‘She Says The Rain Follows Her’ (Book Exerpt)
‘She Says the Rain Follows Her’
She told her husband, “She says the rain follows her” and he replied, “That is good, we need it”.
The rain follows me, it is a given that it does for there is little about my work that can be done in the rain. The rain muddies the roads, wets the precious blue chalk that covers the end of my steel tape to indicate the level of the water in a well, ruins my paperwork even if my journal is waterproof, and when I take samples dilutes the water I have captured from the well, rendering it invalid. I cannot work in the rain and therefore even if it threatens it can turn me back from my efforts.
Even yesterday, as the day grew late, I had to make my choices carefully, the distant wells beckoned me, the promise of the fading day and the long shadows across the valleys a temptation not to be followed. Earlier Anna Lee had escorted me to one of her wells, opting to take her four wheeler rather than the pickup truck in spite of my warning. There is nothing about her actions to belie the 63 years of her life, swinging her leg over the seat and driving off like any youth would do. Before I was finished I encouraged her to head back to the house before she got soaked and she agreed!
Having, wisely, decided not to drive into the remote reaches of the Wahoo Ranch I chose a more sedate venture, a couple of wells down canyon where I was fortunate to catch one stubborn windmill out of the wind, making note of the same in my journal for the wind always blows there. It is another obtrusive element of my work, the wind follows me. Even as the dark clouds circled again and threatened with thunder I chose one more well, the Cupit Rattlesnake as it is named, and headed up a long arroyo to another high vista, albeit only two miles off the road affording an easy exit.
I crested the hill as the sun began to wane, though not enough to slow the trickle of solar power to the well, requiring giving it a rest before I sought the water level in the casing. There is no point in trying to obtain two like measures before it had recovered, I had been here before. As with the rain and the wind, bright sunshine prevails even when storm clouds fill the sky, this is New Mexico and even the sun follows me. Rather than taking the usual effort of arranging my paperwork I opted for a short walk and a moment of enjoyment as the view from this spot is spectacular and beyond anything that words or even photographs can replicate. This is one of the places one must delegate to memory alone if they wish to recall it later, a practice worth repeating when stopping here.
The Rattlesnake Well is deep, 280 feet to the bottom and last time I measured it 243 feet to the water below the top of the casing, not difficult but still not one you want to pull the tape out of too many times. It recovers slowly meaning that the water is trickling back into the casing at a slow rate making the levels change constantly until it has settled. As I am required to obtain two measurements within 1/10th of an inch apart I gave it ample time to recover, 20 minutes, as I looked off over the undulating landscape, watching the grey shadows spread in the deep canyons between the tawny hillsides. Such spectacular country, the breath of the plains spread far in every direction, rising slowly to touch the distant mountains. Too I watched the storm as it circled back once again, grateful for the choice I had made and wondering if I would have to flee from here as the thunder echoed through the canyons. The crackle of distant lightning roused me, and I returned to my task, steel tape in hand on the hilltop, climbing over the fence and for a moment the highest thing for a mile, becoming the proverbial lightening rod as I went back to work.
The well was stubborn today, resisting giving up a good measurement, making me throw my tape down its throat twice, three times and then again. All the while the wind rose, the sky darkened and the thunder rolled. I watched as a rainbow formed to my south, the storm circling from the west heading into the east over my shoulder. The static in the air grew tangible and the light faded even as the arc of color made me wish my camera was in my bag. An elk crested the hill heading for water, cautious, as the hunts are on, pausing long enough for the fading sun to reflect off his golden flanks.
I finally used a trick one saves for late afternoon or stormy moments when time is of the essence. I took a measurement, held the reading in my mind, and then sent the tape back down quickly hoping to beat the progression of the water into the well and succeeded in capturing my repeat measurement as the thunder clapped again. Quickly as possible I recorded the numbers and gathered my tools. I stepped over the wire fence as I thought of lightening and the ever present risk at such moments and thought that since I had made my leggings I was more concerned with that than rattlesnakes. Snakes are predictable, if not always visible, and they generally offer a warning, the lightening is not quite as considerate. I loaded my truck as the raindrops spit at me, paused and took a picture of the distant elk before he moved off and looked up at the black clouds as they drew closer, glad that my day was done. It is always the same here, I have never measured this well without the rain close by; it follows me.