Don Marble, Don Langston and Bill Gilbreath have farmed through a lot of dry spells.

Together, the three have put in more than 150 years raising cotton in the unforgiving environment of West Texas. And this year they’re facing one of the toughest droughts they’ve seen in a long time.

But it might not be the worst.

Gilbreath, 80, recalls 1944 and 1945 when he was a teenager farming with his father near Cone, Texas, in Crosby County.

“We were dryland farming,” he recalls, “and we didn’t plant any cotton those two years. We made a little bit of wheat, five or 10 bushels an acre.”

He says one year they got about an inch of rain and tried to plant in the furrow. “Cotton sprouted but we didn’t get any more rain and it all died. In 1946 my father started with irrigation wells. We had big water until the 1970s, but we’re about out of water now.”

Marble, 79, recalls 1980 as a particularly bad year for cotton in South Plains, Texas. “We were very dry in 1980,” he says. “We’d had good moisture all through 1979 and into the spring of 1980. We had a good wheat crop and got the cotton planted. But hot weather came on as we cut the wheat and it never let up. There was not a cloud in the sky.”

Langston, 71, who farms in Lubbock County, said 1998 “was a bugger. We got rain to get the cotton up, but we got no more until August. We made from one-and-a-quarter to one-and-a-half bales per acre under the pivots.”