I recently finished reading the best-selling book by Jeannette Walls called “Half Broke Horses.” It is the true story of an amazing woman named Lily (the author’s grandmother) and her life growing up on the ranchlands of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in the early 1900’s. She led an unbelievable life surviving a flash flood that nearly swept her and her siblings away, droughts, tornadoes, breaking horses by the time she was six, and living in a dug-out dirt home (complete with mud, bugs and snakes). Though Lily’s father had a limp and speech impediment, he was well educated and passed that on to Lily. She became his right hand girl helping with all the backbreaking labor involved in ranching.
At 15 years of age Lily got a teaching job at a frontier town and rode 500 miles on her horse by herself to get there, camping under the stars along the way. (Yikes!)
After teaching school for several years she met and married a man named Jim. When the stock market crashed, her husband’s business folded and they were hired as managers for a huge 100,000-acre,struggling Arizona cattle ranch with not one natural water source (a HUGE problem). Together they came up with a plan to create gullies, draws, and a dam to collect rain water from the sporadic flash floods. Here’s what was said about water that really caught my attention:
“Only two things really matter to a rancher, they said (when they pitched their idea to the owners): land and water……without water the land ain’t worth nothing.” “….water out here was precious…….that was why, for centuries, the Indians and the Mexicans and the Anglos had all been fighting over it, why families were torn apart over it, why neighbors killed each other over it.”
The owners agreed to fund their water project and the ranch was saved.
“When the rains came that December, the water coursed through the gullies and draws and poured right into the ponds created by the dams.” “……..by the Spring, the water was three feet deep in the big pond—-the finest body of water I’d seen since Lake Michigan. In one sense, that pond was nothing more than a hole in the ground, but Jim treated it like it was our proudest possession, and that was what it was. He checked the dam every day, measuring the depth of the water and inspecting the walls. In the summer, folks drove from miles away to ask if they might take a dip, and we always let them. Sometimes during dry spells, neighbors without as much water would come over with wagonloads of barrels and ask, as they’d put it, to borrow from our pond, though there was no way they were ever going to repay us, and we never charged for it, since, as Jim liked to say, the heavens had given it to us.”
When I read that I, thought about how much I take water for granted. I know that I cannot live without it, but water is everywhere. I know that there are people in other countries that spend a good portion of their time and energy walking for miles, carrying water to their families…but I have always had running water, and have seemingly limitless opportunities to stop and buy some if I’m thirsty. With the exception of a few relatively short power outages and hurricane evacuations, I’ve never had to worry about weather I would have enough to drink or take a bath. I’ve never felt like my life was in the hands of the weather, wondering if it would rain enough to sustain the animals and/or crops that my family was completely dependent on.
Now I understand a little better why my mom (raised in NM, of rancher/ dairyman stock) used to put trashcans outside underneath the gutters to collect the rain to water her plants (though we lived in a subdivision in San Antonio and had no crops or cattle). She understood the true value of water…and apparently the people of Jesus’ time understood it also. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well (in John chapter 4) “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, give me to drink; thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” When she questioned how he was going to get that water without something to draw it out of the deep well He said: “Whosever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
I wonder if we fully understood how precious water really is, and could grasp how that, if we truly accepted and depended on The Lord (the same way that we literally depend on water), our spiritual thirst would be permanently quenched…….quenched by a constant well of peace within us, from the ultimate living water source.