A question came in from a long time family friend....fixture more like it. This woman is a PH.d. and has a daughter (an MD) who is the same age as our daughter. The two girls grew up together and are still close....in the way that urban life allows closeness.
The family friend is an educator extraordinaire and has always been a positive bleep on our radar. She is also a strange form of liberal....Democratish. Why she doesn't beat me over the head....and my wife over the head....I do not know. She is up to lecturing me at times, and for some strange reason I will just take the mental torture and abuse. She might be the bucket of cold water that is needed when I really am wound up into a knot. She is an OROG, and must just shake her head and shudder at what must seem to her to be my barely functional psychotic episodes.
In any regard, from her comes a set of good questions. What about the drought of the 1950s? In Texas? In the Valley? What are the significant hurricane events for South Texas? What about the heat records? She says a great deal more than I, and does it in many fewer words, and the Old Gringo thinks that her questions would be of more than a little interest to other OROGs. So, a segment of a private email is included here....with a few amendments for the sake of clarity:
(In response to your questions...) It was a strange time....from 1949 through 1954. Remember that I was born in 1947, but I am one of those rare birds who has vivid memories from infancy. What a useless clot in the brain, no? The freeze of 1949 was a doozy and I remember being "swaddled up" in our back room....the "fireplace room" ....and throwing a fit because the big people would not let me go out and help chop and bring in wood with my brother Milton. He was actually like one of the big people to me, since he was eleven years older.
About thirty percent of the citrus was destroyed by this freeze that came in during the late days of January and receded on the 5th of February. From that point, things were okay, weatherwise, although water for irrigating was always a concern and it was expensive. My parents operated a very much "hands-on" grove care business which took about 30 hours a day, 9 days a week. Irrigation was a word heard in every sentence. If not irrigation, the word would be "water" .
Things steadily became drier. Then exactly two years, almost to the day and hour, the Freeze of 1951 hit. Although there had been a bit of recovery for the citrus since the 1949 damage, this time would be the real doozy. This time the Winter had been warmish, so the trees were setting blossoms and had a lot of very new growth....entering into South Texas Spring. The freeze of 1951 essentially destroyed about 70 percent of all citrus and 90 percent of ornamentals in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Recovery via cotton and vegetables would depend upon water, irrigation, and good luck. There was little of any of those commodities available at that time.
In the meantime, although there was no water in the Rio Grande to speak of, construction began on Falcon International Reservoir. It was finished and openned for business in 1953, being dedicated by the simultaneous presences of Adolfo Ruiz Cortinez and Dwight David Eisenhower on a very hot, windy October day about a year after Eisenhower's election as President, and entering the third year of Ruiz-Cortinez's election.
Seven months later, what would now be considered a category I hurricane formed up late in the Gulf....(but early for the season....being born in June)....and moved slowly onshore, just barely south of the mouth of the Rio Grande. The storm moved very slowly up the entire length of the Rio Grande up to Del Rio, finally coming to rest over the Pecos River watershed. Rainfall totals went as high as 25 inches at various points. Perhaps as many as 70 people were swept away in flash floods in Piedras Negras, Coahuila and Pecos, Texas, along with a few other places. But, it did, in a matter of days, fill what was then the largest lake in Texas...Falcon Reservoir. People could not believe it.
We were surprized to note the vast numbers of people who had driven up to see the Lake after the hurricane. None of us had ever seen such an extension of water, save for the ocean....like at Padre Island. We were visiting where my Godfather, Harold Hendricks was finishing up on his project building the new Zapata High School and ISD re-location. Zapata had been translocated, like Guerrero, in anticipation of the Lake filling some day. Uncle Harold had also built all of the private housing for the "Dam Workers" at what is called Falcon Village, on the grounds of the Government Offices about a half-mile from Falcon Dam. I think it was 20 houses with 2, 3, and 4 bedroom configurations. They are nice houses and still in use to this day.
From that time on through to those particular problems the latter 1990s and the early part of this Century, there were never any significant water shortage issues. A few floods affected the Valley, like Hurrican Beulah's run-off in 1967, but those waters came into the Rio Grande at the Rio Alamo and the Rio San Juan, which enter the Rio Grande on the Mexican side and below Falcon Dam. Other floods were the result of heavy localized rains in most cases.
Long answer to the question....but when communication is infrequent, details are precious. I really appreciate having that chance to see you all in Austin. It was good to see Xxxxx and Xxxxxxxx....things change but stay the same at the same time sometimes....said Yogi.
It should be noted that during the 1890s, the Old Gringo's great-grandfather and his daughter (the Old Gringo's grandmother) lived and ranched in Tuxpan, Vera Cruz, midway between Tampico and Vera Cruz City. They had a nice ranch up in the mountains. They suffered three successive freezes in those years which essentially sapped my great grandfather's willingness to continue his project.
We could have done with a bit of Global Climate Rizbafutubchip back then. Rizbafutubchip is the new word I made up to try to keep ahead of the Global weather catastrophe de jour. In my lifetime it has swung back and forth between Ozone holes, Ice Age a'comin, nuclear winter, iceberg melting, asteroid punishment by extraterrestrials because we don't share the wealth, etc. So I just made up a word that makes about as much sense. It's all George Bush's fault anyway. And women and minorities and children and the poor will be the ones who suffer most when the world ends anyway.
Back to work to-morrow, you all! Armageddon beckons! I hope Father Obamaham and Father Bernakeham and Father Geitnerham send me my check. Not your check....my check first. I'm me. Don't give no flip about no stinkin' grandchildren or America or any of that slop....only me! And I mean ME! Me first.
El Gringo Viejo(only joking, folks. Spare the commentary line on this one)