On Cacahuate Road between Portales and Muleshoe, a few miles east of the state line, is a simple marker in the corner of a field.
The metal plaque, put up by the Texas State Historical Survey Committee, encourages the curious to look 500 yards south across an open vista to what in 1909 was the site of the first irrigation well in Bailey County.
The specifics are impressive. The pit on farmland owned by Willard Burns was “dug by hand” to a depth of 15 feet, and measured 10 feet on one side and six on the other. The 10-inch centrifugal pump drew water out at an awe-inspiring rate of 1,000 gallons a minute.
But here’s the part I like to visualize when I stop by that lonesome stretch of land:
“Upon completion,” the sign says, “settlers from miles around gathered to hold a ‘water carnival’ which became a local custom whenever wells were dug.”
Bailey County history says a severe drought hit the area a year later, and none of us need reminding of how precious water has become in the century that followed.
But still, I love the image of our High Plains forerunners stopping work for a day, and coming from miles around, to celebrate the flow of life-giving water.
Betty Williamson thinks it is time for water-conservation carnivals. You may reach her at: