Tag Archives: New Mexico

Life is a Ditch: Acequia de Llano San Juan de Nepomuceno

Rivulet pouring into Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photograph, J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

Rivulet pouring into Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed mature forest (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2012).

Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed mature forest (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2012).

DSC_1989

Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010)

DSC_1986

Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

DSC_1976

Flora on Rio Santa Barbara upper watershed (photo by J. F. Matthews, July 2010).

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano.  Water rights since 1789 (Photograph by Taos Properties).

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Rio Santa Barbara Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano. Water rights since 1789 (photograph and data by Taos Properties).

(This new post derives from my previous post, “Not mine, not yours, but ours:  Penasco Upper Llano acequias,” October 2011.)

From Amarillo, Texas, I drove to northern New Mexico in 1968.  I traveled by way of Las Vegas, Mora, and Penasco, making camp along the upper watershed of the Rio Santa Barbara for a few days.  I vividly remember a man plowing his field with horses near Mora and the narrow strips of farm land that bordered rivers and irrigation ditches.  The narrow strips of irrigated land not only reflected a precise lay of the land by residents and survey crews, but the long lots reflected a community, a meshing of rural families alongside a water greenbelt.  In later anthropological field trips, I took my Amarillo College students by the Pecos River irrigated plots along State Highway 3 that ran from Interstate 40 to Interstate 25 between Santa Rosa and the Pecos Pueblo.  (Click to see Google map of the Pecos River plots.)

The system of irrigation is called acequia, referring both to the irrigation ditch and the association of members organized around it.

I have never owned land in New Mexico, but if I did I would buy a parcel of land that had water rights to an acequia, a system that stretches back in time to Native American communities before the arrival of the Spanish who brought laws respecting community water rights (riparian rights).  Having land that possesses an acequia, one gains entry into a community that cleans, rebuilds and nourishes the ditches and, further, is granted rights to meet in a democratic association to discuss apportioning water and policies affecting owners that border the irrigation ditch.

Several weeks ago, I came across a piece of property near Penasco that if I could sell my ranchito, I would buy and move my horses and equipment post haste to Penasco Upper Llano.  See the following Google map:  This is the map-image of the Penasco Upper Llano property and other long lots of community property.

This particular piece of property with the house pictured above is located in the high country between Taos and Santa Fe and can produce 700 bales of hay a year.  The water rights go back to 1789, the year that the United States inaugurated its first president, George Washington.  The surveyor’s plat looks like this:


Several good books and narratives have been written about the acequia culture.  Stanley Crawford in his work, Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico (1988), writes of the acequia culture:

There are few other civic institutions left in this country in which members have as much control over an important aspect of their lives; relatively autonomous, in theory democratic, the thousand acequias form a cultural web of almost microscopic strands and filaments that have held a culture and landscape in place for hundreds of years….

Ditch-cleanings are all very much the same, and in this they often feel more like ritual than work.  The crew varies from year to year: a couple of old men don’t turn up each year, a couple of boys barely able to handle a shovel, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds, take their places; the weather is better or worse than some vague notion of what is usual, mayordomos come and go and some are responsible and fair, others vindictive, punitive, almost military, others are lazy and heedless of the needs of the ditch; and the crew can be a good-natured, hard-working creature, or sullen and complaining and evasive, qualities perhaps dictated by the amount of pride or fear circulating through the hearts of both those in charge and those doing the actual digging….

Buddy Manzanares who, on one of my last perfunctory inspection tours half an hour from the end of the spring digging, calls on me to admire a meticulously dug out and cleaned up tarea [a grave-size chunk of the ditch], with the banks cleaned of grass and squared neatly where they end in the bottom of the smoothly shoveled-out channel….This man knows how to make this small thing, this chore, into more than we commonly imagine, and what can be more important to know in this life, than just that.

Mayordomo, pp. 176, 224, 228-29.

The deep thing about acequia that attracts me is the ready-made community that circulates around water rights that nourish subsistence crops and the growth of hay.  The isolation of many Texas ranches and the people that tend them and steward their animals is not good; in fact, it diminishes the rancher to a coarse individuality that thins the possibilities of  human endeavors, insinuates a obsessive pecuniary attitude about the land and narrows civic — read unselfish — behavior to the mere casting of a vote once or twice a year for politicians.

There are western ranching communities that transcend these deficiencies, I grant you, but the tendency has been to sell out or buy more land, thus expelling more people from the agrarian way of life.  I have experienced this and have witnessed the deleterious affect upon my family.

I do not romanticize the acequia culture because it is a human community and there will be conflict and law suits.  Nonetheless, there exists an association of men and women meeting about water and how to nourish their livestock, beans, alfalfa, corn, tomatoes, okra, flowers, lawns, chilis, vineyards, peaches, plums, apricots, coastal bermuda, roses, trees, and every other conceivable plant needing water that flourishes from the earth.  Having an acequia culture forces upon us the lesson about sharing in real, material ways that no desk-bound, box-bound person will ever learn.  The basic premise is:  water is limited, we all need it, how will we share it?  And, how are we going to keep it coming down the ditch?  The answer: let’s talk about it, let’s vote on it, let’s implement our decision, and we will meet again.

Like so many other things in life, the ditch is more than a ditch.  The acequia and the water is not mine, not yours, but ours.  Water is life, and in this case, Life is a Ditch.

Acequia near Vadito, New Mexico, (Vadito II, oil by Eric Andrews, Taos, personal collection of J. Matthews).

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

The language keyboard for Spanish and diacritical markings frustrates me.  Hence, the Spanish diacritical markings for “Penasco” are missing, although about every 20 times, I can get the tilde above the “n” in Penasco.  If anyone has any suggestions within the WordPress format to easily apply diacritical markings to writing, please comment or drop me an email at matthewsranch@msn.com.  I am intent upon using proper markings, but I am not going to spend ten minutes every time I need a tilde to paste it on.  Can Windows Vista do anything right?  Of course they can, but you have to update your browser every five minutes.  And, then restart.

2 Comments

Filed under Life in Balance, Taos

Rio de Pueblo

20130810-203305.jpg

As I traveled this week from Mingus, Texas, to Taos, New Mexico, I stopped in the Kit Carson National Forest, alongside the Flechado Day Campground that bordered the Rio Pueblo seen above. The water was cold, flowing, gurgling, clear.

Back home today at my ranchita in Texas, I filled water troughs with Barton Creek Coop water so that my last horse of the remuda I once husbanded can have water to drink in addition to the cow tank that is the lowest I have ever seen.

I placed cedar posts in all three of the water troughs–stable, corral, far field round trough–so that squirrels when they fall into the water while slacking their thirst can have something to climb onto and escape a watery grave.  Three squirrels have drowned in the stable water trough and a roadrunner was nearly drowned when I pulled him out several years ago.

Rio Pueblo, Barton Creek, and my water trough in the far field proffer life.  I accept the gift.  When the animals of this semi-arid region accept a gift of water, I can, at least, make sure that it is not their last benefit.

13 Comments

Filed under Salt Creek, Taos

Cloud portal to the coast

Thundershowers on either side of Interstate 20 west of Cisco, Texas, May 2012

Last Friday, May 11, 2012, I drove to Abilene for commencement at Cisco College where I instruct.  West of Cisco, on Interstate 20, I saw this cloud portal — at least that is what I call it.  I sped between the two thundershowers.  A few drops fell on my car.  The first couple of weeks in May is a time of showers and cool temperatures in west Texas.  That is not always true, for this time last year, I was busy writing about wildfires in my area.

I have a friend at Cisco College that teaches English and he traveled to the Oregon coast last year, staying near Seal Rock and Newport, soaking in cool temperatures and consuming seafood and local white wines.  He talks about moving to Oregon, selling his ranch and settling in the cooler climes.  I think about the higher altitudes of northern New Mexico around Truchas and Taos that have sharp winters and cool nights during the summer.

We both will probably stay put: he in Santa Anna, me in Mingus, for there are mild winters and days in May where thundershowers bring out the Cut-leaf Daisy, Fire Whorls, Queen Anne’s Lace, Purple Dandelions in brilliant colors while horses and cattle graze in lush Spring fields of gramma and bluestem.  I should like, however, to go to the Newport and Depoe Bay area of Oregon where my friend says, ‘There is a resident pod of whales for ten months out of the year about the coast.  You can see them surface and dive, surface and dive.’

I want to see that scene some day.  The cloud portal in the photograph above opens to the west, towards the Pacific, towards the whale.  And away from home.

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

Depoe Bay was added as an additional site my friend visited.  It is a central location for beautiful scenery and whales.  The boating outing in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was filmed in the area.

14 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Rain, Taos, Weather, Wildfire

The 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging

The Prairie Sagebrush Award 2011 is given for fine writing, photography and art in the blogosphere.  From my blogroll, I select a post, photograph or art piece from 2010-2011, early 2012.   For each comment that is entered on this ‘The 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging’ post, I will donate a buck ($1.00) to a wildlife corridor in Texas or New Mexico.  I set a limit of $100.00 — not that I am going to have more than fifty comments, but who knows?

I have excerpted portions of these fine writings and art into my post in respect for their blogs and copyright.  Please click on the links to obtain the full text of these really fine bloggers.

Please feel free to copy the Prairie Sagebrush Award 2011 design-image and put it on your blog to link back to this post or to one of the blogs below.  (No, I’m not trying to pump up my numbers, just trying to illustrate the high quality of work performed on blogosphere.)

[Wild Bill, Wild Ramblings blog, ‘Conifer Encounter.’…On the way back I asked him, and this was one of the few times I had spoken, how he knew so much about the woods. He answered that he was a biology professor at Springfield College, but had grown up in the pine barrens in New Jersey. He surmised that most of his knowledge he had learned as a boy wandering those Mid-Atlantic swamps, coupled with reading a lot of books about nature. And then he laughed out loud, almost in a boisterous way. “And once I met an old man in the woods,” he declared, and he laughed again, this time even more loudly….

[Grethe, Thyra blog, ‘Goodbye to King Winter.…The next week-end was foggy and raw and the sun seemed so far, far away. It was nice to see that the people at the restaurant of  Skovmøllen (the old Water Mill-restaurant) saw to that the little birds were fed with Danish bread and fat-bowls. There was also morning bread with cinnamon and the birds seemed to like it!  Notice the little blue tit. It is so ruffled. I hope it will cope….

[Photograph: Montucky, Montana Outdoors blog, ‘A visit to an old painting.]

Montucky, 'A visit to an old painting,' January 24, 2011.

[Cirrelda, Color of Sand blog, ‘Ides of January — yard observations.’…I stood for a while looking at my pobrecito pinon tree tilting away from the drooping elm limbs above it. Then those elm limbs were golden – the light was coming at them directly from that western mesa edge (miles away) and the whole damn wild elm tree was shining in its massive shagginess. (I so curse that tree at times since its roots tangle into every vegetable bed.) Smoke on my hands and clothes, I stand and gaze at the afternoon in my yard….

[Martie, Taos Sunflower blog, ‘Photos from my hood.’ …This morning I was down in Arroyo Seco (the nearest village to my home, where my yarn shop used to be) and had a few moments alone with my camera.  I thought I’d go look for beautiful flowers, but alas, in this drought, they were not to be found.  Then I looked up at the beautiful clouds in the sky over the old church behind our building, and thought it has probably been years since I’ve shared photos of it with you.  It was a ready reminder of why so many people come here to study art and paint the local scenery.  I’m sorry there aren’t any flowers for you, but hope you enjoy the rest…

[Shoreacres, The Task at Hand blog, ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept.’…My extraordinary good fortune was to be born into a family more than willing to make and keep promises.  My father took promises especially seriously. The eldest of six children, he was one of those increasingly rare creatures – a man of his word. Whether it was a work colleague, a neighbor, a family member or his tiny daughter coming to him with a request, if he said he would do it, he did….

[Wrensong, Writings from Wild Soul blog, ‘Waiting for the Sun.’  See also the female cardinal photograph associated with this winning post.]  Everything so still/ in this windless dawn/ Ice hangs from every twig/ air cold as stone/ Sun arrives like hope/ and hunger. ~wrensong

[Marie, The Rambling Wren blog, ‘The Red Fox.’…The fox stood stock still in the middle of the lane. We watched each other silently for 10 or 15 seconds, then the fox turned to go. But she paused, then sat down and looked back at me. She seemed unsure how to proceed, and kept looking up the secondary driveway we use for moving trailers and the RV. There’s a large woodpile there, an old barn the previous owners had dismantled elsewhere and brought here, planning to reconstruct. But the project was never finished, and we now have habitat for all sorts of critters–rabbits and woodchucks, chipmunks, feral cats, and now, perhaps, red fox. Had she moved her kits there, I wondered?…

[Kittie Howard, Kittie’s Stories, ‘Shopping at Best Buy.’…Best Buy, that big box store, re-entered my life.  I didn’t want to buy a new computer just yet.  The plan was to limp along with what I had until the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. Last Saturday night, the motherboard died….

[Rebecca, Rebecca in the Woods, ‘On Not Hearing a Boreal Owl.’…Then yesterday GrrlScientist had to go and write a blog post about about Wilson’s Snipe and mention that the “winnowing” sound created by its tail feathers during its courtship display sounds very similar to the call of a Boreal Owl. And that courting males “fly in circles.” And that they do this “long into the evening.” And sometimes even at night, I suppose? Sigh. No one likes deleting a species from their life list…. [Bold added.]

[Photograph and recipe: Karen Rivera, New Mexico Photography, ‘Green Pumpkin and Green Chili Pueblo Stew.’]

Karen Rivera, 'Road between Cimarron and Taos, New Mexico,' March 8, 2011.

[Debra, Find an Outlet blog, ‘Death’s Mementos.’…Every day I am moved by roadside memorials to people who weren’t ready to die. People who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re a constant reminder of how fragile we are—bits of bone wrapped in a flimsy shroud of a ridiculously unsuitable hide. We’re anything but fierce when up against poison, bullet, disease, or 3,000 pounds of steel, glass and chrome….

[Wildstorm, Backroads Photo blog, ‘North Texas Desert.’…There is no such thing–the North Texas desert. Yet it seems like it when you glance across the dry roasted pastures where nothing grows. What is green? The cedar trees. Even the oak trees have burned up leaves….

[Bunnyterry, I Love New Mexico blog, ‘Gardening in New Mexico.’…As I stand here with the garden hose in my hand, I’m reminded of a paper I wrote on personal landscapes for that particular history class.  The instructor’s goal throughout the class was to get us to tie our own personal histories to history in the broader sense, which, if I were teaching history today, would be my goal as well…

[Teresa, Teresa Evangeline blog, ‘At Home in My One Room Schoolhouse.’ …I almost forgot to tell you: when I crossed over into New Mexico from Utah on Sunday, in less than a quarter of a mile there were two crows and a coyote. The crows were standing over their dinner in the ditch, whoever the poor critter had been, and the coyote was trotting away from them, down in a hollow, across a snow-covered field….

[Annie, Anniepickens’s blog, ‘Spring Garlic.’…Sunday I got to the Farmers’ Market later than usual, it was already packed with people but choices were still good. The first thing I wanted to do was find the egg guy and trade in my used cartons. It seems like the only time I remember that I’m going to take them back is when I am at the market buying more eggs. Very happy with myself for finally remembering….

[Photograph: Jeff Lynch, Serious Amateur Photography, ‘Those Spanish Skirts.’]

Jeff Lynch, Palo Duro Canyon, 'Spanish Skirts,' January 2011.

[Photograph: Evangeline Chavez, Evangeline Art Photography blog, ‘Dia de Los Muertos.’]

Evangeline Chavez, 'Dia de Los Muertos,' posted November 6, 2011.

[Poster image and environmental work: Chris Clarke, Coyote Crossing blog, ‘Desert Biodiversity.’]

Desert Biodiversity poster, Chris Clarke, December 2011.

[Bonnie Bardos, Bohemian Artist: Painting and Thought blog, ‘New Sculpture.’]

Bonnie Bardos, 'New Sculpture,' May 2011.

[Photograph: Steven Schwartzman, Portraits of Wildflowers blog, ‘Welcome to the Texas Hill Country.’]

Steven Schwartzman, 'Clammyweed flowering,' June 2011.

52 Comments

Filed under Prairie Sagebrush Awards 2011

WeBLOG adobe las golondrinas

Window with bars, Las Golondrinas, New Mexico (2011)

A few notes from las golondrinas behind the bars:

Private business in cahoots with governmental agencies build solar arrays and oil pipelines that crisscross the American West.  Is this really necessary?  Tortoises are relocated — or at least a great many of them were — and wildlife corridors “will” be constructed to allow wild game to browse in the Great American West.  By all means let’s  power our cell phones, televisions and gaming equipment so that we can “see” nature on television, iPhones and earn all the levels of virtual combat games that we can boast about to our chums by e-mail on yahoo, gmail and msn.com.  Why, who needs “real” critters when we have “virtual” critters?

* * *

An old Native American narrative:  Grandfather takes grandson to see a river that runs between two mountains.  The river has cut a deep gorge between the mountains.

Grandfather:  Grandson, which is stronger, the river or the mountains?

Grandson:  (trying hard, puzzled)  The river, Grandfather?

Grandfather says nothing, looks at Grandson.

Grandson:  (trying harder to figure it out, changing answer)  The mountains, Grandfather?

Grandfather says nothing for a minute or two.

Grandfather:  Grandson, it doesn’t matter!

* * *

Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden that a telegraph line was being built to connect Maine with Texas.  He said, in effect, That’s nice, but will they have anything to say to each other?

* * *

On the topic of a lot things:  It doesn’t matter.

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

“Los Golondrinas” is Spanish for swallows.

There is a huge solar array system being built out on the Mojave Desert between California and Nevada.  Chris of Coyote Crossing has tried to impede the construction of the array because of the tortoise issue.  See his blog on my bloglist below for further news of these “necessary” and stupendous power grids in the making.

The narrative about Grandfather-Grandson is courtesy of Blu Cooksey.

Of course everyman has his Walden, so the quote is in there!  Please go look it up.

The origin of “blog” is from the two words, Web and log.  I don’t know if the OED has caught up with “blog” yet.  “In hindsight, it seems amazing that I did finish [her translation] — and, indeed, that anyone working the British university system ever finishes anything…,” writes translator Susanna Morton Braund in her preface of Juvenal and Persius, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.  Now, in my opinion, finishing the translation of Juvenal’s writing from Latin to English does matter.  Well, maybe not.

10 Comments

Filed under Life in Balance, Life Out of Balance

Shadows and Eric of 203

I suppose we all have nested away some items, some event or photograph we cherish.  I published a photograph several weeks ago on the feed bin in the far field with clouds that I had set aside in the files, but every time I came across the feed bin and clouds photograph I wanted to post it and share it with readers in the blogosphere.  I present two things here with a short story line, one is the long shadows in Stall 1 of the stables, the other is an artwork of Eric Andrews of Taos, New Mexico.

* * *

A January 28, 2011, photograph of Stall 1 in the stables

When this photograph was taken on January 28, 2011, the late afternoon shadows of the stall panels were surrounded by cold mist of a winter’s day. I was terribly sad because I had recently sold three of my prize horses at an auction in Oklahoma City, and the absence of Hija, Fanny and the foal-to-be was anguishing. The economy had gone sour and I had — through my own ineptitude — lost money on the stock market. So had other people lost money, but they had not be forced to sell their companions. I sold the horses — no small relief, to be sure — to fine people in Canada and Missouri and I was comforted in the transfer. The photograph illustrated to me the emptiness in my life at the time.

* * *

Walking the Acequia 2, Eric Andrews, 203 Fine Art Gallery, Taos

Eric Andrews’ painting, Walking the Acequia 2, is one of his current paintings for sale and is a good example of his art.  I possess one Eric Andrews painting.  He and his wife own the 203 Fine Art Gallery in Taos, New Mexico. After the death of my mother in 2003, I wanted to invest my inheritance in either fine art or land.  I eventually settled on buying the Flying Hat Ranchito. Before I bought the Flying Hat, however, I traveled to Taos and Santa Fe to put together an ensemble of southwestern paintings of the Taos Society of Artists — Bert Geer Phillips, Ernest L. Blumenschein, Joseph Henry Sharp, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse and W. Herbert Dunton.

As I made a laundry list of the paintings I might purchase, going from art gallery to art gallery, I met Eric Andrews at the Parsons Gallery in Taos. It was an immediate friendship. I traveled to his studio out on the High Road to Taos from Santa Fe to visit with him and his wife and see their work. Although I made the decision to buy my ranchito, I bought Eric’s Vadito II that hangs over my fireplace (you can see it on the “About” page of Sage to Meadow). The painting above, Walking the Acequia 2, illustrates my acquaintance with Eric and my deep interest in all things acequia.

_____________________________

Founders of the Taos Society of Artists at the...

The Taos Society of Artists -- image via Wikipedia

5 Comments

Filed under Horses, Shiners Fannin Peppy (Fanny), Sweet Hija, Taos

Not mine, not yours, but ours: Penasco Upper Llano acequias

The house on 17 irrigated acres from the Acequia de San Juan Nepomoseno del Llano. Water rights since 1789 (photograph by Taos Properties).

Forty-four years ago, in 1967, I traveled to New Mexico from Amarillo, Texas.  It was my third and most memorable trip for I dreamed for days about colors and pottery and adobe and silver.  I would lie down, fall asleep and pass into a dream world of silver and blue skies — northern New Mexico.  It was not all pleasant because I became ill from eating different Native American and Mexican foods, but that never deterred me from returning again and again and again.

Aside from digestive and dreaming events, I vividly remember a man plowing his field with horses near Mora, the unpaved streets about the Taos plaza and the narrow strips of farm land that bordered rivers and irrigation ditches.  The narrow strips of irrigated land not only reflected a precise lay of the land by survey crews, but also reflected a community, a meshing of farmers.  What was there about those fertile strips that drew me in?    In later anthropological field trips, I took my students by the Pecos River irrigated plots along State Highway 3 that ran from Interstate 40 to Interstate 25 between Santa Rosa and the Pecos Pueblo.  (Click to see Google map of the Pecos River plots.)

The system of irrigation is called acequia, referring both to the irrigation ditch and the association of members organized around it.

I have never owned land in New Mexico, but if I did I would buy a parcel of land that had water rights to an acequia, a system that stretches back in time to Native American communities before the arrival of the Spanish who adopted the local customs of water rights (riparian rights).  Having land that possesses an acequia, one automatically gains entry into a community that cleans, rebuilds and nourishes the ditches and, further, is granted rights to meet in a democratic association to discuss apportioning water and policies affecting owners that border the irrigation ditch.

Several weeks ago, I came across a piece of property near Penasco that if I could sell my ranchito, I would buy and move my horses and equipment post haste to Penasco Upper Llano.  See the following Google map:  This is the map-image of the Penasco Upper Llano property and other strips of community property.

This particular piece of property with the adobe house pictured above is located in the high country between Taos and Santa Fe and can produce 700 bales of hay a year.  The water rights go back to 1789, the year that the United States inaugurated its first president, George Washington.  The surveyor’s plat looks like this:


Stanley Crawford in his work, Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico (1988), writes of the acequia culture that I admire:

There are few other civic institutions left in this country in which members have as much control over an important aspect of their lives; relatively autonomous, in theory democratic, the thousand acequias form a cultural web of almost microscopic strands and filaments that have held a culture and landscape in place for hundreds of years….

Ditch-cleanings are all very much the same, and in this they often feel more like ritual than work.  The crew varies from year to year: a couple of old men don’t turn up each year, a couple of boys barely able to handle a shovel, fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds, take their places; the weather is better or worse than some vague notion of what is usual, mayordomos come and go and some are responsible and fair, others vindictive, punitive, almost military, others are lazy and heedless of the needs of the ditch; and the crew can be a good-natured, hard-working creature, or sullen and complaining and evasive, qualities perhaps dictated by the amount of pride or fear circulating through the hearts of both those in charge and those doing the actual digging….

Buddy Manzanares who, on one of my last perfunctory inspection tours half an hour from the end of the spring digging, calls on me to admire a meticulously dug out and cleaned up tarea [a grave-size chunk of the ditch], with the banks cleaned of grass and squared neatly where they end in the bottom of the smoothly shoveled-out channel….This man knows how to make this small thing, this chore, into more than we commonly imagine, and what can be more important to know in this life, than just that.

Mayordomo, pp. 176, 224, 228-29.

The deep thing about acequia that pulls on me is the ready-made community that circulates around water rights that nourish subsistence crops and the growth of hay.  The isolation of many Texas ranches and the people that tend them and steward their animals is not good; in fact, it diminishes the rancher to a coarse individuality that thins the possibilities of  human endeavors, insinuates a obsessive pecuniary attitude about the land and narrows civic — read unselfish — behavior to the mere casting of a vote once or twice a year.

There are western ranching communities that transcend these deficiencies, I grant you, but the tendency has been to sell out or buy more land, thus expelling more people from the agrarian way of life.  I have experienced this and have witnessed the deleterious affect upon my family.

I shall not be accused of romanticizing the acequia culture — oh, go ahead and accuse! — because it is a human community and there will be conflict and law suits, but there is an association, a group of men and women meeting about water and how to nourish their livestock, beans, alfalfa, corn, tomatoes, okra, flowers, lawns, chilis, vineyards, peaches, plums, apricots, coastal bermuda, roses, trees, and every other conceivable plant that flourishes from the soil that is watered.  Having an acequia culture forces the lesson about sharing in real, material ways that no desk-bound, box-bound person will ever learn.  The basic premise is:  water is limited, we all need it, how will we share it?  And, how are we going to keep it coming down the ditch?  The answer: let’s talk about it, let’s vote on it, let’s implement our decision.

Like so many other things in life, the ditch is more than a ditch.  The acequia and the water is not mine, not yours, but ours.

Acequia near Vadito, New Mexico, (Vadito II, oil by Eric Andrews, Taos, personal collection of J. Matthews).

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

The language keyboard for Spanish and diacritical markings frustrates me.  Hence, the Spanish diacritical markings for “Penasco” are missing, although about every 20 times, I can get the tilde above the “n” in Penasco.  If anyone has any suggestions within the WordPress format to easily apply diacritical markings to writing, please comment or drop me an email at matthewsranch@msn.com.  I am intent upon using proper markings, but I am not going to spend ten minutes every time I need a tilde to paste it on.  Can Windows Vista do anything right?  Of course they can, but you have to update your browser every five minutes.  And, then restart.

13 Comments

Filed under Life in Balance, Santa Fe, Taos

Lilly’s* cairn

Rock cairn of Ima Lil Moore, September 25, 2011.

This summer I constructed a rock cairn to stack sandstone and petrified wood on the ranchito. A few feet up from the cairn in the photograph, I smoothed the soil with a hand rake. The smooth soil and the cairn mark the spot that Lilly*, known also by her registered name, Ima Lil Moore (APHA 111214), lies buried, six feet beneath the surface in a grave dug by the backhoe of a Stephenville, Texas, contractor. The cairn is about four feet in height and I pile smaller stones within the hollow of the cairn as I work through the day.

Cairns are built on top of mountains and within them sometimes a tin box is placed so that mountaineers may log themselves in and make a few comments about the climb to the top. I’ve done that with Mt. Taylor and Pedernal in New Mexico, climbs that I remember vividly and relive in my mind as I grow old. I shall not stop climbing. I don’t have a mountain to climb now as a goal, but the South Truchas peak in New Mexico is the only one of the Truchas peaks I have not assailed.  I will find the South Truchas cairn and write of my climb some day.

Lilly’s cairn contains no tin box, but as I look at it during the day I etch comments about her in a notebook that never fades or tears. She was my first and original teacher of horse behavior. I learned the difference between a kick of aggression and a kick of delight. Lilly never bit or kicked in aggression. She suffered to stand in her last days, allowing me to put a sling on the tractor and hoist her up by the neck, whereupon she shook herself and proceeded to the hay bin as if nothing had happened. To her last days, feeble as she was, the powerful King Ranch mare of mine who stood two hands above her always moved aside in respect for Lilly so that she could eat where she wanted. Lilly was alpha among the remuda.

I have thought of writing a post about putting Lilly down, and I will some day, but for now, I fill her cairn with rocks she galloped upon, throwing stones in her run to green pastures and fresh water.  I know those stones and pick them up for her cairn.  And in my dreams, Lilly walks beside me on a trail to the top of a unknown mountain, and she fills my night with peace.

Lilly (1985-2011)

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

*The spelling of Lilly is “Lilly.”  It is a nickname that originated with my mother.  The flower, “lily,” is spelled with one “l,” but this horse has always had it spelled with two “l’s”.  Call it quaint Texas spelling.  The spelling of names on birth certificates is always interesting.  And, unfortunately, sometimes confusing.

8 Comments

Filed under Lilly

Rabies and Star

Star Bars Moore

In the city, look out for the bus.  In the country, what doesn’t sting or bite you will stick you — wasps, mosquitoes, mesquite thorns or worse.  Still, I had rather be out in the country and take my chances.

Rabies in horses is rare, but on the Bryant place, across the fence to the south of us, two horses were put down because one of them had a full-blown case of rabies.  Its companion horse had not displayed rabies symptoms, but Erath County authorities ordered it killed as it had no rabies vaccination documentation.  One was euthanized Thursday, March 24, and the other unfortunate horse this Thursday, March 31.  The first horse exhibited rabies symptoms and the vet took tissue samples that confirmed the disease.  The Bryants are having to take rabies shots since they were in close contact with the horse.

My paint gelding, Star, had been staying in the front pastures away from the Bryant place until last Sunday, March 27.  For two days, Star had infrequent contact with the second horse over the fence that had been killed.  Since rabies can be transmitted via mucous interchange, it is a very serious situation for Star.

Star had been inoculated against rabies in 2009, and last week before the contact with the Bryant horse he had been given his rabies shot for 2011.  Our veterinarian, Dr. Skeet Gibson of Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, Weatherford, says the 2011 inoculation has not gone into full effect, and the 2009 inoculation begins to diminish in effectiveness after a year-and-a-half.  But since Star had no contact with the rabid horse — only the companion horse that had been killed — the chances were slim that any transmission had taken place.

Nonetheless, the vet said to isolate Star for two weeks and minimize my contact with his muzzle and mucous discharges, look for symptoms (not eating, behavior changes, etc.) and contact my personal physician for advice.

I called our personal physician immediately and neither I nor Brenda will be required to take rabies shots unless Star is rabid.  Star will probably be okay, but isolation and observation is imperative.

And just how did I find out about this whole issue of rabies next door?  My neighbors to the east that have horses called me Thursday, March 31, to inform me of the euthanizing, and they have no land contiguous with the Bryants!  They called to alert me as a fellow horseman.  Neither the Bryants nor the Erath County authorities had contacted me.  Had I been informed last week, I would not have allowed Star to go to the far pasture — Pecan Tree Pasture.  As it is now, we are having to take measures to determine disease contact that may, in the end, be fatal to Star, although I repeat it is doubtful.

Within an hour after the Halls called me and I had visited with the Bryants to find out the facts, I went across the county road to inform a fellow horseman of the situation.  In the country, we must work together.  I choose to do so.

25 Comments

Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Horses, Star

Typing duck in flight part 2: the takeoff

The unidentified duck in the photograph below takes off.  Upon a clue from Bill Lattrell who loves wild places (see his Wild Ramblings blog), the duck may be a Redhead (Aythya americana).  Field marks from Peterson’s include the male that is gray with a black chest and round red-brown head; the bill blue with black tip.  Both sexes have gray wing-stripes.  I have one additional photograph of the duck as it took off from the pond.

 

Tentatively a Redhead duck in takeoff from pond (February 2011).

The other aspect that may be a factor in identifying the duck as Redhead is that they patter along the surface while getting underway.  From the photograph above, you can see the traces of a patter?  It all happened so fast when the duck took flight that I could only snap two pictures.  (There is a camera feature to take rapid sequential shots that I should turned on.)  The other photograph is in a previous post yesterday.  It is the same duck.

In any case, if any of you have an opinion about the duck above, please comment or write me at matthewsranch@msn.com.  Duck feedback anyone?

7 Comments

Filed under Canvasback, Redhead Duck