Weatherford Democrat

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June 16, 2013

NOW HEAR THIS: Is that a rainstorm on the horizon or a West Texas sandstorm?

By LARRY M. JONES

One of the most defining aspects of my formative years during the 1940s and ‘50s, was the epic Drought of the Fifties. Lives were disrupted and the Texas economy was dealt a devastating blow. I would estimate that over half of the farmers in Parker County lost everything and were forced to move to the city in order to find work and feed their families.

As a youngster, I was terribly distraught to watch my parents agonize over this horrible time. I worried that they, too, would be so financially ruined that they would lose the farm and the very roof that covered our heads. In all probability, the only thing that prevented this from happening was the fact that they scrimped, saved and pulled back on all expenditures. Their hard work and wise use of available resources allowed us to survive until the rains once again fell on the parched Texas land. It wasn’t until 1957 that the bank of clouds on the western horizon was more likely to be a rainstorm rather than a sandstorm.

One positive result from the drought of the ‘50s was to make government more aware of water’s criticality. Although Texas had a population of less than a third of what we have today, it became clear that water resources were already inadequate. Locally, one of the greatest impacts caused by the drought was the construction of Lake Weatherford. During former Speaker Jim Wright’s tenure as mayor of Weatherford, these wheels were set in motion and the lake was finished in March of 1957, just in time for the drought-breaking rains.

Another memorable and enduring piece of fallout of this epic drought was the creation of the Texas Water Development Board in 1957 to collect data and formulate plans to provide water resources for future as well as current Texans. I personally became quite familiar with the scope of their work when I served as a director for the recently created Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.

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