Father was analyzing the problem as he packed the old brown valise,
studying all angles in the way he had studied the movements of
the wild horse. He wanted to be certain that when he met his foe
in the field, he would be prepared to handle him.
"The suitcase is pretty shabby," Annie implored. "Don't
you think you should use Beulah's?"
"Well, I should smile!" he answered in a way that meant
"No". "Think of how that old valise has served
me. And you would have me use another! They don't make valises
like that anymore. A little scrubbing with saddle soap, and it
will be good a new."
He went about his packing, taking the stiff-bosomed white shirts
from the bird's eye maple chiffonier drawer. He put them neatly
in the valise. Then he added a good supply of narrow, white organdy
ties for those occasions when he had an important engagement,
and narrow black how ties for lesser ones and four-in-hand ties
for all others.
"Put on a pair of overalls while I clean your suit,"
We resorted to the big gasoline drums for this, airing the clothes
well on the line before pressing with a dampened cloth. "I
can do that, Mama," the youngest son, Oliver, volunteered.
Everyone wanted to have a part in this important work of getting
Papa in "band box" shape, as Mama termed it.
Once in Sacramento, there was a buoyancy about Papa's step as
he alighted from the Southern Pacific Pullman car, and a studied
manner about his face, however cheerful he appeared. He seemed
to be intently going over a grave problem in his mind. There would
be that initial period of preparing himself for the legislative
battles that were to follow, getting together all the facts, studying
them one by one, until he knew each phrase as he knew his verses
from Proverbs, and everything related to them to make the understanding
He recollected when he first came to the Rancho Del Paso, forty
years ago, the ranchers were grumbling then about the cycle of
flood and drought.
Later came the realization the Valley could produce more money,
even with colonies of settlers. Thus, the buying of land grants
from impoverished Spanish dons or with script from hard-put soldiers,
were frowned upon. Still there wasn't enough water to take care
of a sixth of those who wanted to make their homes in the big
Legislators were easily bought then, but the little fellow had
nothing with which to buy them. So the worry cycle of flood and
drought went on and on, because man was inherently selfish.
Still later came years when loyal and honest men worked tirelessly
to save the State's resources, while men of lesser vision fought
it because they feared big men might derive some benefit from
it. Big men fought it because they feared it might increase their
taxes. Communities fought it because they were jealous that another
district might derive a benefit they wanted only for themselves.
There were others, too, who were overwhelmed by the bigness of
the program, afraid the opportunity was too great. To water twelve
million acres was too much for the brain of man to conceive to
transform barren acres into fertile fields.
These things must have rushed through William's mind as the taxi
wheels kept turning their own frequent revolutions, and in his
mind he reflected upon the repeated cycles of flood in winter
and drought in summer, and man's selfishness to man ....
Once at the hotel, he did not take time to unpack, but went immediately
to the office of the California Irrigation Association on K Street.
There followed an all day briefing on the Marshall Plan which
had been designed to control and save and use the water of all
the streams of California, and move it farther than it had ever
been moved before.
After that he attended a stimulating luncheon hour with information
poured out from the mouths of other irrigationists.
In the afternoon, William got his credentials as a lobbyist so
he would be permitted to discuss the matter at the Capitol, and
present his case before committee members. Afterwards, he walked
to the State Library and studied the wealth of information it
had on that number-one problem: getting enough water to irrigate
California's land and production needs.
Friends invited him to dinner, but he concluded he wanted to spend
the evening alone. He wanted to study the problem out, in his
own way. By asking for directives from God, he knew that with
God's help it could be done. It could well prove to be man's greatest
undertaking, but he knew there was a way it could be accomplished.
He approached the subject slowly, weighing each detail carefully,
objectively, in the light of the mistakes that had already been
made, and how they could be avoided this time. He intended to
remain in his room all night and pray. He would spend the night
on his knees. It was the way he had done in those successful days
of his youth when he knew he had to rely on the Almighty for the
supernatural power his dangerous assignments demanded. He was
going to rely on that Power now. This was his biggest problem,
even bigger than getting Anarchy Street under control.
There were one million three hundred thousand voters in California
then who had to be made to understand that with water the Valley
would become the most productive in all the world. Without it,
California would be nothing. It was his job to reach as many of
the voters he could. He was not working alone on the matter, there
were many others giving of their time, too. But he felt this was
his task because he was familiar with the Valley since the early
eighties. He felt called now, to reach the college graduate, as
well as the man who couldn't read, the manufacturer, the grocery
clerk, the farmer, and the business man. They all had to understand
this mutual problem. They had to understand it clearly and, in
understanding the problem, it would be resolved.
"God what is this maddening fear that makes men hold a broken
cistern in their arms, and let the living water pass uselessly
through their unproductive hands, while many cry for land that
could feed the thousands upon thousands who cry for food?
God direct our paths. Show us how to rid ourselves of this broken
cistern, that we may wipe away the tears that flow from greed
Teach me God, to show them how simple it is to have 'the fountain
of living waters', how much good can come of it. Teach me to show
them that it is a sin not to do this good." Finished with
his praying, he rose to his feet and walked to the dresser, picked
up the big leather Bible he always packed in his suitcase and
sat down to read.
He knew Isaiah had a good bit to say of the power of water. He
turned to the thirty-fifth chapter:
The wilderness and the solitary place
shall be glad for them;
An the desert shall rejoice,
and blossom as the rose."
How many times had he pictured his desert in blossom? He wanted
to see it come to pass in his lifetime. And the way?
"Strengthen ye the weak hands,
and confirm the feeble knees.
Say to them that are of fearful heart,
Be strong, fear not:
Behold your God will come with vengeance,
Even God with a recompense;
He will come and save you."
It was God's way of telling him to replace fear with courage,
to remove the fear that always lay as the summer haze on the Valley,
hiding the stalwart and fearless mountain ridge.
" . . . for in the wilderness shall waters break out,
And streams in the desert.
And the parched ground shall become a pool,
And the thirsty land springs of water:
In the habitation of dragons, where each lay,
Shall be grass with reeds and rushes."
The dragon! The crushing dragon would be slayed and grass and
reeds and rushes grow. The powerful, moneyed dragon had been asking
for a fight for a long time, forty-five years according to his
memory, but farther than that, if one wanted to go back in history.
He knew God had answered his prayers, strengthened his weak hands,
confirmed his feeble knees, fortified his heart. With a verve,
he turned to studying all the data he had collected during the
day. He went from pamphlet to pamphlet memorizing, filing it away
in his memory for instant reference whenever he was called upon
to speak. He never had used notes of any kind whenever he addressed
a congregation. He always spoke and recited from memory. He didn't
intend to use notes now.
Then he sat there, for a long time, looking out into the night,
toward Capitol Park with its ten full blocks of trees and flowers,
the air aromatic with camphor, pine, and eucalyptus trees. He
reached for his suit coat and hat and went to the elevator. Once
on the street, he walked toward the park. The gold dome was brilliantly
lighted, as if to tell man of the gold his state held, that all
men could have, if they could but learn to work in harmony.
That was it, the wealth that comes from setting aside the fears
and working in love. Why even the very garden seemed to declare
it. He had reached the west entrance. He could see how all the
trees planted and shrubs set out had been done with geometric
precision. The world was governed by order. Everything in the
plant world seemed to blend with all the other things. Here in
California, all plant life flourished, as demonstrated in this
well-watered garden. He walked down past a lane dotted with date
palms from Africa, fan palms from Asia, pampas grass from South
America, cedars from Lebanon, stone pine from Italy, fir trees
from Norway, eucalyptus from Australia. They all flourished. He
turned and walked to the portico and stood there beside the supporting
colonnades of iron and felt the full stature of what man was supposed
to be. He remembered the glory of the Valley that first year when
it was carpeted with spring's wild flowers, that year when rains
fell so generously. It did not seem to be the same, this present
day dun-colored Valley. This was the fearful year, the year of
"Say to them with are of a fearful heart,
Be strong, fear not."
Yes, God had given him the answer. Banish the fear of this tremendous
thing by teaching them, one thing at a time, as he had banished
it from the hearts of the yearling at Del Paso:
Teach them little by little, they have nothing to fear. The desert
shall rejoice! Little by little. They will learn to trust when
He turned and walked west, past the tall, giant redwood, strong
and stalwart, unafraid, reaching to the sky.
If we ca hold back the flood waters in winter and spring, and
divert it to the south, redistribute the rain when needed, we
will have done it.
If the little plan to harness the wild waters is the correct way,
from an engineering standpoint, then the tremendously big plan
is the same opportunity multiplied many times. To fear it is to
be frightened by the size of God's opportunity.
A little at a time! It will be easy to hold back the mighty Sacramento
and the San Joaquin, a little at a time, in a hill or a mountain
reservoir, in every small tributary, in every mountain stream.
The rivers have not run together to become too powerful to combat.
The plan is to hold the excess flow in these reservoirs while
the rain is falling, the snow thawing, releasing only as much
as canals and watercourses can handle. Then, in a dry season,
to draw on the deep water, carry it away, without floods one season,
drought another. This is the way we must do it. We should begin
at the outlet of the rivers, building high levees, and by-passes,
in an attempt to bypass control floods that pass into the ocean.
Water that goes into the ocean is lost; while water that is stored
in the foothills is saved to be released at will, to turn into
canals to water twelve million acres.
Have I made it simple enough? He was determined to make the problem
of harnessing the wild waters as easy to understand as the taming
of the wild broncos. "One has to do it with gentleness."
To the farmers, he said, "This is a world of give and take.
The central organization will know what form of cooperation one
part of the State has to offer another, and what form of cooperation
from that other part of the State."
"We must view the possibilities of prosperity that might
be realized by proper conservation. We must impress upon the voters,
also, the fact that money spent for utilization of waters is an
investment of the most constructive and profitable character."
To the businessman, he said, "It will cost what? It will
"It is waste that costs. Paying fort the building that burned
without insurance, paying for the floods that destroy, permitting
nature's wealth to escape unused, these are things that cost."
To all he said, "Join . . . subscribe. Pay your fee into
the Association (it was five dollars) that we can save our white
gold to use." He knew man's heart was where his money was.
To the lawmakers, he said, "Do this wicked thing of neglecting
to use the God-given resources, and the burden of that sin will
be on your heart."
Week after week, he worked, tirelessly, joyfully, earnestly. And
with the help of those for whom he worked, successfully. His expenses
were paid and he counted himself lucky; there were many who worked
without. But he gave of himself, his whole self.
It had its own compensations, too, separate and apart from "the
white gold" all were to receive. There came with it the gold
of understanding, the working with all classes of people. Once
called to preach to the poor, he found in working with all humans
their needs were the same. In understanding it all, he came to
love all, well almost all, the Christless corporations were still
dragons to be slain. When he began to work in harmony with all
men, there came a richness in his life he had never known before.
He knew now the sorrow of the farmer as well as the coal miner,
the loneliness of the businessman, as well as the homeless man
on the street. He found all men naked in their need to be in harmony
with all other men.
He found when called upon to do so, the men whom he had often
berated for their profiteering and their taking advantage of the
poor man, now opened up their hearts to the needs of others. One
by one, he lost his enemies and gained friends. Thus, he began
to gather together all the vehemence of his spirit around that
one colossal enemy, the "power trust" who fought the
issue with all the force of their wealth. One by one, he met them,
talked with them, assured them God would hold them accountable
for their sin.
"To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not
To him it is sin."
He had plenty of facts on file in his memory to prove indisputably
it was a good thing they had to do.
He would sit and talk to each one and when he shook a hand good-bye
he knew how that man would vote. He felt no money and no power
would change his thinking. His way for winning votes was the same
as getting that understanding, getting the people behind the issue,
person by person.
When June came, and he returned home for a week-end birthday celebration,
he had good news, "The Legislature has passed a bill providing
for an investigation on California's water and power. Two hundred
thousand dollars has been appropriated."
And the desert was rejoicing.
The news next year was not good. "A bill incorporating the
initial features of the Marshall Plan was passed by a vote of
twenty-eight to one in the Senate but defeated by three votes
in the Assembly with thirty-seven voting for it and thirty-four
He refused to be downcast. "We are making strides. Even with
the power opposition of the giant west coast power trust, we are
making headway. The plan not only had the support of the California
State Irrigation Association, it had the backing of the league
of California Municipalities. "We have made more strides
forward these past two years than in any ten years before."
No, he was not troubled, but he studied more and more, always
seeking his directive. Far into the night he would study. He found
his guidance in the fifth chapter of Job.
"Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust,Neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;
Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
I would seek unto God,
And unto God would I commit my cause:
Which doeth great things and unsearchable;
Marvelous things without number:
Who giveth rain upon the earth,
And sendeth water upon the fields:
To set up high those that be low;
That those which mourn may be exalted to safety."
Next year, when the Legislature closed without appropriating additional
funds to continue with the investigation, he knew they had to
do something and do it quickly to keep from losing their hold.
They could not give up. The investigation had to go on.
"But how?" they said. "How?"
"We will borrow the money."
"From the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce."
"Because they have it."
"But how can it be paid back?"
"We will get the next Legislature, when it meets, to appropriate
enough money to pay it back."
"But how is that possible, when they wouldn't appropriate
it in the first place?"
"We know now that we must work harder to convince them. We
know that we must reach everyone and get their assurance of support."
Go to Chapter 27
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