Coming alive again

After the rainy season ended, the ripe, dry feed in our nearest pasture didn't last long. The late spring rains which we desired had failed to arrive, so now the land looked more barren every day. There was better pasture out by the spring in back, and it was time to move our small herd; otherwise they'd require tons of hay. The early summer days came with intense heat, which made everyone annoyed at me because, while others complain, I like hot weather.

Very early one morning Marguerite came riding on her horse, Pete. I told her that I was planning to move some cattle and would she be so kind as to check on the spring in the back pasture to see if the trough was full. A couple of hours later she returned to report that I must have forgotten (how could I?) that some time ago someone had stolen the hand pump, and the hose that was used later to siphon water from the spring was now also gone.

"I checked the fences and gates, too," she added cheerfully, "and they're all OK. There's lots of feed back there. All we need is water, and the cows and calves will be happy."

I was mad at myself for not having ridden that pasture lately, and I was furious to think that people had been wandering around and taking things from our land.

Marguerite said, "Oh, we'll get it fixed. Tom is probably going into town today. I'll tell him to stop here, and you and he can go back and look the situation over so that he'll know how much lose or flexible pipe to buy."

What has always been referred to as a spring looks more like a well. Perhaps it started as a spring and the pioneer family who settled there years and years ago turned the spring into a good old-fashioned well neatly lined with rocks. It is still called a spring.

In the region of the spring there is still the foundation of an extremely little house and, looking perfect, the fireplace and chimney. In season, flowers come up from bulbs which a settler's wife planted long ago. But now it was summer, and the only flowers were those amazing few wild ones which bloom after the earth has turned hard and dry.

Two of our times of year are spectacular. After the rainy season starts, the short, short green grass makes the land appear to be covered by well-kept lawns. Though the young grass is not filling, grazing animals are delighted with this change of menu. Certain trees take on color, and on the tall mountains the oaks are so flamming that they can be seen from a great distance. But I've decided that our colorful time is really summer. As I walk across the meadow to the barn, I have to admire tarwee, wild mustard, and the dry stalks of yerba buena, which have turned rusty red. Tarweed and wild mustard are despised by people who have hay to mow, but in my meadow they are beautiful.

Out by the spring, only the white buckwheat was still blooming, and it would turn to an autumn color as it dried. Tom had brought a length of hoselike flexible pipe and filled it with buckets of water while I held a thumb over the lower end. This didn't get a siphon started, though it should have. He decided to take all of the hose and go down into the well to be sure that it was filled with water and not air.

I said, "How will i fish you out if you get stuck and can't climb up?"

He vanished without replying, and after a while I heard hollow directions coming up from the deep. The exciting part came after I got my end of the proposed siphon down the hill. It behaved in a contrary manner, intent on winding itself around bushes. After I freed it, it made gurgling sounds, then sputtered, and finally I shouted, "It's coming, a good strong flow!" Tom appeared bedraggled, wet, and triumphant.

The next morning I didn't feed cows and calves. I moved them the easy way. It was too hot for cattle to run in various directions; the calves who usually want to frolic once they are out of their familiar pasture trudged along as sedately as their elders. I put hay in my old car and drove along while throwing out bites, and they ate their way into their new quarters.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.