Farmers and ranchers often use the three-letter "D" word, but when doing so are mindful that it could result in having to use the dreaded seven-letter "D" word.

That is because the use of the threeletter "D" word, (meaning "dry"), in daily conversation often aggravates the situation in South Texas to the point where the climate continues to become drier and eventually forces us to use that seven-letter "drought" word.

I truly regret bringing this topic up in my first column of 2008, but I can only remain in denial so long before the reality refuses to be ignored. Folks, the lower portion of the Coastal Bend area of South Texas has gotten very dry during the past four months. Just how dry?

According to the Weather Service archives the normal rainfall for the final four months of the year should be 12.46 inches. Well, the final four months of this past year turned out to be 7.76 inches below normal in Corpus Christi. And that deficit of just over seven and three-quarter inches occurred despite the first 10 days of September generating 3.79 inches of rainfall.

At the Corpus Christi Weather Service's office located on the International Airport grounds, October only generated 0.38 inches of rain. November's total rose slightly to 0.59 inches and December closed its monthly precipitation total at 0.14 inches. Even dry conditions have occurred in communities located west of the city.

The first couple of months of our current drying trend showed few visible effects because of the record-breaking heavy rainfall amounts that blanketed the Texas coastal region last summer. In fact, I cringed each time someone told me this past summer that "it needs to stop raining!" I never want to utter that particular phrase.

When we are at the point of total saturation from the occasional monsoon that visits our area, my preference is to say, "We needed a few more sunny days."

Being raised in South Texas, where our climate can go from one extreme to the other in a matter of weeks, has made me reluctant to wish for anything as precious as rain to stop. Be careful of what you wish for because it is likely to bring a new set of problems.

This current drying trend prompted me to go to the National Weather Service's Web page to check on the long-range outlook for spring precipitation. Unfortunately, the long- range precipitation outlook recently revised by the National Weather Service is not giving much hope for any major changes for more favorable moisture through the month of March.

They stated that the "La Nina" pattern of cool eastern Pacific waters would persist through the early spring, which typically produces drier and warmer-than-normal weather conditions across South Texas.

Even before I became educated as to the effects of "La Nina" and her cousin "El Nino" on the climate, I had noticed that when the news was filled with stories about flooding and mudslides across Washington, Oregon, and northern California, we South Texans were on the dry side of a weather pattern.

However, we may have some hope for at least a little rainfall in the week ahead. The annual Nueces County Junior Livestock Show kicks off with events starting on Jan. 11 and run ning through the 19th.

About seven out of 10 years, the Coastal Bend area gets some rain during the week of this youth livestock show. When it fails to rain during this mid-January time frame, I have noticed that it's a bad omen for area farmers and ranchers, because the spring that follows is typically drier than normal.

Once again, I have great excitations for another very successful Nueces County Junior Livestock Show.

The new fairgrounds provide excellent shelter from the elements for the youngsters exhibiting their projects and spectators alike. And for the sake of area farmers and ranchers, I am hoping for a few wet and rainy days during this great local event.