Fast Horses - Slow Garden
Drawing of a man under a storm cloud.

In 1910 a little town with an ambitious name blossomed from the sagebrush flats a few miles northwest of Wells, Nevada. It was a land promotion from the word go and attracted scores of families to the community and land in the surrounding countryside. Brochures promised abundant water for farming. This was the beginning of Metropolis, Nevada.

For a while it looked like the farmers just might make it, then a lawsuit brought by down river Lovelock water users cut off most of the irrigation water. Metropolis farmers suffered years and years of drought that burned out the pitiful land. Then, two years of crickets eating poor crops crippled their dreams. Next came hordes of rabbits to eat what little was left trying to grow in the poor dirt. Cooperative rabbit hunts and drives netted thousands of rabbits. Just when things looked a bit better along came the Great Depression. The town died and the farms, one by one, returned to the sagebrush creeping back to reclaim the scorched earth.

Those who lived there were hardy, courageous people who held onto a grim sense of humor. This story circulated when the drought was at its worst.

"Yah hear about the rich eastern dude that moved out here?"

"Naw, what about 'im?"

"He came out here to farm, bought a place just up the road from here. First year he plowed, fenced and planted. No rain came. Next year the same story. Third year he got hisself a bright idee.

"Bought hisself a strong wagon and put 14-inch sideboards on it. Then he got a good team of big fast horses and a chore boy. Next thing, he told that boy to put in a good load of topsoil in that wagon.

"Then he planted a garden in the wagon and says to the boy, 'Nick, I want you to keep your eyes skimmed all the time, day and night, and if you see a cloud, no matter where it is, I want to hitch up this here team and drive like hell 'til you get under the cloud. And, if that cloud percipitates the rain'll germinate the seed in this good earth in the wagon and damned if I won't have me a garden."

"Did his idee work?"

"Hell no, that rich dude went plumb flat broke buying oats for the horses and supplying axle grease for the wagon."

May 9, 1998

1998 by Howard Hickson. If any portion or all of this article is used or quoted proper credit must be given to the authors.

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