That Lucky Old Sun…

I am a Farmer’s Daughter.  I grew up on a cotton farm in central Texas where the soil is as black as Texas crude.   The smell of musty, earthy, peaty fresh plowed dirt can send me back there faster than you can ask which row to hoe. DSCN7594 I understand the toils and troubles of farming.  I spent my childhood springtimes watching my Dad pace the front porch, studying the weather patterns, sweating out whether or not his freshly planted crops and entire livelihood were about to be wiped out in one single night by the ravages of a hail storm or voracious tornado.  Summers he would leave before sun-up, and come home long after dark, covered from head to toe in maize husks like some furry coat he had sprouted.   And autumns were spent riding in the cab of the pick-up, singing all the versus to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” with my Mom, while helping her hitch and unhitch the cotton trailers bound for the gin, sides bulging from the burden of bales of freshly stripped cotton.   Winters, they finally got a break when we would usually head to South Padre Island. Back then, it was little more than a strip of beach, a jetty restaurant, and a bait shop. Then it would start all over again… IMG_1049 IMG_0992 IMG_1050 I wasn’t really much of a “farm girl.”  I protested having to do chores around the farm, dreaming of the time when I could finally graduate, follow my first signs of leftist leanings to UT Austin, and protest the Vietnam War.  Still to this day, the farm life holds no appeal for me whatsoever, save for the label of “Home.”DSCN7595

The wilted spinach may not be the best endorsement for "Yuma grown."

The wilted spinach may not be the best endorsement for “Yuma grown.”

DSCN7596 But for some reason, I still feel a tug of familiarity at the sight of farm work in progress.  So driving down Highway 95 to Yuma, it is tough to stay focused on the road.  There is so much activity going on all around me!  I am so curious to learn what those abundant crops are, laid out in colorful crazy quilt patterns across the horizon.  In spite of my snub toward farm life, I am still fascinated by the efficiency of the specialized equipment, the precision with which the rows are mapped out, and the tenacity of the migrant workers who labor tirelessly, all for the sake of feeding their family.IMG_0962 IMG_0982 IMG_1044 As I drive from field to field observing the processes, the air smells of cabbage and cauliflower.  I watch every few days on my trips into town as the fields seemingly mature overnight.  Workers empty from old school buses with porta-Johns in tow.  They wear large sun hats, gloves, and long white aprons, their conjunto music blaring as they swiftly move through the fields like a swarm of locusts, leaving behind the shell of leaves where the cabbage heads once nestled.  Within a few days, the field is plowed under, the ground is flooded, and new crops are planted.  Rotation continues methodically as the rise and set of the sun along Laguna Dam Road, just as it did back on the farm.IMG_1058 IMG_1045

If you like the sound of a "rain bird" skittering across the lawn, you should hear what is going on here!

If you like the sound of a “rain bird” skittering across the lawn, you should hear what is going on here!

All this is possible because of the Yuma Siphon Project, the vast irrigation network of 53 miles of canals, completed in 1915.  Deemed one of the largest and most efficient in the nation, it serves 275 farms today.  This expansive irrigation system exists due to the creation of the Laguna Diversion Dam, which in 1905 was the first dam to be built on the Colorado River, thereby ending northbound river traffic.   I have never been a fan of damming the rivers, but it is hard to argue with two million pounds of lettuce produced per day.DSCN7638DSCN7635

Irrigation Pipe

Irrigation Pipe

According to Wikipedia (internet law, of course,) Yuma is “the sunniest place on earth,” receiving eleven hours of sunshine per day, with an average of only 3 inches of rain per year.  The abundant sunshine, stable climate, silt-rich soil and the consistent water source from the Colorado River makes Yuma the winter vegetable capitol of the world.    It boosts Arizona up to the third largest in vegetable production in the nation, preceded only by California and Florida.IMG_1067

Field flooded by irrigation in prep for planting

Field flooded by irrigation in prep for planting

Several of us wanted to take one of the many farm tours offered as part of Yuma’s Agritourism program.   Even though the tour offered “a healthy lunch,” at $45 a person, we all agreed that was too pricey for a U-pick salad. Alas, I would just have to be content to observe from the road, reminiscing about the sights and smells emanating from the earth, without the trouble and toil, work and worry endured by my parents, all for the sake of feeding their family…DSCN7629

“Up in the mornin’
Out on the job
Work like the devil for my pay
But that lucky old sun got nothin’ to do
But roll around heaven all day

Fuss with my woman, toil for my kids
Sweat till I’m wrinkled and gray
While that lucky old sun got nothin’ to do
But roll around heaven all day

Dear Lord above, can’t you know I’m pining, tears all in my eyes
Send down that cloud with a silver lining, lift me to Paradise

Show me that river, take me across
Wash all my troubles away
Like that lucky old sun, give me nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day”


40 thoughts on “That Lucky Old Sun…

  1. God I love your writing. Although I know OF you, thru blogs such as Box Canyon, Lifes Little Adventure, Wheeling It and others, I really had not ventured to your blog…until now. I was absolutely pulled in to your “farm girl” upbringing, and your segue to the “Yuma grown”. And the photos are high quality as well. Thanks for sharing.

  2. As usual, your prose and melody had the tears welling up in my eyes. I could picture your ever-vigilant father on his porch fretting over his crops. One wonders what he thinks of when he looks out over the farm today.

    I watched my mother in her downhill spiral, and the things that she held the most dear remained with her the longest, but eventually they, too, disappeared. She even planted plastic flowers in the garden at the nursing home, and was thrilled and oh, so proud that they did so well. ;-> They let her keep the grounds up to some extent, so she thought it was her own home landscaping that she had cherished for so many decades that she was nurturing.

    • Thanks, Judie, for your kind words. I think what Dad thinks today as he looks out over the farm is “Why won’t my hard headed wife give me the keys??” haha!

  3. Judie, I am Suzanne’s mom and I have tears in my eyes while reading this as well! It brings back so many memories! Some memories of sadness, some of joy! I didn’t realize she was paying any attention to what was going on at the time but I am sure she was just longing and looking forward to the time when she could escape that “prison!” When a person gets older, they realize that kind of life wasn’t so bad! Great post, my dear!!! Dad would enjoy that! Love you

    • Thank you, Sue. Now I’m all teary again. It’s time to go to bed and rest my weary brain. Your life cannot be easy now, and I feel for you.

      Virtual hugs,


      • Isn’t it strange what we all lean to? I can remember being jealous that Suzanne, Pam and other classmates got to live in the country on a farm or ranch. I’m still not a city person but rather enjoy my time in the high desert and mountains of New Mexico. I love Suzanne’s writing style as she moves me right into her journey with her. Thank you Suzanne, and thank you Mama Anthony for raising such an extraordinary & talented daughter.
        Love you both!

        • Thanks for such a nice comment, Reta! We should have worked out a summer exchange program when we were kids. haha! But I agree with you, I would trade it all for high desert and mountains! (Though I still need a little ocean thrown in, so I guess I will keep my wheels for now!)

  4. I live in central Texas and chuckled at your reference to the black land prairie soil. It is indeed very dark. And…I grew up in the Yuma Valley! My dad did concrete work and other construction on some of the later dams on the Colorado and Gila Rivers. How can you farm in the desert? It’s easy when you farm the rich soil in the river valleys and canals are nearby. Very few crop failures and year-round farming climate; hail and tornadoes don’t happen often in that part of Arizona.

    • We all marveled at that very same thing…how can all this be coming from the desert? It truly is a wonder of abundance…. Thanks for the comment.

    • Thanks, Lisa…I agree about the unknowns. I was fascinated to learn that they have refrigerated trucks waiting, and iceberg lettuce harvested in the morning can be in Phoenix by afternoon. I will never look at a head of iceberg the same way again!

  5. Only a farmer’s daughter could make poetry out of agriculture. Of course, the farmer himself is still out in the fields, too busy to give a damn. No, I wasn’t cut as a farm boy either. Too many hours, not enough days in the week, and all your work goes up in a cloudburst, gale wind, fire, drought, or insect invasion.

  6. A city person with farm blood. Now a whole lot makes sense! I always enjoy watching the farming around Yuma, but rarely take any pictures. As always, you did a great job with the pictures and prose.

  7. Oh, man!! You must have missed our blog on the farm tour we did!! Just east of El Centro is the Univ, of CA Farm Smart Tour. It is a five hour program on the crops, equipment, picking etc., plus a you pick time. Each person is given a huge bag, think burlap bag size, when they register to fill with all the produce they want. Our tour was $20 a person and included a cooking demo and tasting, wonderful chicken taco salad, U Pick, lecture, honey tasting,and ice cream. It was exactly what I wanted to do and learn. I can’t tell you how much broccoli, cauliflower, kale, swiss chard, beets, radishes, and romaine we came home with in two bags!! We drove over from Yuma which wasn’t bad at all, especially with the hour time difference. I now know so much more about those fields and equipment we pass in that area! It sure is a science.

    • Au contraire, my friend! In fact, Gayle and I had a chuckle that John did not sound quite as effusive about the farm tour as you did, so Jim had best stay home. haha! We did talk about driving to El Centro, but the thought of the long drive from the Mittry Lake boondock just seemed to dampen our enthusiasm a bit. But if I had remembered the hour time difference, I would have gone for it…

  8. We raised our kids in the country on a hobby farm. Horses, cows, pigs, bees, chickens, pheasants…… They complained that it was way too much work too far from town and their friends. Now that they are married, have children and live in the city, they are both looking for property in the country and cannot wait to get out of the city!

    • That “wide open spaces” is hard to get out of the blood, isn’t it? I loved living in the city, but still had to get out on occasion. No substitute for being able to see a sunrise and a sunset from the same location!

  9. Excellent post. Evoked a lot of memories. I was a suburban kid and loved when my folks would drop me off for the day at our farmer friends. I got to feed the ducks, chickens, bunnies and pigeons. Stack the burlap corn bags once emptied and then fall on top of them like it was a mattress. And eat as many sun warmed tomatoes as I could.

    I sure wish they’d put signs on those Yuma fields so I knew what was growing.

    • Gaelyn, I loved that burlap bag story! That sounds exactly like something my brother and I would have done…over and over again for hours. haha!

  10. I too grew up on a farm so I know where you’re coming from. Its threadlike link that binds you to the soil and one that never leaves you no matter where you end up. To many urban dwellers weather is just something that puts a downer on what you were planning to do but to a farmer it’s a whole different thing. I have such fond memories of those days. You have certainly rediscovered your blogging mojo.

    • Thank you, Dave. Such a nice compliment. I too have appreciation for growing up on a farm. Although I hated it at the time, I do believe it has given me a better appreciation of our planet, its weather systems and resources. I loved the description “threadlike link.”

  11. Once again a great combination of education AND entertainment; such a rich post. Looks like you’re getting in plenty of hikes and having lots of laughs – curlers and all. Even at 7,000 ft our snow is so slim that we’re hiking without snowshoes which I love, even if it is a bit scary for a ski resort.

  12. I had my comment rolling around in my mind as I was reading…all ready to go…and then Wham! Everyone else has said basically the same thing I was thinking! Written like the true writer that you are, a soul writer, who can capture the feeling of a place or a time and take it deep. So glad you share your gifts with us via blog in addition to your books.

    • Sue, your comment means so much to me. I love writing with a passion, although it is a “labor of love.” For someone to use words like “soul writer” is fruit of that labor enough…

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