National Geographic : 1910 Apr
THE SPIRIT OF THE WEST The Wonderful Agricultural Development Since the Dawn of Irrigation BY C. J. BLANCHARD, U. S. RECLAMATION SERVICE T HE spirit of the West is optimism and progress. It is the spirit that fired the hearts of our forefathers who erected in the primeval forests of New England the superstructure of the greatest nation on earth. It is the op timism and faith which imbued their descendants who carved an agricultural empire of unparalleled richness from the Mississippi Valley. Once a wilderness so unpromising that it evoked derision in the halls of Con gress, the West has become today the land of fortune and opportunity. In this land of boundless distances the altitude is stimulating, the air is a tonic, giving health to the infirm and courage to those who have failed elsewhere. Its constant sunshine encourages optimism and cheer fulness. The glories of its opal-tinted dawns, the indescribable- beauty of its sunsets, and the nameless witchery of its twilight softly melting into night are the work of a divine painter. There is mental and spiritual uplift in its mountains, whose summits are in regions of perpetual snow. Its sapphire lakes, excelling in beauty those of Swit zerland, open up a wondrous field of interest and pleasure to the sight-seer and those in search of rest and recreation. The monarchs of its forests cast their shadows on the earth before the coming of the gentle Nazarene. Its canyons, sculptured during un counted centuries by wind and wave, are unrivaled in their wonderful and varied coloring and in their awe - inspiring depths. Its deserts, in vastness of area, in po tential wealth of soil and climate, and in rivers of constant supply, are sleeping empires awaiting exploitation and de velopment. Here nature offers to every man his birthright-a wide sky, the sun shine, the wind, and a sure reward for intelligent effort. Here things are writ in characters too vast for human pen. It is our own land of mystery and enchantment, of crumbling ruins, and of lost races which have vanished utterly. On the lofty mesas of the painted desert are "tribes whose ceremonies bridge the years between ages of stone and steam," living antique lives in a modern day. Their houses are fortresses erected a hundred years before Columbus sailed the unknown western seas. On their walls the watchman still holds vigil, and in their kivas strangely clad priests recite their prayers, which may antedate those of our own religion. The -late: Governor John A., Johnson well said the West symbolizes "homes for the homeless; food for the hungry; work for the unemployed; land for the landless; gold for the penniless; freedom for the enslaved; adventure for the rest less; dangers for the brave; an unknown world to conquer, and room for all." Irrigation has wrought its miracle, and 13,000,000 acres reclaimed are annually producing harvests valued at more than $250,000,000, and supporting in homes of their own more than 300,000 families. The wealth of that portion of the coun try which great statesmen in Webster's day were wont to declare worthless is greater now than that of the entire nation in 1860. In the swift march of national events during the past decade, the development of the West has focussed the attention of the world. It furnishes one of the * For previous articles on this subject by the same author see "Winning the West." February, 1906; "Millions for Moisture," April, 1907; "Home-making by the Government," April, 19o8; "The Call of the West," May, 1909, NAT. GEOG. MAG.