By late winter, the drought across the Colorado short-grass prairie had been persisting for almost two years. The folks on Chico Basin Ranch and surrounding ranches were hoping for a wet snow or a good mid-spring rain to provide much needed moisture for dry pastures, so essential for grazing cattle. Yet by the end of April, there still had been little precipitation.
While early spring was dry, May finally brought a solid rain for a couple of days. This coincided with the emergence of new spring growth, giving the prairie a jump-start. Within a week, sprouting grasses appeared across the prairie. With each successive day, the ranch’s pastures were a little greener. I swear, by early June the prairie was so green it looked like Ireland… only with cactus. In late May, wildflowers began to appear on the prairie. By early June the bloom was well underway with a tapestry of colors painted across the grasslands. A variety of wildflowers would continue to bloom in succession throughout the summer as long as the prairie got periodic rainfall – copper mallow, prickly pear, cholla, yucca, western spiderwort, evening primrose, asters, prairie verbena, prickly poppy, buffalo bur, bush morning glory, and many others.
By the end of June, the ranch had had a few short rains, but the summer heat and dry Colorado air can parch the prairie quickly. And the drought across the southern plains won’t end after just a few brief rains. On the ranch, people quietly held out hope, hope that the summer monsoon season would arrive by July to bring another round of relief to this arid land.
The monsoons came. With a sense of relief the drought was over, at least for a while.