By Julie Tomascik

This year was going to be different. The cotton looked good. Unbelievably good. Fat bolls loaded on compact stalks. A sea of white, as far as the eye could see. Matagorda County farmer Robby Reed was hopeful.

Until a bad boy named Harvey paid a visit.

Some say it’s the hurricane for the decades. For Robby, it’s the storm of a lifetime.

He’s 39 years old—a young farmer by most standards. He’s suffered through hard times, but 2017 may be his toughest year yet.

More than 20 inches of rain has fallen, and the family farm is completely underwater.

Half of Robby’s cotton is still in the fields. Or was. Drenched in the downpours, the cotton absorbed water like a sponge. Some fell off the stalks. Some floated away.

He drove by his fields yesterday. Bad news. The potential of a bumper crop swept away after years of low prices.

The evenings now are somber. Robby, his wife and son were forced out by rising waters. For the first time ever, water crept into their home.

But he wasn’t alone. His parents were in trouble, too. Robby hopped on a jet ski and picked them up before dawn on Monday. Floodwaters breached the levee at their farm near Bay City. Bob and Debbie Reed had been there 40 years and never had water in their barn. Until two days ago. A foot surged through it. And the worse could be yet to come.

For Debbie, it’s not the house or the barn that matter. “It’s just stuff,” she said.

Seeing her son and other young farmers suffer extreme losses, though, is more than she can bear.

“The hardest part is watching my son and daughter-in-law go through this,” she told me, voice cracking with emotion. “As a mom, you hurt for them more than you ever hurt for yourself.”

She and Bob have weathered their fair share of storms. They will do so again.

This time, they’re a little older. A lot wiser. And maybe just a little crazy—crazy for working long hours, hedging their bets and racing the weather without guarantees.

Farming is what they know. It’s what they love. It’s in their blood—a family tradition.

But Robby is looking at extreme loss—hundreds of thousands of dollars. A gamble he took on farming. With Mother Nature calling the shots. And her aim was deadly.

 

Julie Tomascik

Associate Editor

As a third generation rancher, I prefer the outdoors to the kitchen. After all, there’s no better feeling than dirt under my feet and wind whipping through my hair. But I’m slowly learning my way around the kitchen.

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