Widgets Magazine

May 26, 2011

Water Turn for Worse

I’m doing a little rearranging on my blog, so if you are looking for the Food for Thought feature, come back tomorrow. I’ve decided that "F"ood for thought just fits better on a "F"riday. So as your consolation prize, I want to tell you the story of my near-downing that I mentioned yesterday

You already know that I’m from small-town Utah. We had irrigation ditches there and that’s how nearly everybody watered their farms. My dad took the water turn a couple of nights a week. I don’t know if he requested them in the middle of the night because of his day job as a teacher or if that’s just how it usually worked out, but on his days to take the water he got up in the middle of the night and headed down to the farm. 

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Taking the water meant pulling the dams on two or three ditches and diverting the water to your field. Water turns were not fun! My dad usually came back exhausted, muddy, and ornery. He often complained that this neighbor had taken his turn early or that neighbor had stolen half the water. The irrigation ditches ran all through our little town and then into a collector that ran under the main streets and into a canal by my grandparents’ house. 

About a half a block from my house on the corner was one of the smaller ditches. It was about three feet across and three feet deep. Most of the time it ran less than a foot of water and we loved to roll up our pants and squish through it with our bare feet. There were several culverts that made exciting tunnels full of weeds and spiders. When the water was mostly gone, the heavy Utah clay dried up and cracked. It was one of our favorite adventure spots, but forbidden by my mother. 

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 One day when I was about six, my older brothers and I and a family friend named Mike sneaked away from the house and headed over to the ditch. It was running at about half capacity, which was way too deep for us to wade, but was oh so fun to throw sticks and leaves and watch them race. Japan and I sat on the edge of the ditch, dangling our feet in the rushing water. New Zealand and Mike were hanging out on the other side of the culvert, watching our sticks and declaring the winner. 

Now remember, we were in a small town and there was no cement or wood to hold back the mud and the edges were slippery. It just so happens that the farmers had been through a day or two before and burned away all the vegetation so the water would flow faster. As I inched along, encouraging my stick to pull ahead of Japan’s, my feet slipped in the sludge, and into the ditch I tumbled. 

I wasn’t afraid at first. I’d been in the ditch many times, but never with the water flowing so fast. I tried to pull myself up but everything was so slippery and the water forced it’s way up my nose and I couldn’t breathe. I clawed at the edges, desperately trying to find something to hang onto. Somewhere I could hear Japan yelling for help but I couldn’t track his voice. I was no longer sure which way was up. I slipped through the culvert and the water ran even faster. I was cold and muddy and totally out of control. 

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 I was terrified! The ditch widened and deepened about 20 feet further down and if I got that far…Suddenly a hand reached through the murky water and grabbed my flailing arm. "I gotcha!" he yelled. Twelve-year-old Mike and 10-year-old New Zealand dragged me through the mud and into the dirt until I was out of harm’s way. I started coughing and bawling while trying to rub the mud from my eyes. Even 8-year-old Japan seemed a little worried and nothing ever got to him. There was no way Mom was going to let us get away with this one…maybe we could tell her we were just trying to help Dad by taking the water turn…


tammy said...

What a scary thing to have happen!

M-Cat said...

Yikes!!! I think that must be an awful feeling!

Kiykiy said...

yeah, drowning, not really my thing, its probably one of the worst ways to die, ( after being buired alive or grated away piece by piece on a cheese grater.)


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