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Real images of drought extend beyond dry land

Eastern Montana and much of the Dakotas are still being plagued by extreme drought with no end in sight. Images are abundant of miles of dried, dead grass where green pastures should be and empty fields where crops weren't able to take hold. Over...

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Frustrations can come out in different ways, like accidentally breaking the stove. (Shauna Farver/Special to Agweek)

Eastern Montana and much of the Dakotas are still being plagued by extreme drought with no end in sight. Images are abundant of miles of dried, dead grass where green pastures should be and empty fields where crops weren't able to take hold. Over the last week, terrifying, heartbreaking images of the largest wildfire in the nation raging across the prairies just to the south of us have taken over social media feeds.

There are other, not so readily photographed images, though, that represent what drought looks like as well. Images of main street businesses struggling to keep their doors open. Images of sober conversations between bankers and agriculture producers. Images of sleepless nights weighed by worried minds and heavy hearts.

Last Friday I was in my kitchen, getting ready to attend a meeting in a neighboring community. My husband and son had left early to work on haying some Conservation Reserve Program land. With the extreme drought conditions, we only dare run the haying equipment early in the morning or late at night while temperatures are cool and the fire danger is lower. It means the haying season is taking twice as long as it should, and with harvest approaching sooner than normal (also due to the drought), the rush is on.

I had plenty going on in my head. All of the above images tumbled around, mixed with thoughts of my growing "to-do" list for our new business and plans for moving my Mom & Gram to live near us. Something my daughter said struck a nerve as we discussed her college plans, I replied in haste, and a rather loud "discussion" ensued. Without thinking, I slammed the frying pan I was holding down on the stove - and shattered the cooktop.

THIS is what drought looks like. Fear, frustration, anger, sleep deprivation, anxiety, tears, depression and tempers reaching a boiling point. It looks like strained relationships and decisions made in desperation. It looks like added stress in each of our already chaotic lives. I forget sometimes that our kids are taking on much of the burden of this drought as well. They see - they know - the impact it's having, and they worry too.

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Salvation last Friday came in the form of a good friend. I texted her about my lapse in judgement and received a perfect reply. It was a GIF image, of a woman laughing hysterically, with an affirmation that only the closest of friends could deliver effectively - "So you're human?"

She reminded me of what I had temporarily forgotten. None of us is designed to take on extraordinary events in our lives - births, deaths, marriages, divorces, kids leaving home - or natural disasters like drought without incurring some added stress. Add a few of those events together, and it's a recipe for disaster. Unless we remember, take heed and take to heart - that we're human.

It's OK to have a bad day. It's OK to be worried. It's OK to cry. It's OK to have a meltdown. It's OK to laugh at yourself!

These drought images will eventually become distant memories. In the meantime, let's all take some time to decompress, spend time with family and friends, take care of ourselves and each other, and um, maybe do some retail therapy - say, at the appliance store, where they sell stoves.

Shauna Farver
Shauna Farver

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