I had a really great time being in southern New Mexico over the weekend. I got to spend time with many of my old Ag College friends who still rely on the weather and the earth to make a good part of their living.
I got back to my rural roots. It was a fresh reminder.
While I whine and complain about all the rain we got this year in Northern California, I was reminded, plenty reminded, that water is still the heart of life in a town like Las Cruces.
Simple water. Yet not so simple.
As we drove out to my best friend's house, which is well and gone north of Las Cruces, my old senses kicked in. I smelled the water before I saw it. We rounded a corner and could see that the main irrigation ditch was running high.
"Someone must have ordered water," I said aloud to no one in particular.
"That looks like almond trees going in," I pointed out to my husband.
"Whoa, that used to be a cotton field...looks like they put in chile," I commented.
I greeted each pasture and expanse of farmland like an old friend.
"Chickens!" I exclaimed when we came to a traffic jam on the road (us and another car). The Good Man had asked, "um, why are we stopped?" and I had the better view around the car ahead.
There was a bantam rooster doing his strut on the warm asphalt of that rural New Mexico state road. We all waited for him to go by. He took his time.
Once at the party, The Good Man and I at one point talked with my best friend's dad. He said that they were having trouble with a neighbor up the road diverting their water. They'd order and not enough would show up.
I've been reading a lot of Louis L'Amour stories lately. In those books, diverting someone's water is a killing sort of offense.
I said to my dad-by-proxy, "you oughta weld that guy's gate shut" and he laughed. Don't think he hadn't already considered it. (and by gate, I meant irrigation gate, not the entry to his driveway)
As the night wore on, it got to be about two o'clock in the morning. The evening dew, such that it was, was starting to settle. I said to my husband, "this is good hay cutting weather." He asked why, and I said, "the dew makes the stalks wet and they bend instead of break."
I used to date a guy in college who had to end our dates fairly early because he had to get home and cut hay. I learned to recognize that smell. It meant it was time for him to scoot on home. Time to work when the water is in the air....
The next day, out at my friend's place, I learned the water in the irrigation ditch was running so high because it was a "free day" for the community. They got to water as needed.
I was wearing flip-flops and I tromped around the soggy yard helping my god-dog look for his favorite ball. The water made the air smell sweet. It also made the frogs come out and sing their sexy mating songs rather loudly.
We ate dinner outside with a chorus of humping frogs to accompany our meal.
All because of water.
Living in the city like I do, I take water for granted. I turn on the tap, and there it is. It falls from the sky and I curse the nuisance.
Yesterday, I was shopping at Nordstrom for a nice outfit to wear for a very important meeting today.
While I shopped in luxury, I looked down at my flip-flops. They still bore the dried mud from my friend's home. I tossed back my head and laughed at the beautiful, grounding irony of it all.
May I never forget the land and the people who rely daily on the value of pure, simple water.
Rather out of focus photo of my cranky god-cat and the gate at my friend's place.