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The Saguache Crescent
Saguache , Colorado
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April 24, 1919     The Saguache Crescent
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April 24, 1919
 

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8AGU&CHE CRESOENT. | When the Colorado Burst Its Banks and Hooded the Imperial Valley of California CHAPTER XVII I--Gontinued. --9-- His eyes glued to the lurching sta- tion-house, Babcock took a brown- Imper-rolled cigarette from the prof- fered box. "Look," he cried. "There, she'll go. See that--" There was a splash of splintering timber; a Niagara of spray as the building f~l into the flood. A minute later, a wreckage of painted boards was floating downstream. At table Babcock resumed his cam- paign. "The trouble with you all, you have cold feet. You're all scared off too soon." Wooster, up from his nap, looked across the table. "Cold feet? So yotd have if you had been up for nights, wetting your feet on the levee, as some of us lmve, as Hardin has. Mine are cold all right." He lifted an amazed foot. "Cold! Look here, boys, they're wet !" The men looked to find the water creeping in--Bab- cock climbed on his chair. "This means the station," cried Wooster. Every man Jumped. If the waters had got to them, it wouldn't be long before they were reaching the O. P. depot! The tracks would go._ They were piling out of the door ~hen the telephone caught t~bem. It ~as a message from Rickard. A car ~as to be rigged up, papers, tickets aml express matter taken from the station. The river was cutting close to the track. The car would be the termin~!, a half-mile from town. The situation looked black. Coul- ter, Eggers, began to pack their stock. The levee, it was said, would not hold --half of Mexicall was gone. Calexlco would go next. Rlckard's Indians were kept stolidly piling brush and stuffgd sacks on the levee. This, the word ran, would be the farce nlght~ no one expected to sleep. They were preparing for the big battle, the final struggle, when the grade .recession passed the town. Spectacular as was its coming, there was an anticlimax in its retreat. The water reached the platform of the depot, and halted. The town held its breath. There was some sleep that night. The next day, the nerves of the val. !ey relaxed. The river was not cut- ting back. ~he men at the levee dropped their shovels, and went back to the discussion of their lawsuits. Their crops were ruined; too much water, or too little. Whatever way the~ had been hurt, the company would bare to pay for It ! A small shift guarded the~ river. RIckard, In his room at the Desert hotel, and Hardin up the river, slept a day and a night without waking. The chair-tilters picked up their argument where they had left it ; was the rail- road reaping a harvest of damage mxtts when they should be thanked instead? Faraday, the newspapers falsified, was trying to shift his re- spQnsibllity; he had appealed to the The Ranches Were Ruined. president. Their correspondence was published. The government was in no hurry to take the burden. A tele- graphic sermon, preaching duty, dis. trlbuting blame, was sent from Wash- lag!on. Perhaps not Faraday himself was more disturbed than the debaters of the Desert hotel. "The railroad's no infant in arms! It wasn't asleep when it took over the affairs of the D.R." Here spoke the majority. "A benefaction! It was sail-interest! When the river is b&rnessed, who'll profit the most from afford cussion, a conference. t~e valley prosperity? It c~/n is, it~that'''l to paY the obligations; that eq~uid. It will find a way," the ravens c~oaked, "of shaking the'Desert Be- e|~matlon company's debts; of evad- l~g the damage suits. Look how Hardin was treated!" The feeling ran higher. For many of the ranchers were ruined; there was no money to put in the next year's crop unless the promises of the ~r~,atiou emUDanY were kept. Jk few landowners, and others who had not completed their contracts, dis` trusting the good faith of the com- pany, or its ability to pay, had "quit" in disgust, to begin again some- where else. Parrish, and Dowkero and others of the "Sixth" scoured dis- trict had secured the promise of era- suggest that you call on Mr. De la Vega first." The eyes of the dining room fol- lowed the party as they filed past the buzzing tables. Faraday was not in town; Marshall represented that pow- er. As he walked out, bowing right and left, his right hand occasionally ployment at the Heading. Work, it i extended in his well-known oratorical, was expected, would be'begun at once courteous gesture. His black tie was now that the danger to Calexfco had stringing down his shirt front; his passed, black clothes were the worse for his CHAPTER XlX. More Oratory. Four men sat a(a small table In a corner of the crowded hotel dining- room, in El Centre. Their names made their corner the psychological center of the room. Marshall was al- ways a target of speculation. Mac- Lean, ~tralght ahd-soldierly in his mustard-colored clothes, was. as usual, the man of distinction. Black start- ed the whisper going that the dark stranger Was General de la Vega, the Mexican commissioner. What was he doing in that group? Babcock completed a combination which encouraged speculations and head-shakings. The room was Jammed with valley men. The meeting of the ranchers and the several water com- panies had been called for that after- noon, the summons signed by Fara- day himself. Nothing else had been ,talked of for a fortnight. It was known throughout the valley tl~at the work at the intake was not yet begun; that Riekard was'waiting there for orders; that Faraday and the president of the United States were involved in correspondence as to t the responsibility for the future con- trol of the river. Faraday's eagerness to shift his burden was looked upon as suspicious. It was in the air that the officers of the Overland Pacific woulddemand a recall of the damage suits before they would complete the protective works at the Heading. The men of long vision, members of the water companies, and Brandon, through the valley Star, were pointing out that the valley's salvation depend- ed on the immediate control of the river; that the railroad, only, had power to effect it. These conserv0tives were counseling,] caution. Only that morning, the Star had issued an extra, a special edition pleading for co-opera- tion. "If the river breaks out again," warned Brandon's editorial, "without immediate force to~restraln it, recla- mation for that valley is a dream that is done. And the only force equal to that emergency is the railroad. Why deliberately antagonize the railroad! The Desert Reclamation company, t~ Is well known, is bankrupt. For the instant, the railroad has assumed the responsibilities of the smaller organi- zation. Apply the same situation to individuals. Suppose a private citizen is in straits, and another comes for- ward to help him. Must every cred- itor assume that the Samaritan shoul~ pay the crushed citizen's bills? In th~ present issue, self-interest should urgq consideration. Better a small lost today that tomorrow may amply re- fund, than total ruin lu the future." Hardin, from his morose unshared table, could see the anxious curiosit} setting toward the railroad group.~ Over glasses, heads were close ~-t, gather. Near him, the talk ran hlg~-. Scraps of inflammable speeches blew his way from Barton's party. Hardln"s mouth" wore a set sneer. ! "Water company talk !" Black Was [haranguing his cmnrades. "Star~l out ~ lagainst them. Don't let them bluff you. Marshall will try to bluff you. Stand together!" Barton's resmmnt organ broke through the -clalter. "Marshall Is not going to bl~.,ff ~s." Grace and Black began to talk at once. Hardin's lip grew rougher. Where~had they all been if It had not "been for him? he'd them fro~d Why, pulled their little farms back East, wh~,l~ they were tolling~where they'd lm toiling yet. They'd had the vision of sudden wealth--they hadn't the grit to work for it, to wait for It! How many years had he been struggling? He was a young nmn when he'd gone into this thing, and he was old now. Coffee and cigars had been reached of the midday dinner. Bab- cock was nervously consulting his watch.' "Shouldn't we arrauge the meeting?" he asked for the third time. The social and casual air of the meet- ing had teased him. What had the po- litical situation, in Mexico to do with the important session confronting them? His fussy soul had no polite salons; office rooms every one of them. MacLean looked to Ted Mar- sball to answel:. "I think it will arrange itself." His voice was silken. "It is to be a dis- You can't slate "We could program," began Bab- cock, looking at his watch again. "I don't think we'll have to." Mar- shall smiled across the table. "You'll find this meeting will run itself. There is not a man here who Is ~ot burning to speak. Look at *hem hOWl Drop a paper in that crowd, and see the blaze you'd get ! You can open the meeting, Mr. Babcock. and I would lunch. But no one, save the Eastern girls, saw spots or tie. The future of that valley lay in that man's hand, no matter how Black or Grace might harangue. In five minutes, the dining room was emptied. As snow gently falling, had gath- ered the first damage suits of the ranchers. The last flood had precipi- tated a temperamental storm. Men were suing for the possible values of their farms, impossible values of crops. Not alone the companies had been blanketed with the accusing pa- pers, but against Mexico the white drifts had pile(] up. Mexico[ No one knew better than Hardin how absurd it was to accuse the sister country of responsibility. A pretty pickle they were ln l Where was it all going to end? In the lobby, Hardin ran up against Brandon, who was following a news scent. Through the valley it was being rumored that subscriptions were to be asked for the completion of the work. If this were the intention, there would be a hot meeting. "You are going on the platform?" assumed the newspaper man. "No? Then will you sit with me?" "If you will sit upstairs," scowled Hardin, "i don't want to be dragged onto the platform." Down In the orcl~estra, Black from the Wistaria was haranguing a group of gesticulating ranchers. Phrases climbed to the men on the balcony seats. "Keep their pledges. Promise makers. Let them look at our crops i" "If Marshall expects to coerce those men, I lose my guess. Then he's no Judge of men," cried Hardin. "Look at those faces/' The floor was a sea of impassioned features. "Something's going to drop," echoed Brandon. From the wings, Babcock's inquisi- tive glasses were seen to sweep the house. Hardin couhl catch the sum- mons of an excited forefinger to the group unseen. There was a minute of delay. Then Babcock's nervous toddle carried hhn onto the stage. De la Vega followed Babcock. There was a hush of curiosity. The house did not know who he was. Be- hind him, soldierly, stiff, stalked Mac- Lean. Marshall's entrance released the tongues. There was an interva~ of confusion on the stage. Babcock, like a restless terrier, was snapping at the heels of the party. At last, they were all fussily seated. De In Vega was given the place of honor. Marshall, Babcock put on his left, MacLean on the right. Babcock raised his staccato gavel. A hush fell on the house. His words were clipped nnd sharp. "You have left your plowing to come here. You are anxious to hear wha~ we have to say to you. You cannot afford to be indifferent to it. You ac- knowledge, by your presence,~ a de- pendence, a correlation which you would like to deny. Irrigation means co-operation, suffering together, strug- gling together, succeeding together. You prefer the old individual way, to my nation and got permission to cut Into the river on our territory. Most gladly did Porflrio Diaz grant that privilege. For that, today, you are suing him. This, I am told, is your complaint." His abrupt pause betrayed a con- fused murmur of voices. De la Vega's polite ear tried to differentiate the phrases. There was a Jumble of sound. De la Vega looked inquiringly at Bab- cock, who waved him on. "It has nothing to do with the his` tory, but I would like to say in passing that so assured were your people of our frendiy feeling toward you that they did not wait to receive permis- sion from Mexico to make the cut. Your people were in a hurry. Your crops were in danger. First the lack of water, then too much water dam- aged your valley. A few acres--" A voice from the crowd cried out, "A few acres? Thousands of acres." Instantly others were on their feet. "Thousands of acres. Ruin." One man was shouting himself apoplectic. Babcock's gavel sounded a sharp staccato on the table. '`Thousands of acres." De la Vega was unruffled. "And more than that. The valley, it must be remembered, does not stop at the line. Mexican lands, too, have been scoured by the action, the result of the action of your irrigation company. It was a mutual," he paused, and a qualn~ word came to his need. "A mutual bereavement. It did not occur to us to accuse you of our troubles. Your damage suits pained and astonished us. But they gave us also a suggestion." The rustling and the murmurs sud- denly ceased. A prescient hush wait- ed on De la Vega. "You have been ad- vised to sue us. To sue us for giving you that concession. Therefore, the only answer is for us to withdraw that concession l You accuse us, for giv- ing it to you. That concession is val- uable. What else can we do? Before your damage suits were filed, we were approached by others for the same privilege. If you do not withdraw your suits, my nation sends word to you that you may not take water from the Colorado river through Mexican soil. You will not be without water probably long; I have said that con- cession is valuable! Other arrange- ments will probably be made so that the valley will be gl~/en water. I would like to take your answer to my govern- ment." It was several seconds before the house got its breath. The import of the diplomat's words was astounding, Barton got to his feet, yelling with his great bass voice, "Betrayed!" His shrunken finger indicated a youth with "R. S." in black letters on his collar. "The valley has been betrayed." In the balcony, the uproar was deaf- ening. Around Hardin and Brandon words were thudding like bullets. "Reclamation Service." "That's their game." "The concession !" "They Won't get it." "Betrayed. We are be- trayed." Down~tairs. Babcock's gavel rappe~ unheard. Behind the excited figure wielding the stick, sat Marshall, his unreadable, sweet smile on his face. Itis eyes were on Babcock, who was vainly clamoring for order. "Program that meeting." Hollister was trying to make him- self heard to Barton over two rows of seats, but his voice was like a child's on an ocean beach. Barton was sur- rounded by eager anxious men. The vudience ha~ split Into circles of each man for himself. 1 tell you .i~ haranguing centers. It was impossible won't do. You belong in other stun- i to get attention. Hardin could see Mar- tries, the countries of old-fashionedI shall pull Babcock by the tails of his rain. You want to hear wlmt we have coat Unwillingly, he could see Bob- to say to you, the company who saved cock allow the crowd five minutes by the valley, the company you are suing. But you have also suits against Mex- it,). There is a gentleman here who has a message from Mexico about those suits. I have the honor, gentle- men, to introduce, S~nor de la Vega." "Ladies," bowed the Mexican. "Gen- tlemen, Mr. Chairman. It is with an appreciation of the honor-that I ac- cepted for tod~y the invitation of Mr. Marshall to speak before you, to speak to you; I must tell you first my thought as I sat there and looked at you, the youth, the flower of the Amer- ican people. A few years ago, we his consulted watch. Then again, the gavel danced on the table. Marshall was still smiling. Babcock's shrill voice split the din. "Order." The ocean of voices swallowed him again. "We won't let them in," Grace was '~ bellowing, "the valley won't stand for it." "Take your medicine," thundered the big organ of Barton. "I warned you, Imperial valley." "Betrayal." groaned the crowd. Down in the orchestra, Barton was holding a hurry-up meeting of the wa- ter companies. De la Vega had were calling this the great Colorado i stepped hack and was consulting with desert; now, the world calls it thai Ted Marshall. hothouse of America. This theaterf Babcock pulled out his watch, his is built over the bones of gold-seekers, i gavel calling for attention. This time who dared death in this dreaded~he was heard. desert to find what was buried in De la Vega approached the foot- those mountains beyond. The man, lights, a questioning look on his face. I say, who crossed this desert, tookI the hazard of death. It was a coun- tryman of mine wire piloted, fifteen years ago, a little band of men, across the desert. Perhaps he camped on this very spot. It is not imposslblel It is here, perhaps, that he got his inspiration. He saw a wonderful ter- ritory; he dreamed to quicken it with the useless waters of the Colorado. You will all agree that it was Gull- lermo Estrada who dreamed the dream that has come true; that it wasl through him that some of your coun-I trymen secured their privilege to re-! claim this land. Later, when one of your i countrymen found he could not fulfillf his promise to you, the promise to de-[ liver water to your ranches, he came[ "We ask for a little time," began Barton. Instantly the house was on its feet. "Withdraw the suits. Give him your answer. Give him our an- swer. We don't want the Service. The valley don't want the Service. With- draw the suits." Barton's moon face looked troubled. "We can't answer for all the ranchers." "Yes, you can," screamed Grace, Jumping up and down like a baboon. "If you don't, I'll answer for them. Don't you see, It's a trick? It's a trick. I see the hand of the O. P. in this." Friendly hands pulled him down into his seat. The audience was chanting. "With- draw the suits. Take your medicine. --Don't lose the concession,--Lord, Ednah Aiken C, opyright~ Bobby-Merrill Comp&ny the Service i--Give them the answer now." Barton held up a withered hand. The ttndeveloped body was dignified by the splendid head. "Don't with- draw your concession. I think I can say that Mexico will not be sued." Again, the shout went up. "Answer like a man. Think! Good LordI Say we withdraw the suits!" "We withdraw the claims against Mexico." Barton sat down to a sud- den hush. The first blood had been let. Once more Babcock's glasses swept the house. He rapped the table, "That's not all. We've got more to say to you. Gentlemen, Mr. Marshall." Marshall stepped forward to a si- lence which was a variety of tribute. He bowed. "I will be brief. Mr. Faraday has asked me to take his place here this afternoon. It's only Marshall's,Voice Rang Out. fair.. If it were not for my interfer- ence, he would not be involved in this situation. I think you will grant that it is Mr. Faraday's company which can save the valley?" "To save its own tracks'l" yelled a voice from the balcony. Marshall sent a soft smile heaven- ward. "Incidentally. And its traffic. Why don't you say it? We don~t deny that.- The Overland Paclfle's no altru- ist." There was a Jeer which rose into a chorus. "Altruist ! Octopus. That's what it is." Marshall's hand went up. "If you want to hear me?" He waved away Babcock's descending gavel. "I was told it would cost two hundred thou- sand dollars to close ~hat break of yours. Do you want the actual fig- ures? It has eaten already a million; and the work is not yet done. You know the history of the undertaking. The Desert Reclamation company was in straits. Faraday promised his help on the condition that the affairs of the Desert Reclamation. company would be controlled by his company. He took the control. He inherited~ what? Not good will. Threats, dam- age suits. Do ~ou think that snow- slide of complaints Is going to encour- age him to go on? This is what I came here to talk to you about. You ranch- ers don't want to cut your own throats. Now, there's a good deal going on about which you are In the dark. Faraday's got a right to feel he's shouldered an old man of the sea. He's been trying to dislodge it. He's appealed to the president. Ever since we came into this, the cry from Wash- ington has been. 'Do this the, way we llke, or we'll not take it off your hands.'" A murmur of angry voices started somewhere, swelling toward the balcony. "We don't want the government--" began the rising voices. Marshall's voice rang out : "But the government wants--you! Unless you will help save your own homes, the government will have to, in time. It's got to. Up there at Laguna, have you seen it? There's nothing go. lag on. They're watching us. That's a useless toy if our works are washed out. Faraday says this to you--" Not a sound In the stilled house. "Unless you withdraw your damage suits, he won' advance another damned cent." Sharply he sat down before the au- dience realized that his message was finished. The house had not found its voice, when Babcock's gavel was pounding again for attention. The question, he felt, had not been put to them completely. Perhaps, they did not gather the full import of Mr. Mar- shall's messagd. Mr. MacLean would follow Mr. Marshall. MacLean's superb figure rose from a tree-paneled background. "He should sing 'Brown October Ale,'" suggested Brandon to Hardin humorously. Hardin's eyes were on MacLean. What did he know about it? What could he tell those men that they did not know? MacLean was a figurehead in the reorganized irrigation company. Why hadn't they called on him, Hat- din? He knew more about the involved history of the two companies than the i whole bunch on the stage down yon- der. He could have told them, he could have called on their Justice, their memory-- MaeLean was speaking. "Mr. Marshall has likened the river project to the old man of the sea. He has it on his back, while it is busll~ kicking him in the shins! "Mr. Marshall has given you Mr. Faraday's message. He has asked you to dismiss your damage suits. I ask you to do more than that. Put your hands in your pockets! Come out and help us. You don't want the government. I am told that is the sentiment of the valley. When you called to them, they wouldn't help, you; they wouldn't give you an ade- quate price. Congress will soon be adjourning. What is Mr. Faraday to. say to Washington? Is he going to close that break? That depends on lyon. Withdraw you/" suits. Do more. Stop fighting against us. Fight with US--" The audience stirred ominously, angrily. Before MaoLean was done, a voice screamed from the balcony. "You can't quit. That's a threat. You're in too deep. You can't fool us. You've got to save yourself. You've got to go on. Tell Faraday to tell that to Washington." The uproar was released. Black, from the Wistaria, Jumped on his chair. "I am speaking for the valley. We can't help. You know it. We're stripped. We're ruined. You think to threaten us with the government--if Ne wait for the government to decide, the valley is gone---and the railroad's money with it. I tell you, your bluff won't go. We want Justice. We are going to have justice." "Justice!" came from the surging ranchers. "Fair play," yelled Black. "You can't trick us. We were not born yesterday. We have rights. The company brought us here. What did we give our money for? Desert land? What good is this land without water? We bought wa- ter. Give us back the money we've. put in--that's what we're asking for. We won't be scared out of our rights." There was a growling accompani- ment from the back rows, herding to- gether. "Order," cried Babcock, thumping his gavel. "Let Mr. Black have the floor." Black had not stopped. Wildly his hands cut the air. His speech, though high-pitched, had a prepared sound; it worked toward a climax. He gave individual instances of ruin. "Grace, WUlard Grace, his crop gone, his place cut in two. Hollister and Wilson of the Pale Verde, the ranch a scream- ing horror. Scores of others." He would not mention his own case; and then he itemized his misfortunes. Par- [ fish, his place scoured beyond all fu- ture usefulness. What had they come into the valley for? Who had urged them? There were pledges of the D. R., water pledges. That was all those ruined men were pleading, the redemp- tion of those pledges. Individual ruin, what did it mean? A ct]rtaillng of lux- uri~s, ot personal indulgence. "I tell you, it means food, bread, potatoes; milk for the babies; or starvation." Black had touched the deep note~ This was the answer. This was what they wanted to say. "You asl~ us to help you, us, we who are taxed already to our breaking point. You say your company won't go any further. What does that help mean to You? Poverty? A few thou- sands, a million to the O. P., a cor- poration, what does a loss mean to them? Poverty? I tell you, no. A smaller dividend, maybe, to whom? Yes, to whom? To the men who live in Fifth avenue, whose wives are dragged about in limousines. With- draw their suits? Help Faraday, and ruin men like parrlsh? Men of the valley, what is your answer to Fara- day?" The crowd was on its feet, swaying and pushing. The air was fetid #vlth breaths. Wllson's crowd had forgotten its lorgnettes. "No," yelled the ranch- ers. "We say, no." A boy made hls way from the wings, a yellow envelope In his hand. Babcock waved him on to Marshall.t The audience was crying itself hoarse. Babcock lost control of the meeting in that minute of turning. Hollister, of the Pale Verde, was striving to be heard; Babcock's hammer sounded in vain. But Marshall's eye had caught a spark from the yellow sheet. He sprang forward, throwing the dispatch toward MacLean. His excitement caught the eye of the crowd. "The river!" There was a sudden hush. "The river's out again:" A groav~ swept through the house, there was a break toward the doors. (TO BE CONTINUED.) You Oughta Know That, Uncle. "Fine dog you have there, my llttl~ man," remarked the kind old gentle- man. "What do you call him?" "Don'~ hafta to call him," answered my littl~ man. "He goes every place I do." Optlmi~tlo Thought, He who knows nothing knows ea01a~h if he know~ when to t~ ~1~, _~