Next to blood relationships

  • MAYORDOMO: Author Stanley Crawford

    William Davis photo
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Next to blood relationships, which rule the valley, come water relationships. The arteries of ditches and bloodlines cut across each other in patterns of astounding complexity.

Some families own properties on two or three of the valley's nine ditches. You can argue that the character of a man or woman can be as much formed by genetic and cultural material as by the location of their garden or chili patch along the length of a ditch, toward the beginning where water is plentiful or at the tail end where it will always be fitful and scarce.

"He's that way because he lives at the bottom of the ditch and never gets any water" is an accepted explanation for even the most aberrant behavior in this valley. The man who lives at the bottom of a ditch is forever expectant, forever disappointed.

My number catorce, Reynaldo Vasques, lives at the bottom of our ditch, the penultimate parciante. He has reason to distrust every one of the 20-some parciantes above him. Age has given him a certain tolerance of his fate, but over the years he and his family have threatened lawsuits against upstream parciantes - including myself on one occasion - over water, and his sons have pulled guns on neighbors over water and women.

We get along now, I have learned how to grow chili from him, he trades me chili seed for garlic, and I understand his position of being one who has always lived at the bottom of the ditch, at the end of the line, as did his parents and grandparents. Two or three times a year, first as commissioner and now as mayordomo, I take the precaution of telling him to telephone me when the water starts getting scarce down at his place.

"Don't wait until the last minute when your chili is wilting and then get angry at everyone for not letting you have any water." But old habits die hard. He still waits for the last minute.

"I haven't had any water for five days," comes his scratchy voice quavering over the days, "five days," he will repeat out the open pickup window on a morning search up and down the ditch for who's taking all the water. But he no longer gets angry at me. He knows I'll get the water down to him in a few hours. I'll call up the habitual water hogs - the two or three parciantes who leave their ditch gates open all day and night for weeks on end - and tell them to close their gates and let the water go past. Or drive around, as Reynaldo used to do when he was mayordomo, and close them myself.

- Stanley Crawford, Mayordomo


Reprinted by permission of University of New Mexico Press, 800/249-7737.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CLIMATE JUSTICE FELLOW
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks applicants for a climate justice fellowship. The fellowship...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Wild Rockies Field Institute is seeking a visionary Executive Director to lead the organization in Missoula, Montana. Individuals with a proven track record in...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • ARIZONA PROGRAM MANAGER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks an Arizona Program Manager. The Arizona Program Manager works...
  • CROWN OF THE CONTINENT COMMUNITY CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY is seeking a Community Conservation Specialist, for the Crown of the Continent DEPARTMENT: Conservation CLASSIFICATION: Grade 6 Specialist/Representative (Low of $54K) REPORTS...
  • ASSISTANT FARM DIRECTOR
    About The Organization Building community through fresh vegetables is at the heart of the Sisters-based non-profit, Seed to Table Oregon. Based on a four-acre diversified...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • DYNAMIC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    VARD is seeking an Executive Director to lead a small legal & planning staff dedicated to the health and sustainability of Teton Valley Idaho and...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...