The Hail Storm, Norias, 1975

The Hail Storm

 The lead steers were placed upwind to the South East of the herd.  The herd milled, their red hides shining on the white sand of the roundup ground next to the Laguna Madre. Slickers tied on behind the cantle of the saddle indicates the expectation of something in the air on a sultry summer day. The cattle are anxious as they sense the barometric pressure change that rings in one’s ears.

 Once the last yearling steers and dry cows were cut, they followed the white spotted long horns, driven North West to the holding pens. The lead steers begin to drop back as the sky is suddenly black, the hot afternoon sun leaving a bright white column of sunlit sand hanging in the stillness over the herd. I suddenly realize there is the olive green shadow of an angry storm standing behind the cloud of rising sand.  There is an eerie stillness before the torrent of freezing hail and rain strikes down the herd and herders, I wonder if the cattle will head upwind into the storm or away from the onslaught back into the shelter of the brush.  I am thinking that this work will have to be started all over, finding all these cattle. We had started at daylight and now it is past 3:00. The ice hit first and then the torrent of rain as the cattle simply bunched up together and headed into the wind. 

Those who got their slickers on were lucky, the rest of us were shivering, our teeth chattering by the time we got the cattle into the pens and to the camp house. Willie Garza, the cook had a fire in the fire place and what we could take off, we tried to dry in the small room with a rock fireplace. We all dug through the various gear in our trucks and put together whatever was dry and went back to rope and brand in an odd assortment of attire for other purposes, welding, fence building, windmill repair, gear for the various jobs that were set aside to rope and brand the three hundred calves before dark.