Saturday, May 19, 2012

Water Works

It's much too hot and dry for May. And we never got those April showers, so it’s looking bleak outside. As ranchers, moisture is key to a successful season. It’s how the cows get fed, so our livelihood hangs in the balance. I seem to worry about it mostly at 3:00 a.m. when sleep evades me.

It’s crunch time trying to get the irrigation water started and the cows moved on to grass. Some folks who share our ditches, newcomers to the country, think you walk out, pull the headgate and voila – water! Not so. First, most ditches need burned to either set the grass back or to get rid of tumbling mustard and Russian thistle (tumbleweeds) that clog the channel. Then, depending on their condition, some ditches need to be cleaned with a v-ditcher or similar larger implement. Then the headgates, the concrete pipes that let the water flow on to a section of ground called a “land,” need to be dug out.

It’s exciting when you let the first stream in. As the water moves down the channel it picks up all burned refuse and any trash that didn’t burn like leaves and twigs. You stand in the ditch walking quickly backward, pitching as hard as you can. Or if it’s more water than you can stand in, pitching from the side, a back breaker for sure, is the only option. Clogging a pipe downstream would mean disaster.

I started a stream last night, not a very big one, but it tested me pretty hard. I told Mark he must think I’m a lot tougher than I am, even though it was my idea. I said to him, “that was hard work!” His reply, “it’s all hard work.” The older I get the more I know it.

I remember the first time Seth out-pitched me starting a stream of water. We were both working as hard as we could and he saved the day. No more did he need “mommy muscles” to tackle a job. It was a bittersweet evening as I remember.

I was wishing Seth was with me last night.  

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