Framework

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Dry weeds surround a wooden cross in a field near the town of Verhalen. The state is suffering from a severe drought that is causing wildfires and hardship for ranchers and farmers.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Matt Farmer plows a field where cotton generally grows. Now he is forced to plant peanuts because of one of the worst Texas droughts in 44 years. Farmer relies on well water to augment rainfall. "You hope God gives you the strength to get over the drought," Farmer said. The drought also is damaging the state's wheat crop and forcing ranchers to reduce cattle herds.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Matt Farmer plows a field, raising a huge cloud of dust from the drought-striken land. Heavy winds sometimes carry the dust to neighboring crops and cover growing wheat and cotton. Farmer usually grows cotton but is forced to grow peanuts because of the drought.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

"It's just so dry," said Matt Farmer, standing on rows of dirt that would normally be growing cotton this time of year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Two cars make their way through a dust storm in Lamesa. The ferocious winds have ruined many farmers' fields and crops. Strong winds carry away precious topsoil and another season of hope for farmers and ranchers. Dust also affects public safety, halting air traffic and highway traffic alike.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Rancher Ralph Miller, 79, checks on one of many "stock tanks" of water that are receding because of a severe drought. "I'd say it's just about as bad as it can get," Miller said. Unless there is significant rain during the next few weeks, he said, "I'll be out of the cow business." Tanks are used to water Miller's cattle.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Matt Farmer, center, prays with his family before a meal on Mother's Day in Lamesa as they try to weather one of the worst Texas droughts in 44 years.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

"I'd say it's just about as bad as it can get," Ralph Miller said about the effect that the drought has had on his cattle business.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

With grass scarce because of the drought, emaciated cows approach a stranger for food on the Ralph Miller ranch. Miller's cattle operation is entirely dependent on rainfall for grass and watering the herd.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Roscoe Massingill holds a cow for branding at the ranch of Ralph Miller, where work goes on despite one of the worst droughts since the Dust Bowl days. Miller has been forced to sell the elder members of his herd to make ends meet. Hs family began homesteading their 135 square miles of land in 1900.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Roscoe Massingill, left, and Mike Valentine release a cow after a branding.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Volunteer firefighters put out a stubborn brush fire in Odessa. Wildfires have scorched more than 2 million acres in the drought-stricken areas of Texas.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Dry weeds are framed by a barn window near the town of Verhalen, another area suffering under the drought in Texas.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

A center pivot system waters a crop of cotton as the sun sets over Lamesa, where farmers rely on well water to augment rainfall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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The wind in West Texas is famously powerful and incessant. But this year, more big blows than anyone can remember have roared through, stripping away precious topsoil and carrying off another season of hope for farmers and ranchers.

Everywhere, it seems, the land is on the move: sand building up in corners of the just-swept front porch and coating clean laundry on the line, dust up your nose and in crevices of farm machinery. Drive along unpaved county roads and the farmers’ plight becomes clear: Wind rakes across the unpaved surface, scouring sand into adjacent fields, sweeping into farmers’ deeply tilled furrows.

In a normal year, the wheat would be about knee high. This is not a normal year; the anemic stalks barely rise above the heels of dusty boots. That’s bad news for a cotton crop, which must be planted in the furrows between the tall wheat stalks to shield the young plants from the wind-driven sand.

1 Comment

  1. June 22, 2011, 5:27 am

    Great shot, it needs no more words to show the problem to the population… I see here some great photographs…

    By: Sven

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