Life blood of the West |

Life blood of the West

Raymond A. Bleesz
Special to the Daily
Raymond A. Bleesz | Special to the Daily

MCCOY — Water, the life blood of the West, has always been an issue for ranchers.

Water is a priceless commodity in the arid West — whether it’s a farmer growing sugar beets in eastern Colorado or dry farming in Kansas or raising cattle in Texas, where drought has been an issue for several years, or local ranchers such as Mike and Edith Lederhause, who live on a ranch along the Colorado River Road outside of McCoy.

And, historically, having a good neighbor was essential to the taming of the wild West, and that still holds true today — a neighbor to help you raise a barn, to tender to the stock when in need, to help bring in the hay before it goes bad, a neighbor who is a friend, and a neighbor who can operate a tractor backhoe, such as Loren Zhimanskova. Zhimanskova, a former New Yorker with an art history degree from Yale, is an accomplished operator and is helping Lederhause with his project.

Spring time work for ranchers involves many duties, one of which is preparing, fixing and creating irrigation systems and ditches. For Lederhause, it’s a pasture he is improving out of scruff sagebrush, cactus and red Colorado dirt that was at one time composed of native grasses by the installation of irrigation piping and associated material. Backhoe operator and neighbor Zhimanskova is up to the task in helping Lederhause complete the project, whether it is operating the backhoe, using a shovel or laying and assembling the piping sections. Straight trenches are required at a depth of approximately 3 feet — the slope of the ditch and the piping must allow for drainage. There are 4,300 feet of ditches and pipe to lay in this future pasture.

After the installation of the piping and subsequent testing, the piping and ditches are back-filled, and the ground is leveled with the backhoe and bulldozer. Further “grooming” is made in order to have as smooth a surface as possible. Rocks are carted off and the pasture is made ready for seed and watering. Lederhause said that as a kid he enjoyed playing in his sandbox playing with his toys — now this retired Colorado civil servant states that he’s enjoying his adult sandbox, his pasture, the red dirt and associated pieces of equipment in the improvement of his pasture on his ranch. The finished product will be worth it, for the increased pasture, the benefits to wildlife and better scenic value.

Timing is also critical for Lederhause. With spring runoff near —his irrigation system is gravity fed from his water source at a higher level — Lederhause must get his piping done pronto and get his future pasture ready for seeding. Water will be needed to germinate the seeded pasture, and a healthy growing season is needed to prevent erosion before winter sets in. Lederhause plans to have a larger pasture area for his horses as well as improved habitat for wildlife.

It is good to have water and a good neighbor. Water and a neighbor have been the life blood of the West.

Raymond A. Bleesz lives in Edwards.

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