Crawford farms a small piece of land in the semiarid mountains of New Mexico, where, thanks to an irrigation ditch, water flows through everyone's land and centers much of everyone's life. This book--which won a well. deserved 1988 Western States Book Award--is Crawford's journal of a year's work revolving around the ditch. In spare, exquisitely lucid prose, Crawford chronicles the toils of preparing the ditch for the irrigation season; keeping the ditch in working order; negotiating work assignments and conflicts among shareholders in the ditch; and closing it down for the winter. The work includes backbreaking labor; directing often troublesome work crews; mastering intricate physical details of terrain, technique, and the habits of flora and fauna; and gaining particular knowledge and skills almost unimaginable to the rest of us. Above all, the job requires the talents of an expert judge of human nature and a consummate politician. Crawford brings to life a vivid microcosm that unobtrusively develops into an extended metaphor of man's condition in the natural world and society. By leaving the meanings understated, he creates a crystal-clear, self-contained world rich in implication. And without a hint of preaching, he speaks to the ecological crises of today. A humdinger of a book.