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This is love

“Little things that will change you forever, may appear from way out of the blue, making fools of everybody who don’t understand.”  __George Harrison

When I decided to purchase my cabin, I’d only been on the property for one hour.  It was 3pm and I was about to return to California on a 5pm flight.  The realtor had nothing to show me but one homestead up the South Fork which seemed, in his mind, to fit what I wanted.  But when I saw it, that Land just didn’t speak to me.  It was the only property I’d seen so far.

“Is there anything else?”  I asked him.

“There’s this one place, about 45 minutes north of Cody.  But they’ve been debating for a year whether to sell it or not.”

I hesitated because I wanted to live near town.   “Show it to me.” I said.  ” I’m here and if they market it, then at least I’ve seen it.”

It was love at first sight.  I went back on the plane to San Francisco, made them an offer they accepted, and began the escrow process.  “As is.  Everything comes with it except the mounts,”  I was told."As is.  Everything comes with it."

My water comes from a spring on Forest Service land and the owner told me it was running 12-15 gpm.  Since I closed escrow in December, it was hard to check his accuracy.  All I knew was the cistern was full and water came out of the pipes."My water comes from a spring in the nearby forest."

But come spring, when the snow was melting, I had a carpenter at the cabin doing some work for me.  I was still in San Francisco when he called to tell me the bad news.  “The cistern’s about empty.  Seems like you’re running only 1/2 gpm.”

Since I share that spring with 3 other homes, that was terrible news.  If you don’t have water in the West, you have nothing.  As the saying here goes ‘Whiskey’s for drinking, but water’s for fighting over.”  And historically in Wyoming, people have been shot dead over water wars.I'm the first of 7 springs

That first May I went to Wyoming to meet my neighbor who shares the spring.   He lives in Powell, an hour away, most of the time.  He and his brother, who is a geologist, had put the system in with their father about 20 years ago.  It was a quick education for me as I have only lived on city water all my life.

H__, the geologist, explained that our side of the valley is limestone base.  All those layers allow for nice underground snow melt runoff .  Seven springs come directly out of the limestone layers in the forest next to me.  In Wyoming, in order to use a spring that’s not directly on your property, you have to file a claim.  If you don’t develop the spring in something like 5 years, you lose your rights.  There are first rights, second rights, even third rights on springs.  My neighbor and I have first rights on this spring.  My other neighbor has second rights; which basically means that if there isn’t enough water (defined in specific gpm’s), I can shut him off.

Across the river on the other side of my valley, the south facing side, that land is mostly granite based and the homes over there either have wells or no water.  A very lucky few have springs.  My side is the desirable side.Across the river its all granite base

My spring box, which in my case is a cistern, takes the water directly from below ground before it spills out of the limestone above ground.  It does this with the equivalent of a drainage system–wrapped perforated pipes laid in a gravel base, that feed into the cistern.  That water then flows into our three properties through 6′ deep pipes.

When one member of my California crew whose from Guatemala, came to help me with some carpentry up here last year, he really wanted to see my spring.  He told me that in Guatemala, in the mountains, whole towns are fed from springs using these kinds of catchment systems.

My underground cistern

As the three of us looked over the spring that was hardly running, and walked up to the other springs that seemed to be flowing faster, H__ offered that given the 7 year drought, and possibly some shifting of the limestone, maybe a few minor quakes here and there, our spring might be running dry.  I choked.  My neighbors have rights to another spring they can use.  I didn’t.  No water and my new venture was worthless.

My options were to haul water in (there are some people on the granite side that do that!), or try and dig a well which is an expensive venture out here.  Both an overwhelming thought. But my first option was to explore this problem much further.Another style.  A spring houseInside the spring house

My neighbors went back to Powell, and my immediate agreed-upon job was to go to the cistern every morning and take measurements.  That way we’d get a good idea of actual flow.

That night I had a powerful and unexpected dream.

In my dream there were no people.  Not even a story.  The dream was just water.  Lots and lots of it. And a voice was saying “Copius amounts of water”.  The word ‘copius’ just rang and rang.  When I awoke, I knew it to be true and decided the spring was not dry, just either clogged or diverted.

That was May.  I went back to California and worried about it a lot.

In July I came back to Wyoming for a few weeks.  That first afternoon I was back, I took a drive down the road.  A badger poked his head out from his hole and walked alongside the road with the car.  I took it as a sign that digging was the right approach to the spring.

My neighbor and I began hand digging alongside the PVC pipe that went into the hillside, trying to expose the drainage catchment system a bit.  We got to the first 45 ell and still there was little water.  The going was hard as the limestone layers were thick.  When they originally dug the system and put down the pipe and gravel, they laid all the limestone back over the top and then covered it with soil.  Apparently, the difference between a regular french drain and a spring system, is that you want to be very careful how you dig.  The layers are sensitive and too much disturbance can cause the spring to divert or clog.

So all that limestone was on top of the pipes, and to get down to the pipes to see if water was running or not, required lifting and heaving these large boulders.  I promised R__ that I’d dig till the next 90 ell over the coming week.

That week another badger appeared in my life and took up residence in the hillside next to my home.  I spent a few hours digging.  I was certain, according to my dream and according to these badgers, that water was there.  When I hit the 90, I dug a bit further and water started spewing out. Sure enough, there was plenty of water; just a clogged system that needed replacing.

I like to think of my valley as my magic.  I like to think that when you follow a scent that draws you as a bliss, when you stand at your center, helping hands appear.

I came here on a songline, a bit of music in the wind that drew me.  I left behind a life because I fell in love–in this case not with a man, but with a mountain.  Magic happens here. Healing happens here.

“Little things that will change you forever may appear way out of the blue, making fools of everybody who don’t understand.   This is love.  This is love.”  George Harrison

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One Response

  1. Les,
    Ric finally got around to telling me about your blog. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. You obviously have no regrets re moving to NW Wyoming. Good on ya for digging in and making a home.
    Sean

    Like

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