Wednesday, July 11, 2012

THE GREEN RANCH IN THE DESERT, part 3 of 4; by Thoda Cocroft (1919)

She managed to cook dinner in the rickety cook house the first night she arrived, but the screens were full of holes and buzzing insects swarmed around her as she stood over the hot stove. The filth of the adobe house and the crawling inmates drove her that night to a bed in the open. The following morning she surveyed the general chaos and disorder, and contemplating at the same time the change, outward and inward, in her brothers, she shook her head.

Then all the sturdiness and energy of her Saxon forefathers surged up in her breast. Pluck and determination asserted themselves. "Hopeless?" she said to herself with a smile. "We'll see!"

First she must persuade the boys to begin to build immediately but they were reluctant to waste time on what they considered non-essential labor and they replied in the Mexican spirit of postponement that was slowly creeping over them, "Manana--Manana,"--tomorrow--tomorrow.

But Betty said briskly and firmly, "Today! boys, today!" She was even sharp about it.

So they began to discuss plans, skeptical at first and indifferent, but when Betty talked eagerly about a sleeping porch and modern plumbing and a porcelain bath, they swung about.

Building operations began. Another Mexican family was employed and Betty gave thorough instructions in the art of laundering. Carlosa was taught to rub and rinse and rub again as she had never seen it done before.

When Art returned from Los Angeles with the porcelain fittings for the bath room, the house was almost ready. One of the workers spread the word that running water and a modern bath were to be installed and news spread. Mexicans and whites alike flocked to "the green ranch" to inspect the novelties. That was the only bath in the desert for ninety miles around! Sink and stove were put in the kitchen and an open fire place built in the living room. Bright cretonnes were bought for curtains. Betty was busy hemming towels and tableclothes and poring over catalogues for inexpensive rugs.

In all this, the crops and land and pigs had not been neglected. Work was severely scheduled. Each day one of the boys devoted his entire time to the land. Betty herself cared for the chickens, and the boys gloated over fresh eggs for breakfast with crisp hot biscuit and clear coffee.

Hours before dinner, they would anticipate the feast ahead and they no longer appeared at table dirty and unshaven. The penalty was bread and water if they did.

Some months later when the success of the desert venture was assured and full property rights to the land had been granted, I visited Rancho Verde, the green ranch indeed. When our car neared the edge of the mesa, Sid pointed to the green valley below. "There she is!" he said proudly. The miracle had come true. There was the wonder oasis, great fields of blue-green alfalfa, acres of sturdy maize, and stretches of sudan grass. The long low house was painted green and from the roof a bright American flag was waving.

To be continued...