The low rumble of thunder woke me just before dawn. It was such a surreal sound. I had not heard it in what seemed like months.

I lie there listening to what were surely giants bowling huge boulders down an ancient wooden alley across the top of the creek valley, but only a few drops of rain fell over the creek.

The upland fields are so parched that they have quickly turned to brown. The lack of rain has certainly helped with bringing in the hay, as it has dried easily in the sun. There has also been no problem harvesting soy.

The moisture content of the beans is low, and there is definitely no mud to bog down the farm machinery. The soy dust, however, has been amazingly thick, completely obscuring the combines as they trundle across the upland fields. Clouds of earthy powder rise into the sky, billowing like smoke from an unearthly fire.

The corn, though, has had a difficult time. Many stalks do not even have ears, and many of the ears are small. I have seen several farmers simply baling their corn, ears and all, for silage. Yes, when the amazingly wet spring rains finally stopped, it was as though those giants firmly pushed down the handle of their frost-free spigot and completely shut off the flow of water to our world.

And in our 16 years of walking the creek, I have never known it to be so dry. There are places where I can cross from one side to the other and never have to step over water. There are still deep pools that hold the fish captive: bluegill, crappie and bass from the lake farther upstream.

Fishing this time of year is really quite surreal. One need simply bait a hook with a fat compost pile worm, drop the line over the head of a fish one intends to catch, perhaps jiggle the line a bit and pull up dinner. We quite spoiled our grandson when he was a small child. Completely by himself, he
caught a good- sized bass within a few minutes of his very first time fishing. “Fishing is fun and easy,” he beamed up at us. Perhaps a dry creek does have its advantages.

Looking for fossil rocks could also not be easier. When I walk across the silver gray rocks, they clink under foot with each step, sounding almost like windchimes. Four hundred million years ago, our land lay at the bottom of an ocean, and many of the ocean creatures either turned to stone or left their imprints the ocean bed. They are now preserved in our creek valley rocks.

When Greg and I visited the Smithsonian several years ago, we were thrilled to see a trilobite, perhaps a foot long, with a plaque that labeled it as being found in our creek valley. Now I have never found a foot-long trilobite, or even a single trilobite for that matter, but I have found branching coral, segmented worms and cone creatures. Again, a dry creek bed is perfect for fossil hunting.

It is evening now. The sky has been gray all day, and a few drops of rain have fallen, but the dry earth has thirstily drunk the wee bit of wet. I check the weather forecast. It calls for rain throughout the night and tomorrow. I wonder if giants playing nine pins will soon be lulling me to sleep.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.