By Don McAlavy
John Gordon “Spud” Greaves homesteaded southeast of Elida near Nobe in 1907. He was the father of Gordon Greaves, late publisher of the Portales News-Tribune.
This is his story:
“With the passing of 1908, we had consumed 80 days in water hauling, and decided if we were to remain on the homestead, that we would have to drill a well. Judson Hunter claimed to be a water witch and offered to come over and locate a vein of water.”
“The water witch came over with a forked switch off an apple tree to make the survey. About 50 yards north of the dugout, he said that water would be found. Next step was to locate a driller. Money was running low; there was only enough left to drill a well to 150 foot. J. W. Reed of Elida took the contract and moved his drill in.
“Weeks of drilling passed the 150 foot level without a sign of water. From day to day, we let him go deeper on credit. Cattlemen would come over and advise us to quit wasting our money, as there were 40 dry wells in the radius of two miles.
“We kept on drilling, and in February were down to 200 feet, and the drill struck a hard boulder. You could hear the drill ring at every stroke for a distance of half-a-mile. Drilling was continued on this rock for two days.
“The wife was begging us to stop as we were now flat broke and going deeper in debt with every stroke.
“Early one morning before breakfast we went down to stop the drilling and instructed Reed to quit as soon as we went through the rock. When noon came, we didn’t go to dinner but sat watching that drill. Our courage was sinking fast.
“About 3 in the afternoon, we noticed that when Reed put six buckets of water in the hole that he drew out 12. We asked if he had not hit some moisture. ‘Nothing but a sweat’ was the answer, and he let down more water and started drilling again. In about 15 minutes he drew out the tools and started slushing out. The water became clear and he told us to roll up every barrel available. We had struck water!
“The wife came to the door and called for us to come in and eat something. She had spent several hours in tears as our money and credit were sinking into what she believed to be a dry hole.
“The drill, on piercing the rock, had dropped eight feet into as fine a stream of water as one ever saw. After that our homestead became a mecca for homesteaders and freighters from as far south as Lovington.”
Many said the Colt revolver and the Sharp’s buffalo rifle had to be given the credit for taming the West — but it was the windmill that settled the West, providing life-supporting water to the rancher and homesteader.
Don McAlavy is a history buff who lives in Clovis.