riverbed City.  With only five years to go until retirement, he thought his job was safe. And so, just to be funny, he took his 35-year old daughter to work with him on “Bring Your Daughter To Work Day”. She was home from North Dakota for a visit. He expected no more than to introduce her to coworkers in the office, show her his desk, and have a good laugh. Turned out the boss hired her to fill his position! Lost his job, but at least he doesn’t have to swelter of a late-afternoon on his way home. And, of course, he gets to see his daughter more so than when she lived in North Dakota.

Drought is measured on a scale. There are several settings – Extreme Drought, Severe Drought, Terrible Drought, The Worse Drought the Weather Service has ever Seen, and “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More!” New Mexico has been found itself in one of these settings for centuries. Thus, a concern is where are we going to get our drinking water? The State Dehydrologist tells us that Albuquerque has enough water to last until 2050.  That is if Trump gets confused and builds the wall around the borders of New Mexico instead of Mexico. No more people moving in, also adopting China’s policy on limiting the number of children a family can have, and xeriscaping will give us 30 or more years before we totally dry up and blow away.

Do you know about xeriscaping? Lots of people hear the word but don’t see it written down. They think the word is zeroscaping, which it sounds like. “Xeri” comes from ancient Greek. It basically means dry, bone dry. Nowadays it refers to landscaping with drought resistant plants, plants that can survive without the water that so many other plants need. Like the cactus that falls and damages the house in the Farmer’s Insurance commercial. Maybe it could have used a bit more water.

An example of this word’s ancient usage comes from the famous question put to Alexander the Great by one of his soldiers, “Al, we’ve been on the march out here in the hot sun for days without any water to drink. I know that soldiers are supposed to act like camels, but I’m so xeri, I’m growing weary.”

Alexander the Great replied, “You think you’re xeri? When I was a kid, I used to walk a hundred miles to school through the Xeri Desert. And I’d get lost because the sand dunes kept drifting. When I didn’t come home, it would take weeks, months, even years for my parents to find me. And did I have any water? No. Did I ever find an oasis? No.

“Tell you what. When you get so xeri you think you can’t go on, sing a little song. Sing something to get your mind off how thirsty you are. Something like, “It ain’t gonna rain no more no more, it ain’t …”



1 thought on “How Dry Is It?”

  1. Dewey,
    We feel your pain here in Southen California. If we don’t dry up and blow away it will burn away with all the wild fires. It was only 111 yesterday, July 6th, and 106 today.


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