August 21, 2005

Local knowledge

The Pueblo Chieftain produces almost a eulogy in newsprint for the Bessemer Ditch. Odd as it may sound, I have always found irrigation ditches to be sort of romantic. Maybe that comes from playing with dirt and water as a kid. Maybe it comes from a past life in ancient Sumaria, who knows.

When I was a shareholder in the DeWeese-Dye Ditch & Reservoir Co., I spent long hours with a shovel cleaning the lateral ditch that served my house and my immediate neighbors' houses after some of them had given up on it. Eventually I got some help from some of them, and we lined part of the ditch with donated plastic pipe, thus delivering more water than we could use.

Even the annual meeting was fascinating, held in a 1940s (or older) community building with coal-burning stove and dangling light bulbs. Someone would walk around collecting ballots in a cowboy hat.

The federal government, in other words, you readers, contributed tens of thousands of dollars through the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service to our little operation. That's the dirty secret of "hydraulic civilization:" It's expensive and it takes a bureaucracy to run it, be that bureaucracy the priests in the big temple or the guys in Western-cut suits at the conservancy-district board meeting.

Those are the big guys. I always just liked walking along under the cottonwoods with a shovel on my shoulder. Don't ask me why.

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