The Water is Wide
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
By Terry M Pace (August 1, 2020)
”The water is wide and I cant cross over, and neither have I wings to fly...” (Scottish Folk Song Re 1600).
It was a hot day in late May around 1975. I was running a “sand-fighter” plow all day long 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. trying to keep a young cotton crop from blowing away in the west Texas wind. For those unacquainted, a sand-fighter plow has whirling spikes at the bottom of each tooth and looks terrifying coming at you. But it does a job that’s needed in cotton farming on the plains and that is to tear up the dirt around the small cotton plants to keep the top soil from blowing away and taking the cotton with it. So, while farmers pray for rain, once the rain stops, if there is young cotton in the fields and you live on the plains, the wind is going to blow and you have to be ready for sand-fighting as soon as “its dry enough to plow.”
I don’t really recall which tractor I was “running” that day, but my dad had a secret weapon for sand-fighting. We would usually be running both tractors if two drivers were available. The main tractor we had was a 1960’s model John Deere 4020. This was our “big” tractor, which is small compared to today’s big tractors. I don’t recall any plow larger than 8-12 rows for us, but that still made lots of time compared to the secret weapon; a 1950’s model Ford tractor that was small and light enough you could run it on muddy ground with a four- row sand -fighter and not get stuck. I was the lowest in pecking order so I often drove the Ford. Sand-fighting was a way of life for us in May and June of most years. So my day was just one of many long days of sand-fighting I did.
When I finished work around 7:00 p.m. I was in a hurry as I had a date (with my future and still wife Elaine) for 8:00 p.m. I was working on a farm we called our “Other Place” which was named to distinguish it from our “Home Place” or the farm we lived on. The Other Place was about 7 miles away by vehicle from our Home Place, so I jumped in my “cherry-red” 1972 Monte Carlo (I bought from my brother Ricky) and happily sped along the open, unseeing back roads towards home in order to grab a shower and sandwich and head out for a date. But in my happy haste I forgot one thing; due to the big rain and thus the sand-fighting, the usual road between our places was under water and closed. It is common on the plains for playa lakes to rapidly fill when there is no where else for heavy rain run off to go. Thus, these usually dry barely perceptible low places can become lakes overnight, to the great joy of water fowl, other wildlife and children.
I faced one of the big decisions of my life up to then; do I try to drive across this lake or do I take an extra 5 minutes and turn around and go another way? I weighed the pros and cons, I had crossed this road under water maybe a hundred times; surely, it’s not so bad as to not be passable? But I had never seen the lake so large and the end points of the road so very far apart, probably at least a hundred yards. Still I believed I could fly! I had a date waiting! Ahead I cried! And I slowly inched past the ROAD CLOSED sign and into the water. I thought all I needed to do was to hold my steering straight and not stop. It was such a slow disaster. The water inched up bit by bit and by the time I felt in danger of being engulfed, I felt in equal danger of stopping and trying to back up, and although I was no longer sure I was actually on the road all I could do was to keep on going. About half way I hit the deepest water and all that could be seen of my car was from the windows up, unless one was looking straight down from above, the hood and trunk were still visible just above the water.
Somehow, inch by inch the water lowered and the car kept moving along. As I reached the other “shore” (I had started thinking about the other end of the road as a shore line); I looked up relived that no one appeared to have happened along and seen me. I then open my car door and let all the murky water drain out and it seemed amazing to me how much water I had carried along inside the car. Though relieved, I felt foolish, as I should have. But now I was only a flat dry mile from home. I strategically parked my car in the back of our barn, took out mats and carpets and everything else I could and hung them to dry, raced in, relived to find no one home, I took my shower and thankfully had our work pick-up I could drive for our date. When I got home from our date I went out back and put my car back together to hopefully conceal my silliness from my family. The wet smell was terrible in my car for a month or more but as far as I know my parents never found out about this event. It’s not that I was scared of any punishment, I'm pretty sure my parents would have realized I had learned my lesson and I did; it’s that I was worried to not cause them any shame on my behalf. I never wanted to disappoint my mom or dad. Some who knew me then rightfully wondered how in the world I (mostly) didn't cause my parents shame? The answer is I knew how much they loved me. That their love kept me from jumping off into many dark waters, yet allowed me to sail in my own way upon the open seas of life. But I am pretty sure as I look back, that my decision- making capacities were all fuzzed up with another kind of love. Oh but I was only 17 and Elaine awaited me!