This weekly magazine
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USING DROUGHT USA
(Segment 1 of Chapter 1)
“Clarence! Clarence, wake up! Wake up Clarence! There’s a car coming down the driveway.”
Cursed with acute hearing, Silvia shook her husband awake. He had been enjoying a very pleasant dream. It involved a woman, not his wife. As Clarence Carlisle emerged to full consciousness, he realized he could not remember all details of that dream, but he knew it had been pleasant.
Fresh air was important to Silvia. She insisted that Clarence leave bedroom window wide open every night. While sound carries in the stillness of the night, years of working around farm machinery had not benefited Calvin's hearing, but now he heard the crunch of wheels rolling over the rough gravel. A vehicle was approaching the farmhouse. It came to a stop just below their open window with the engine gently idling. He heard a car door click shut and a murmur of two men talking.
The farm house was a quarter of a mile in from the county road. The peaceful chirping of crickets is about as loud as it gets on a January night in California’s Imperial Valley.
“What the hell”, Clarence grunted?
Calvin sat up in bed and swung his feet to the floor. He yanked open the drawer of his night table. Frantically, felt in it for his father’s old Smith & Wesson snub nosed revolver. He plowed aside a small flash light, a box of cough drops, two pens, several old birthday cards, some Agriculture of America pamphlets, a long-forgotten box of prophylactics and several National Geographic maps of distant lands that he would never visit. He extracted a loaded revolver. In his excitement he had sent his glasses flying off the night table. it took him a few seconds to find them, with glasses resting firmly on his nose, he stumbled across the creaking floor boards to the window.
Pulling aside the cheap, dark green, roll-up blind, he stuck his head out the window. The dawn was still only a hope. He could see were two vague shapes standing in the front yard beside his three-year-old, red, Ford F150 pickup truck. The two warning shots, he impulsively fired into the quiet night air. They flashed and cracked like lightning bolts on a hot summer’s day just before the start of a violent storm. The figures next to the truck hit the ground. One of them shouted out.
“Repoman! Repoman! Hold your fire Mister Carlisle. I’m here to seize this truck on behalf of the Imperial Valley Bank. We, we, we sent you a letter.”
There were several long tense seconds before a mournful Clarence Smith quietly responded, “Sorry, I thought you was stealing my truck.”
A beaten man, Clarence returned to the bed and sat on the edge. Next, he heard the roar of his truck starting and then the sound of wheels as the two vehicles rolled down the long gravel driveway.
He placed the revolver back into the drawer of the night table. Crawling into bed he lay on his back and stared at the ceiling, arms by his side, wide awake, over whelmed. A sob escaped him. His wife curled up around him and held him like she used to hold her children when they were small and had awoken screaming from a nightmare.
Her expression of love, for her man, released all the sadness and frustration Clarence had repressed for years. Tears silently rolled down his cheeks. Then he sobbed, like the broken man he was. Great gasping sobs that violently shook his body as he expressed his frustration and fear. Between gasps, he shared his misery with his wife.
Oh Silvia, what will become of us? We’ve held on here, year after year, hoping this damn drought would break. Hoping we would get enough of a water allowance from the canal to save the crop. God knows we have tried. We switched crops. We installed drip technology irrigation. Every year we sold off more equipment. Every year we sold acreage and hoped the good years would return. We mortgaged the house. We borrowed. Now, we’ve reached the end of the road.”
The tears ceased. He lay quiet for several minutes and then in a whisper of resignation, that his wife could barely hear, he choked out, “There is nothing left to sell. They’ve seized my truck. In a couple of days, they will kick us out of our house. My great grandfather built this house. My grandfather and my father built this farm up to twelve hundred acres and now we are going to lose it all.”
Silvia held Clarence tight. That was all she could offer. She had no magic solution. She knew that throughout the South West, thousands of proud farmers like Clarence were being ground down by the lack of water.
Every day, before the drought, illegal Mexican farm workers used to trudge up Clarence's long drive way, looking for work. They now bypassed the Imperial Valley. Unemployment in the valley was over fifty percent. Silvia had read that it was the highest unemployment rate in the United States.
Thousands of acres of prime land lay idle. Anxious farmers waited for the drought to come to an end. While they waited, the Imperial Valley Growers Association quibbled with the cities of San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles over water rights. The farmers objected to the water limits restricting what they could draw from the Colorado River. The citizens in the urban areas objected to not being able to water their lawns.
The All-American-Canal, had delivered water to the Imperial Valley for a hundred years. That canal was responsible for turning the valley from a parched desert into America’s winter salad bowl. Before the drought, every day, hundreds of trucks headed north with broccoli, iceberg lettuce, bell peppers, tomatoes, corn, cantaloupe, fruits and nuts.
A canal system fed by the Colorado River delivered water to the valley. Barely a trickle now dribbled through the canal. This had forced the farmers to drill wells hundreds of feet deep. Those wells had now run dry.
The Northern states used to receive sixty percent of their winter vegetables from the Imperial Valley. The Farmers had prospered from growing the vegetables as did those companies who supplied the farmers with everything from seed to tractor tires. Now, with thousands of abandoned acres, the Imperial Valley economy was losing billions of dollars every year. The valley no longer took prosperity for granted. They wondered if the drought would ever end.
.....to be continued
"FALLING" is one of the few oil paintings I have done. I usually painted in acrylics because they were less messy and I could achieve the same effects that I could with oil paint.
I now prefer to create digital images using my fingers on a computer's touch pad. It allows me to work faster, I don't have to worry about waiting for paint to dry, lugging canvases, brushes, easels and paint. The completed images can be easily stored, retrieved, transmitted, Giclee printed anywhere in the world, in almost any size and on any surface. In a few days, Fine Art America delivers to my clients my images, Giclee printed on canvas, ready to be hung. This painting it can be delivered on a canvas as large as 3 feet by 4 feet. To see the variety and sizes available for it go to the following link:
I was told by someone who bought a Giclee print of this abstract painting on canvas that it appeared to be"very deep". He wanted to know what I was thinking when I created it. I had to inform him that I did this painting when I was ten years old and am not sure what my thoughts might have been. Just enjoy the image and let your imagination run wild with what I must have been thinking.
Ian Duncan MacDonald