Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lone Jones the Water Rustler and His Daughter Lucy


New Mexico is a desert land. Water is scarce. Scarcity means relative power to whoever gets it, so the ones who got it make sure they continue to get it. This means that every drop in the Rio Ancho is apportioned by historical precedent and force of law.

But there’s always a few who want more than their share. Lone Jones was one. He was a water rustler.

The Rio Ancho has ditchriders who ride up and down the ditches opening and closing sluice gates and generally making sure that everybody gets the share of water they paid for.

So Lone Jones used to irrigate at night by the furtive light of a moon which didn’t much care one way or the other about the water he stole, since half the moon is always looking the other way, after all. Old Lone always wore black so he’d blend in better.

Sometimes he’d send his daughter Lucy downstream to waylay the ditchrider while he stole a big old slug of water, sometimes several acre-feet or more, so he could irrigate hundreds of pecan trees, each of which would yield 100 pounds of pecans in the fall... not a bad trade at all, and Lucy didn’t mind one little bit. In fact, it was her idea to begin with — one evening she announced, “I’m going down to talk to Mr. Gomez while you steal you a big old slug of water, papa,” and every dark of the moon since then, she maintained her end of the family tradition.

Meanwhile, back at the orchard, Lone and his shovel would be working overtime. Building dikes and breaking dikes. Flooding thirsty dirt by sense of touch.

Lone Jones had it all figured out. Even if the ditchrider could escape from Lucy, all he’d see would be a black reflection in midnight ripples. And there was nothing to hear—just the sound of a spade slipping against adobe mud and the quiet slapping of stolen water against the ditch bank.

Which was a good thing. Lone knew the score, alright: If they caught him, he’d forfeit his irrigation rights for life, not to mention his heirs. But he knew the score, alright: Five more years of irrigating in the dark and he could retire to Santa Fe as a gentleman.

Of course his ace in the hole was Lucy. Good old Lucy. They should write a story about her some day.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Jacques Conejo said...

Wow... that's great... You so often delight me with the imagery of what's spoken, and what's only implied...

I admire your apparent freedom from exposition...

Thanks...

Jacques

9:45 AM  

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