Chapter 26

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," Annie said.

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 clearer.

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 Valley.

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 and selfishness.

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 drought.

"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 they understand.

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 cost nothing."

"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 against it."

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 whom?"

"From the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce."

"Why them?"

"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."

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