It really wasn't any better than it is now, we just thought it was at times. Like when we wanted to grow a cash crop or even just a little something to eat. Maybe plant a tree?
A friend (from DC, but don't hold that against her) sent me this great postcard showing grateful farmers. Grateful both to God and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that made much of the West what it is today.
Do you know where your water comes from? The government, on a slightly revised plan inspired by John Wesley Powell, built dams and irrigated vast acreages for water associations and districts that paid back with little or no interest and with inexpensive operation and maintenance costs (i.e., they didn't build that). It was tried with private interests and phenomenal economic disaster on the Rio Grande in New Mexico, helping to inspire Congress to start Reclamation.
Now we're to the point that there are no more projects to develop. In fact, we may have developed too many. We have varied competing interests for water, stream flow, and the liquid necessity for the lives of humans and other species. Well, I'm sure rugged individualism will work that all out just as it got water to the West in the first place. (har-de-har!)
OK, the real coincidence is that the picture is of a farm in Caldwell, Idaho! It's 1940, just a little up the Boise River from where I was born on the Oregon side of the Snake! My family could have even known those people!
Which takes me farther back to 1905 and a wonderful discovery that indicates a relative of mine may have been one of the first US Forest Service employees as an Assistant Ranger, compensation $720.00 (I'll assume annually). I'm sure that was a boon to him as he tended to wander from one hard labor job to another. He served the forests on Black Mesa in Navajo Country.
What's really cool is that the source is a book that was published back when you could include the current Civil, Military, and Naval personnel all in one book! (It was a pretty thick book.) A reminder that one does not have to carry a gun to serve our country and that life and limb are freely sacrificed by those fighting fires and sitting in federal buildings (Oklahoma City).
I'm just saying again that the next time you take a cool, refreshing glass of water in the Western US, you're welcome!