"Never curse the rain."

Jerry Apps
For most farmers, rain can make the difference between success and failure.

“Never curse the rain.” I’ve never forgotten my father’s words. On a rather rare, rainy day in summer, when one of my brothers or I would complain that we couldn’t do what we wanted to do, he would say these words. He meant them, too. Our sandy, central Wisconsin farm needed all the rain it could get. Limited rain meant no crops.

The entire family had memories of the dust storms that rolled across western Waushara County in the late 1930s. I remember them. The sky was an eerie, reddish color. The sun not able to peek through the dirty dust that filled the sky from morning to night, and sometimes all night if the wind continued to blow. The fine, powder-like dust sifted into the house, too. Sifted under the windows and around the doors. My mother was forever cleaning dust from the dishes, from the furniture and everywhere else in the house.

When the rains came, and they did in the 1940s, we once more had crops to feed the cattle and sooth our souls. I will never forget rainy days in July, after the barn’s hayloft was filled with alfalfa and clover hay. When the morning chores were done, and the cattle let out to pasture, Pa, my two brothers and I would crawl up into the hay mow and sprawl out on the fresh hay and listen to the rain drops pounding on the barn roof while smelling the wonderful aroma of freshly stored hay.

As I think about it today, it was akin to being in a massive theater with the sound all around us, plus the smell of fresh hay. When the rain let up, it usually meant a time to go fishing. Another reason I looked forward to a rainy day.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: For most farmers, rain can make the difference between success and failure.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to