One morning, I engaged a man who stood at the edge of the cotton field behind our house. He told me he farmed the field. Playing dumb―that is, without mentioning the irrigation of our property that apparently regularly occurred with the previous owners of our house―I asked the man if, for compensation, he would be willing to channel some water onto our property when he irrigated his field. To my surprise, he refused, explaining he needed every drop of his allotment and, further, fearing a lawsuit should his water damage the foundation of our house. I wasn’t about to challenge the man’s reasoning regarding his need for water, and explaining to him that our house, on its slightly elevated foundation, would be safe from any flood irrigation now struck me as a waste of breath. Thus, I merely smiled and bid the farmer a good day.
In the days that followed, I had minimal concern about a lush lawn―this was the desert, after all. Meanwhile, I had faith in the plentitude of the summer rains soon to come. But then, on a hot afternoon two weeks later, Linda and I returned home from a weekend in Albuquerque to discover that a good deal of our property was flooded. After splashing barefoot through a couple inches of the broth in our backyard, I came upon a 15-foot-long and one-foot-wide channel that had been dug between the cotton field and the little grassy ditch that marked our property’s edges, for the obvious purpose of quenching our various vegetation. Where the water had entered our property, there was a raft of hundreds of six-inch-long cotton stems, debris from the previous fall’s harvest. Meanwhile, to facilitate the movement of floodwater onto our front lawn, a crude channel had been scraped across our graveled driveway.
I was moved by this obvious, if mysterious, generosity. Clearly, there was a posture alternative to the farmer’s regarding irrigation water in our Anthony neighborhood, and the ditch rider―or, perhaps, common field worker―responsible for the consideration shown us was either ignorant of or deliberately ignoring the farmer’s position.
In any case, the sight fascinated me: The wild, icy blood of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains was now warm and rank and covering our property at a standstill, a final resting place. Within a day, our property absorbed most of the water.
And in the days that followed, with a twenty-dollar bill at the ready, I took to regularly scanning the cotton field. Memory told me to be on the lookout for a Latino wearing knee-high rubber boots and a straw hat. Yet I saw no one.