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Panting Beneath the Heat

by Lynne Belluscio

Anyone who enjoys living in Western New York will tell you that one of the things that makes it interesting is the change in the weather. “If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.”  Well, we’ve been waiting weeks for a change in the weather. Hot and 90-degree weather wears pretty thin, especially if your favorite season is the cool spring or fall, and you look forward to the first snowfall.

As I write this, the rain is coming down at a pretty good rate. My rain gauge is broken, so I don’t know how much rain fell, but I do know, that it’s not enough to break the drought. In fact I was making plans this morning about what to do in case my well went dry and I still may have to deal with that.

According to one account that I have read, the early 1960s were a period of drought for the Northeast, which was followed by a relative wet period. We came to LeRoy in 1969, apparently during a wet season.  Our well is relatively shallow and it has never gone dry, but I do remember at least twice wondering if we would be hauling water to horses and having to take clothes up to town to wash. I don’t even want to think about an out house.

Recently I purchased a small collection of “New England Farmer” magazines from 1825 and 1826. They are fascinating to read and I discovered that in 1825 the Northeast was coming out of a five-year drought. One article about the drought mentioned how difficult the hot weather was on horses. The article begins: “In this season while all animal and almost all vegetable nature to pant beneath the heat ...” It’s hard to imagine the difficulties of dealing with a drought nearly two hundred years ago. Almost everyone relied on hand-dug wells.  Some houses, like LeRoy House, had cisterns which stored rain water for washing clothes, but during a drought, those cisterns were probably dry.


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