Laterals

051 bridge north down road 01

Laterals

Headgate and lateral on Butte Road North at Noble Ditch

 This photo shows a headgate .  In this case it is by a bridge on Butte Road, that has likewise, has also been re-done recently.

This headgate, has been moved many times. It is now about 15’ toward the road from its last position.  It leads into the lateral feeding the fields below the next intersection (Butte Road and NW 1st–and goes all the way to the Payette ~1.5 miles).  This lateral is one that has been re-located for quite a distance.  For many years it was about 200′ to the right.  But thru the years it had been in half a dozen locations — but this meant that it not only divided the adjacent field, but also divided the fields all down the line.

This particular ditch benefitted from the phone company “undergrounding” its phone lines.  Previously there were a line of phone poles down where this ditch is located.

Laterals like this one were originally located on “hogbacks” or small ridges–they being the highest ground. This allowed water to flow down from them to adjacent fields.  Hogbacks were continually “whittled away” by farmers  eternally trying to make land easier to farm.  Scraping off the top of hogbacks then allowed much easier irrigation  And, of course, enough leveling, then the lateral can be moved to more efficient position along the side of the field instead of down the middle or “cattywhompus.”

Moving this lateral , in all its iterations, was done by my dad, Paul Chandler.  He loved to eliminate cut up fields and inefficient field shape.  So with his Cat and various scrapers and floats — and with the permission of the land owners and anyone using this lateral, he moved it over, re-routed it.  Now, it flows down the side of this field in the bar pit freeing about 2 acres (on just this field), that can now be put to productive work.  And, a special bonus is that it is now entirely on road and utility easement land that could not be used for farming. A maturing of the farm land. Now, with the road barpit taking up one side of the ditch–this gets taken care of by the county road crews, and does not take up any usable field surface.

Whenever I had been away from home for a time, when I came home, I would drive all the local roads to spot the latest variation done by my dad.  Dad was very patient, he would stop by a neighbor’s place to see if he was now willing to let dad move his ditch, or his drain.  It seemed that seeing some badly placed ditches that they “hurt” dad’s eyes–just as they do my own today!  So, over 1938 to around 1972, my dad reconfigured many hundreds of these ditches–and like myself, today, have a feeling of accomplishment each time I see them.  Other folks barely notice the changes–or forget them and forget what they used to be like–but I never will.

Today, driving through the area between NP and Fruitland it is difficult for me to single out any farm that my dad did not have some hand in moving laterals, and drain ditches, or level, making it so much more efficient to farm. The farmers involved could not do this all at once, none were that financially able. So through the years, like evolution, the land morphed little by little as the farmers were able.  Now, there are beautiful fields in the place of the old landscape.

Paul Chandler Leveling Land in 1937 with his “primitive” first “float.”

Leveling land in 1937:  Paul Chandler on the “float” as we called it. Dad eventually replaced the manned action on the “float” with hydraulics and many other modernizations, and it doubled in size and improved 16 times this photo’s abilities.  The rollers that carried the front and rear shown here made with 2x4s, were replaced by rails taken from Model Ts.

Around the region, again and again, this leveling has been done.  Producing many more larger combined fields, much more conducive to being farmed with ever larger and more efficient machines.  And reclaiming productive land from fence rows and tree lines.

Re-routing these laterals makes them shorter, more efficient to clean, and out of the way.  This one is now almost 200’ shorter than it used to be.  And it takes up about half the space it did originally.

This particular lateral will follow Butte all the way to its end, affecting all of the farms along the way.

Along the Noble Ditch, one occasionally comes across abandoned concrete structures.  No longer used, and now bypassed, these invariably prompt questions as to what they are, or were, and what was their original use.  Mostly they are other headgates or weirs abandoned by similar efforts as this one, to more efficiently move water from the canal out onto the fields.

In the early days of the canal, oft times there really was no way to be able to use every acre–small hills, higher than available water supply, intervened forcing the farmer to just leave it dry and unusable, and farm around it. Some enterprising farmer might try just about anything, any contrivance to raise water to his otherwise scrub land.  Sometimes these “archeological” cement structures are all that remain of a waterwheel site. So these “archeological” lumps of long gone extraordinary fixtures are still there to promote our curiosity. Most of them have so little remaining as to leave questions of what possible use they used to serve.  Through the century of its existence the ditch company has removed most of them in order to make an easier to maintain canal bank. With the available equipment today, perhaps they have already been removed.  In my day, there were many of them.

Many fields have been radically leveled requiring a very different location for its lateral. If one studies a google map, then it is quite simple to work out where the original laterals and drain ditches were located more than a century ago. There is sufficient topological and visual evidence to work it out.

 

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