Droughts come, droughts go

  • Rancher Quentin Hulse

    Michael P. Berman

Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories: Drought cuts to the bone on Southwest range

Quentin Hulse moved onto his ranch on Canyon Creek in the Gila National Forest in 1933, when he was 7 years old. He still lives there. We asked him how his cattle did in the drought of the 1930s:

"They didn't do, they died! It was very dry. Just about like now. It was poor, hard times; the very heart of the Depression. The government was buying cattle and killing them. Most died. Less than 10 years later they were rationing meat.

"We had about 150 head during the '30s. When I stopped ranching (three years ago) I had less than 100. The Forest Service cut me down, cut me down. There's no comparison between the number of cows now and then. The range is in way worse shape than it used to be. It started going downhill in 1948, when they started sending smoke jumpers in here to fight fires. You can date it!

"1941 was the wettest year. God almighty, it rained and rained. The field you came in on, you could have cut hay there. Grama grass, my God. The worst flood I can remember was that year. Goddamn! It took out some big trees.

"In 1951, Dr. somebody - it was a short name, I can't remember it - he'd go to the cattlemen and say, "I can make it rain." He had his machines out, he turned them on. He could make it snow right in the hall. They were paying him $10 a section to make it rain. He got out of there, and it didn't rain. It was a moneymaking proposition. He got the money!

"This is an extreme dry period. Three years ago I sold my cattle and took a non-use. (The other ranchers) are going broke, especially on the forest. Whenever my neighbor can, he hauls some to the sale. Damn it, if we'd have had just two, three inches of snow. Nearly always it comes. This year - nothing. Flurries, cold, the wind blew...

"One extreme follows another. Now there comes a flood. It always does."

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