My ancestors came to this land from the East. With their own hands, they built this house. With their own hands they dug the well. Twenty feet down to fresh, pure water for them to drink.
I stand beside the well diggers and watch as the machinery grinds and whirrs, burrowing into the earth at a depth I can’t imagine. Three thousand feet down. Over half a mile. When I look out over the dusty fields, three thousand feet must be about all the way to the abandoned silo on the Miller’s place. All that distance, only straight down into the earth.
I remember when the river ran in the bottom, when we could draw water from it to irrigate. I remember when there were orchards in this valley as far as the eye could see. Now there’s a patchwork, only a few squares of green where folks had the money to dig for water.
Every minute the drill pushes farther, and every minute the cost grows higher. If we don’t find water, I’ll have no harvest this year, and no way to pay the debt to the diggers. The house my ancestors built with their own hands, the ancient window glass, bubbled and warped, that they placed in the panes, will be lost along with the land it stands on. Someone who cares nothing for it will knock it to the ground, or leave it to slowly rot in the sun and the dust.
If we don’t strike water soon, not even a good harvest this year, or the next ten years, will pay for this well.
“That’s it,” one of the workers says. “Water.” He says it as if he knew all along they’d find it, as if it wasn’t the shape of my life, my family’s life, all depending on this.
The first flow comes up, pumped from deep beneath the surface. Thick and red like blood, it spills onto the ground.
Then clear water follows, washes the stain away.
We have bought ourselves a little more time.