By Stanley G. Crawford
Irrigation ditches are the lifelines of agriculture and everyday life in rural New Mexico. This award-winning account of the author’s event as a mayordomo, or ditch boss, is the 1st checklist of the lifetime of an acequia through a group player.
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Irrigation ditches are the lifelines of agriculture and way of life in rural New Mexico. This award-winning account of the author’s event as a mayordomo, or ditch boss, is the 1st list of the lifetime of an acequia via a neighborhood player.
Extra info for Mayordomo: chronicle of an acequia in northern New Mexico
Roughly seventy dollars a season if you pay it all in money, contributing no labor. This gives you the right to have water flowing in abundance in ditches all over your property once a week or so, or a smaller trickle almost continuously day and night for six to eight months. Seventy dollars a year, a hundred at most during a bad year when we have problems at the dam, makes the difference between what you see above the ditch on the north side of the valley, a hillside, a glacial dumping of small boulders and gravel and sand through which push here and there outcroppings of red clay, and a sparse Page 18 growth of stunted piñon pines and junipers and patches of grama grass, little islands of faded green and tan that often live from April to August from a few drops of rainand what you see to the south, the downside of the ditch, where apple trees grow and alfalfa fields, vegetable gardens, chile and corn patches, rows of grapes, small fields of garlic and wheat, dense thickets of willow and native plum, bosques of cottonwood that pump out fine sprays of nearly invisible mist in the hottest days of late June, and water rushing out of ditch gates into feeder ditches, into the veins and capillaries, the irrigation rows, to flood the green fields.
Fifteen minutes later they would emerge with a scrap of torn-out notebook paper with a figure scrawled on it. The new commission never obtained the ditch books but within a year or so, after consulting with officials of other ditches, we awoke to the obvious impropriety of a mayordomo collecting money to pay his own salary. We set up a new bookkeeping system, began collecting the money ourselves and paying the mayordomo a monthly salary for the six-month season, an arrangement Reynaldo accepted after an initial period of distrust and as soon as he realized that it was easier to come to the treasurer for a monthly check than drive around to argue with his neighbors.
I shout after a moment, prolonging the vowels. The piones know I won't inspect this section. The younger boys bound away across a field where apple trees were uprooted a couple of years ago by an irascible absentee landowner, a logger in the Northeast who has become intolerant of standing trees. The hulks of his apple trees, their bark dark red, now lie prone amid dry grass. The boys vault over and crawl under a fence toward a grey mo- Page 22 bile home set amid its own apple trees freshly pruned.