National Geographic : 1898 Dec
496 CLOUD SCENERY OF THE HIGH PLAINS coal, which the later winds whirl into columns as much as a mile in height and trail along both plain and sky. In this display there is grandeur in the magnitude of details and the deeply glowing colors, but there is no diffused coloring; there are no stratus clouds as yet; no lines of order. Soon, however, arise the winds, and slow evolution gives place to tu mult. The solitary inhabitant, wherever the occasion may have found him, drops all pretense of occupation, and with hat gripped in both hands, leaning back against the rush of air, surrenders himself to awed contemplation of the spectacle. Finally space is cleared. Around the circle of the immeasur ably remote sky-line the lumber of atmospheric scenery becomes packed away in horizontal tiers and overtopping piles, and the great flats settle down to silence, except for a far marginal mur muring never entirely stilled. Then illusion comes forth, and over them maneuver beauties disembodied and immaterial. This is the desert equivalent of the eastern Indian summer. Though there is no color of autumn foliage, there is yet the effect of it, and toward evening, inaugurated by mild disturbances in atmospheric density, there is a marvelous lifting and stir over the vast stage as of a ballet color-play of flaunted draperies. But the closing effects especially are stupendous, the coloring more lavish, the cumulus masses of incredible height and volume. They take their course swiftly to an end, and the magic goes out with a blink. A last thunderhead, reared in far retreat, glim mers and mutters from beyond the horizon. With its sinking the commonplace has abruptly returned. To the " short-grass country," to the interminable spread of level lands that "liter ally scream for water," the net result of these heavy labors will have been but a pattering of drops, with sudden and mighty downpours over abandoned and forgotten townships here and there, many miles apart, and an ephemeral carpeting of green, but no continued soaking, no " gray veils of rain." And yet the High Plains have a future. The " boomers " were birds of passage; another population with different ideas will come to stay. The windmills then will largely multiply, but the newcomers will not be farmers, and it will not be for irrigation that the meager leakage from the clouds which had soaked into the ground will be pumped out again. The most effective utili zation of that scant supply will be recognized as secured when, toward evening, along radial trails in all directions extending out to the horizon, cattle are seen, in long lines, coming in to water.