Wednesday, July 4, 2012

THE GREEN RANCH IN THE DESERT, part 2 of 4; by Thoda Cocroft (1919)

It was necessary to go back to Los Angeles for new parts and they drew lots for the trip. Art drew the lucky straw and his brothers decided they must accompany him. They would leave the "Mex" in charge of the place.

It was a dreary Rancho Verde that greeted the three boys on their return. Devastation and wreckage were on every side and no sight of the "Mex" or Chiquita.

A casual visitor from Palomas told them that the Mexican had gone off on a drunken fiesta and never returned. With the place unguarded, stray cattle broke through the fences, trampled down the ditches and roamed at large over the ploughed land. Someone had stolen most of their food supply as well as farming inplements.

But the plucky lads went at it again, put the pump in working order, irrigated the land, planted seed and as if by magic, a crop of green alfalfa appeared.

It was time for the pigs now; cattle would come later. So a shipment of pigs arrived.

December in the desert is divine. The purple Mohawks beckoned alluringly. "Hunting trip for a week," Art proposed. Before their holiday was over the rains began. When they came back to the ranch, the lowland in the river basin was filled with water and some of the higher land was already soggy. And still the torrents came down and the treacherous river arose.

It was near ten in the evening two nights later. The 'dobe house was on high ground so they had turned into dry beds, but suddenly Sid pricked up his ears at a new sound. Above the noise of the torrent came the squeals of frightened pigs. He knew what had happened.

It broke," Sid yelled. "She's coming a mile a minute!" The three boys piled out to save their drowning pigs from flood.

They spent the entire night swimming and propelling a hastily constructed raft across the seething waters and each trip added one more pig to the howling collection on the mesa.

Before morning the three boys shivering in their wet clothes, cut, bruised and exhausted, gathered on the dry sand of the high mesa and counted twenty-five out of fifty pigs.

"The game's up," they agreed. "No use. We might as well quit right now."

But they had not counted on the sister back home who had followed them through every hardship and discouragement of the last eight months.

Betty's job was in San Francisco where she was head nurse in one of the largest hospitals in the city. When she read her brothers' brief story of the flood, she packed up and departed for the Arizona ranch. The boys needed her and she knew she could help them.

The floods had subsided when Betty arrived. In the dry Arizona air the ground had rapidly absorbed the excess moisture. In a half-hearted way the brothers had prepared new alfalfa crops, but their courage was at low ebb and Betty knew she had come none too soon.

To be continued...