The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Karl Terry

Looking back, still in awe of Daddy


June 17, 2018

I read a couple of Facebook posts that really set the mood for my Father’s Day.

First there was a post of a video showing a young girl starting irrigation siphon tubes. Right underneath that post Editor David Stevens asked us to post a photo of our father.

Seeing those irrigation tubes reminded me of watching my dad do the same thing. I didn’t have a photo of him “setting” irrigation tubes but I did have a photo of him driving an old John Deere tractor at New Mexico Ag Expo. So I quickly posted that photo.

For a time while I was growing up my parents’ life was consumed by irrigating crops. I’m not talking about whipping out the smart phone and monitoring the condition of the high tech sprinkler system, I’m talking about hands-on, run-your-tail-off work.

At that time dad was watering from an open ditch on the turn-row. The pump at the well ran water into the ditch and a dam had to be placed just past the rows that were to be watered.

That dam gate was a heavy half-moon shaped piece of metal with handles that I couldn’t even lift. My dad could grab that thing and swing it up above his head and bring it down hard enough to bury it several inches deep in the ditch. By the time he threw the gate the water was coming and he had to quickly shovel dirt up against the backside of it to stop the water and keep the gate solid.

As you moved down the ditch you moved tubes down in sets. You got these curved aluminum tubes started by creating suction by submerging one end of the tube in the ditch and pumping or jerking it back and forth with your hand off the end of the tube on the down-stroke and tight to the mouth of the tube on the draw out.

There really wasn’t much pumping when my daddy set those tubes, one stroke like a pool cue and he dropped it with a perfect siphon started. I couldn’t even completely close the end of the bigger tubes with my hand. The smaller tubes I jerked and jerked and still had trouble.

Moving tubes, Dad could stoop and pick up tubes down the ditchbank until he had a huge armload. It was hard, backbreaking work that went on all summer long.

The irrigating went on at night. Dad would get water running then come to the house for supper. He went back again after he ate then came back another time or two for a little sleep. Mom would set the wind-up alarm clock to get him up before the next water was out.

If it rained enough we might get to shut down the pumps a day or two and go to the lake. That was vacation, grabbed only when Mother Nature allowed.

I’m still awed to this day the amount of work my daddy was capable of doing. His tough hands brought water to the cracked eastern New Mexico ground and kept our family of five fed.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:


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