A half dozen old settlers were over on the Saline Valley bank corner Saturday talking about "dry spells" they had passed through since coming to this county 18 or 20 years ago, when a tender foot from the Arkansas swamps came along.
He began complaining of the "terrible dry spell" we had just had when someone in the crowd began to tell about a drought that occurred here eight or 10 years ago.
He said, "you think this is dry weather, do you? Well it ain’t a patchin’ to the dry spell I saw here a few years ago. Why it was so dry the ground cracked open so you could lose a double tree in the cracks out on Tom Brann’s place. I have taken a pitch fork and poked the handle down the cracks to the tines and then couldn’t touch bottom, Ain’t that so Brann?" "Yes, that’s so," said Brann, "but I remember a drier time that that was, and a much hotter one, too. That was way back in 1873 or ‘4, don’t remember which, but some of you fellows recollect it.
"That year," said Brann, "some of the boys tried to break out some on the bottom near my place but had to give it up because of not having plow shears hard enough to stand the strain or wear on them. The best ones wouldn’t last more’n an hour any time of the day, and along about noon they dasen’t put ‘em in the ground at all. There’s Hendrickson, now, one of my neighbors – you all know him, and what he says goes, well, Hendrickson had heard of a new kind of a plow that was warranted to stand anything but a blast furnace. It was one of the chilled steel kind that we advertised so much in them days. Well, Hendrickson he bought one of ‘em an’ brought it out home an’ asked me to go over an’ see it work. He said he had a dead cinch on the weather clerk this time. I went over and he hitched six horses onto it an’ started out. He started out as if he’d break up the whole forty in an hour, but he didn’t. He didn’t get over 20 rods with it before" – "Why, what happened to it," anxiously inquired the man from the White river country. "What happened to it? Why before he’d got 20 rods with it the shears had all melted off and the handles were afire clean up above the moleboard," replied Tom in his most impressive and earnest manner.
This story of Tom’s was one too many for the man from the lowlands and he rushed off to find someone who would vouch for it. He finally ran up against Uncle Tom Boyle and asked him if he had heard of the Tom Brann story of the plow shears melting in the furrow during the dry spell of ’73. "O y-a-a-s," replied Uncle Tom. "I remember that dry spell first-rate, but Brann’s a tender foot. He don’t know anything about dry times in this country. Why, way back in ’61 or ’63, I disremember which now, I saw it so hot and dry we didn’t have to have any fires at all to cook a dinner over. We’d dip up a pail of water from the Saline river, throw in a handful of ground coffee and it was ready to drink as soon as we cooled it a bit. For meat we’d just lay around and watch for a buffalo to come to the river to get a drink. About five minutes after he’d got his fill of the water we’d shoot him down, cut him open, serve out the finest parboiled loin steak and ribs you ever saw, and all salted to your taste, too. Yes, that was a hot summer, but I know of –"
Uncle Tom did not get to finish his story as that Arkansawyer was gone. The last seen of him he was making a B-line for the river to soak up his wagon tires so he could pull out for his old home in the "skeeter swamps," where such hot and dry times never came, or such elegant romancers did not live to tell about them to the new settlers.
Tom Brann and his cronies winked a knowing wunk and all adjourned to Pap Robinson’s well to rinse the dust from their mouths preparatory to regaling the next tenderfoot they met with the story of that other "dry spell." They think they could have a real nice lot of fun if they only had Mart Adams, George Green and Major Swinburn here to help them remember some of the entertaining incidents which happened during those other "dry spells."