When It Rains, It Pours

Afternoon rain on Main Street. Yes, the sun shines while it’s raining here in Gunnison.

Right after a whole week or two of practically unbearable heat, although apparently Lynn thinks it’s just starting to get warm at 90 degrees and Kara and Vann are quite capable of sitting in an 85-degree room at work thinking they are pleasantly cool, and right after the county implemented Stage 1 fire restrictions, it rained.

Not a deluge, but regular afternoon rains that, while not gully-washers, a couple of times rated as gutter-washers, filling and overflowing them, occasionally carrying on into the night. It’s the Colorado version of the monsoons, a month early so hopefully this is just a preview and not all we get but we’ll take whatever Mother Nature will offer up these days.

What used to happen, back in the old days when we were ramping up to climate change and still easily ignoring those wacky climatologists, was it would snow all winter, routinely drop to 40 below (Celsius or Fahrenheit, take your pick) and keep that snowpack in place until it started melting out in May into June.

Then the sun would shine warmly, but not too hot. Once when I was at the paper, my colleague Roger took a photo of a couple people looking up at the bank sign as it read 92 degrees. He put it on the front page because a 90-degree day was that kind of big news, although when he entered it in the annual press awards competition, he didn’t take into account that the judges would be from another state’s press association, a state south of Colorado where apparently they couldn’t imagine the fuss over a summer day of 92 degrees.

[As for me, I still occasionally rue my missed chance: I one year decided against submitting a team roping picture I took of a couple of teenage cowhands — and then the awards were issued by the press association of Tennessee, which apparently never met a horse picture it didn’t love. Every winning photo had a horse in it, and my picture had two horses. I coulda been a contender. . .]

But 92 degrees was a big deal for us, back then. Now it has my sister Tia complaining that she returned to Gunnison to get away from those sort of routine temperatures in the Denver area and those of us who have been in this boiling frog pot shrugging our shoulders and replying, “Well, this is the way it’s been.”

While it’s been hotting up, our summer monsoons have become less reliable. Back when, at least in the gilded mists of memory, we enjoyed our sunny June into July, either right up to or right after Cattlemen’s Days.

Of course, Cattlemen’s Days itself was a lot more reliable back then. The rodeos always took place the third full weekend in July. But that was back when our horse wagged its own tail, rather than the stock contractor wagging us. Now we rodeo when he tells us he’s available, which sometimes stacks the county’s two biggest tourist events, the other being the 4th of July, right on top of each other.

This year the rodeos happily happen on that third weekend, even if youth events get underway this weekend, but no matter when the rodeos arrive, it’s behind the rain this year.

It used to seem so reliable: area ranchers started haying right after Cattlemen’s, which was the third full weekend in July, and right when the rains arrived to hamper their efforts.

I once dashed through a rainy deluge to arrive soaking wet at a county commissioners’ meeting, where longtime rancher/county treasurer Alva May Dunbar asked longtime rancher/county commissioner Fred Field if he had considered growing rice since it was so soggy that year.

We’re not anywhere near that soggy this year, at least not yet, but at least it’s raining and cooling things off to the point where Lynn, Kara and Vann are complaining about how cold they are.

The rain arrived just about the time an unexpected guest returned to town. Liz was a math major at Western Not State when she worked at Pat’s Screen Printing. Then she graduated — everyone from work went to her senior presentation, where none of us understood a thing she said beyond her first power-point image — and she and her boyfriend returned to Delaware from whence they came.

Last week they were back, for friends getting married in a very Gunnison wedding to be conducted in a raft on the Taylor River, and they seem to have brought the rain along with all kinds of news. Liz, who found gainful employment with an attorney’s office that closes real estate transactions (attorneys are required for this in Delaware, she says), is now sporting an engagement ring — and a baby on the way, due perhaps in the best month of September (possibly October).

Their arrival was a pleasant surprise, kind of like the rain we had resigned ourselves to not getting no matter how much we wanted it. Kara arranged for Liz and fiance Nick to join us for lunch Friday — and that’s when the real deluge set in.

Fortunately Liz logged her share of summers at Pat’s, so she was unfazed when we had to default from a restaurant to the shop because everyone was too busy to take that kind of time off. But the lunch hour or so with Liz may have been the busiest hour of the year at Pat’s.

We now have nine on staff, up three from what we hope was the nadir of Pandemia, and because it was one of Jeff’s two scheduled work shifts each week and Omar had been brought in early while young Ben (this is Ben #4, not Ben #2 that you’re used to hearing about), all nine of us were in the building at once, plus Liz and Nick. And don’t forget Oz the dog, whose specialty is to lie right in the way of everything.

Because there are no flat surfaces left untouched, and floor space is occupied everywhere you look by piles of boxes, everyone was jammed into the space between Kara and Vann’s desks. Into this walked the window washing crew for what is supposed to be a monthly cleaning that happens instead once every three months.

Right behind them, and needing to work right where we were all congregating, was our electrician, there about a week after Kara really needed him to fix our heat press. (Good thing we didn’t dispose of an old heat press that only sort of works but which got pressed into heavy duty last week)

Nine employees, 10 if you count Oz, two guests, window washers, electrician — and customers. We couldn’t have overloaded more had we tried.

But it was very nice, and unexpected, to see Liz again, no longer a college student, with professional job and husband and baby on the way. Just as it’s been nice, and unexpected, to get some rain in this year of drought. It’s just a tad sad it all had to pour down at once.

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