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Published on February 2, 2021

Memories are made of this

How Grandpa Ruffo drove away the rain

By Roy Edwards
The Bulletin

Sometime in the 1920s, Grandpa Ruffo was sitting on his porch, looking across the road at a 40-acre field on his farm outside of Tennessee Colony, Texas.

That 40 acres was the most productive, cultivated field on the farm. In the middle of the field, there was a small knoll of about four acres that had never been cleared.

“Bob, you and Clyde go over to the Jonas’ farm. Tell Mr. Jonas that I want to hire him and his four boys to help us clear some trees,” Ruffo said. “I would like to start next Monday. Tell Jonas to bring saws, axes, shovelSs, and a freight wagon.”

The boys did as instructed, and at daylight Monday, Jonas and his boys were in Ruffo’s front yard with Ruffo and his five boys. Ruffo pointed across the road and said: “Jonas, I want to clear that knoll in the middle of the field and ready it for planting.”

Jonas replied: “Ruffo, you don’t want to take those trees down. Mother Nature put those trees there for a reason. Those are your rain trees, and they bring rain to that field. You cut those rain trees down, and that field will dry up and blow away.”

Ruffo said, “Jonas, that’s bull. I’ve never heard of rain trees. I don’t think you know what you are talking about. I hired you and your boys to clear that knoll, but If you don’t want the job, I’ll find somebody who does.”

“O.K.,” Jonas replied. “Let’s go to work, boys. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.”

And go to work, they did. Saplings were cut down or dug up and piled for burning. Medium-sized trees were felled, then cut up and limbed so they could be used for firewood. The big trees were felled, limbed, and loaded into the freight wagon to be hauled to the sawmill. The resulting boards would be brought back to the farm to be used for building various projects.

The stumps were dug up and placed on the burn piles. When the trees were gone, the area was plowed up to prepare it for the Spring planting.

After the Spring planting, something weird started happening. Rain clouds would split as they approached that four acres. Not a drop of rain fell on that field, and it dried up like Death Valley.

The planted seeds never came up - not even weeds would grow in that field. The next year, same song, second verse.

In the fall of the second year, Ruffo called his boys together. “Boys,” he said, “We’ve got work to do across the road. We’ll start in the north wood lot area tomorrow morning. Load the big wagon with the axes, shovels, rope and whatever else we’ll need to start transplanting trees.”

After breakfast the next morning, they hitched the team to the wagon and started north. Ruffo started by tying ribbons on a variety of saplings he wanted on the knoll, and the boys started digging up those trees. When they got a wagon load, they went to the barren knoll and started planting. As soon as the wagon was empty, the boys loaded wooden barrels into it.

Then they went to the creek, formed a bucket brigade and started filling the barrels. Back at the knoll, they watered the newly transplanted saplings. Replanting the original four acres took about three weeks of back-breaking work. After all the trees were replanted, the boys hauled water to the saplings once a week.

The Spring of the third year, the field was replanted. The rain returned in the form of a few light sprinkles. Some of the seeds sprouted, but the harvest was only about 10 percent of the average previous yield. As the trees grew, the rain gradually returned. It took about 20 years for that field to return to full productivity. Ruffo never admitted that he should have listened to what Jonas had to say.

Long before conservation and other tree-hugger ideas became popular, Jonas had the right idea. It ain’t nice to fool with Mother Nature, and whatever you do, don’t cut down your rain trees.

(Write Roy in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)