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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • A Little Salt: The sounds of a drought

  • Some sounds were missing and new sounds took their place during the drought of 2012, according to Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley
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  • Wherever you live, there are certain every day sounds to which you are accustomed to hearing during certain days of the week and seasons of the year.
    In my neighborhood, it's the sound of traffic out on U.S. 61, particularly when trucks use a "jake" brake while coming down the steep hill leading to the highway's intersection with James Road and Highway MM. At other times it's the "boom, ta-boom boom" of cars with enhanced stereo systems driving by, although one doesn't have to be standing outside to hear them.
    Of course not all the sounds are manmade. In the spring, it might be the hooting of an owl on a nearby hillside and in the fall it would be the noise of crickets and cicadas.
    But it comes as no news flash to anyone who lives in Northeast Missouri, or the Midwest for that matter, that the weather in 2012 was anything but normal. It started with spring-like conditions arriving far, far earlier than normal. Next came the blistering heat and drought conditions of summer.
    It didn't really hit home how the heat and parched conditions had impacted what I was hearing in my neighborhood until a day or so after the remnants of Hurricane Isaac swept through the region and dropped a few inches of welcome rainfall. As I climbed out of my car around noon, I paused for a moment to take in a sound I had only rarely heard this summer – lawnmowers. And it was not just one. It was a serenade of engine noises coming from different points throughout the neighborhood. That's when it hit me, at least in regard to lawnmowers and weed eaters, how quiet the summer of 2012 actually had been.
    I mentioned that fact to my wife, Nancy, who teamed with me to come up with a list of sounds missing this summer and a few noises that took their place.
    Obviously, few people were out mowing this summer because the grass, and in at least some instances even the weeds, had stopped growing. Unless you had money to burn by watering your yard, you might have noticed a new sound when you walked around outside – the crunching of grass/weeds beneath your feet.
    The shortage of precipitation this summer led to the absence of two sounds that I missed a lot – rain drops falling on my roof and the rumble of thunder.
    In the back part of the Henley home there is one level of roof, so when it rains you can distinctly hear the rain falling. While the sound is a source of annoyance for my teen-age daughter, Anna, when she's trying to sleep, I think it's soothing. As for missing thunder, no, I don't miss the KA-BOOM of a nearby lightning strike, but the long, low rumble of a thunderclap is something I've come to appreciate.
    Page 2 of 2 - In at least the summer of 2012, the sound of raindrops falling was on some 100-plus days replaced by the sound of perspiration dripping onto a hard surface. Just ask those poor souls whose jobs take them outside regardless of the temperature.
    There was also an absence, at least in my neighborhood, of the sound of children at play. Even youngsters with inflatable pools in their back yard didn't want to venture out when it was 100-degree plus hot.
    Not all the sounds lacking were good. While not completely gone, the whine of mosquitoes buzzing about was at least less noticeable when I ventured outside on a summer evening.
    Also making my list of drought sounds was the shriek of someone opening their July and August electric bills. That suggestion came from Nancy. Take a guess as to who writes out the check to pay the utility bills in the Henley hacienda?

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