Saturday, January 7, 2017

Drive - A Memoir 7th Installment

chose to farm. Let me tell you about the farm in Hamer. First, the farm is in Idaho that has to be one of the most rural states in the union. The farm is a few miles away from a town with a population of 23 and Hamer is 35 miles from a larger town.

They bought Ace's farm in the middle of nowhere on the sandy flats near the Arco desert when Russ was a few months old. The 250 acre ‘Ace Farm’ consisted of an old farm house with a seven acre field on the edge of a half square mile of fenced off sage brush. The farm’s irrigation right (something that is essential in the desert) was unfortunately the last farm to get water on the Hamer canal’s irrigation schedule. The canal, only a slight ditch at our place, provided little water because the so called neighborly farms up–stream were stealing so much water. When the water came, it just washed down the sandy ditch banks, and our parents had to shovel full time to try to get water to their crops. Desert sand always tries to level out, become flat like water covered beaches on the east and west coasts of this great country. The wind can blow sand dunes in the desert like waves in the ocean, but the sand, like water, always levels out. The first few years were lean as they fought for even enough water so the weeds and grass sod would reinforce the ditch banks.
Edith told us that they couldn’t survive without more irrigation water, and so they really needed to quit the canal company. In the lean times, because of their experience in the water wars, Edith took the job as Hamer Canal secretary to manage the canal’s operation and dues; Vernon became the ditch rider. I rode with him when I was young and recall that he would mark the water weirs height or count the number of turns of the gate valve. He also made many drawings and charts of the measurements so he could track water usage against the shares the farmer had and could keep the water use fair. Many times, the next day we would find the gates were changed. Vernon could track how unscrupulous the neighbors were by the number of turns of the valves as they stole water from the other farmers. Eventually he resorted to heavy chains and even heavier locks to secure the water.
Eventually Vernon and Edith had a well drilled on the high ground at the top of the farm. I remember Bob, the local well driller, standing there for hours with his hand on the cable as the machine pumped the cable up and down pounding the heavy bit into the earth. He could tell exactly what type of earth he was drilling through – clay or stone – by his experience and the feel of the cable. Vernon was now able to break in several more fields

500 more words tomorrow

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