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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

Songs and Poems

Peach Trees

by Peggy Pond Church

Do not hurry past this orchard too quickly
Saying: Yes, surely that is a beautiful thing.
As though the moment of flaming were the
purpose of this orchard
Accomplished now that your all-claiming eyes
have seen it.
Remember that before these trees were ever planted,
A thin, small, unprotesting beast of burden
Dragged a curved plough through the reluctant earth,
With a man stooping behind in the hot sun to
guide it.
Remember a wide ditch had to be dug here
to coax the river
Up the dry, stubborn flanks of these hills, a
long time barren,
And that a woman, ageless as the brown hills are ageless,
Hoed the difficult earth about the young roots planted,
And dreamed, before ever the slender branches had budded,
Of yellow fruit spread to the sun in her dooryard
in autumn.

About Poet: Peggy Pond Church

Peggy Pond Church was born on an isolated ranch in the Territory of New Mexico in 1903 at a place known as Valmora. She was associated with the Santa Fe writers' group of the 1920s and 1930s and much of her writing is influenced by nature and the beauty of Northern New Mexico.

In the poem she describes the "wide ditch" that had to be dug to "coax the river" up into the orchard. She is referring to an irrigation system used for generations by residents of Northern New Mexico. The ditch, or acequia, system, evolved over 10,000 years in the deserts of the Middle East and were introduced into southern Spain by the Moors during their nearly 800-year occupation. Spanish colonizers took acequias to the New World. Water was considered a communal resource. A mayordomo, or watermaster, of the acequia made decisions about water distribution among community members, with the consent and advice of the acequia district members. This communal system of irrigating was a response to the scarcity of water in arid regions and was key to the survival of agricultural communities.

In the spring, every able-bodied male was required to show up on the appointed day and time to clean and repair the acequia madre—the mother ditch—from which each individual plot received irrigation water. Once the main irrigation canal was repaired and water began flowing, the mayordomo monitored the use of water for irrigation by each acequia member. Each member was assigned a specific time each week to irrigate his personal field. If an irrigator used water without the mayordomo's permission, he was severely punished by having water withheld from his fields. If the acequia madre was breached during the year, the mayordomo called on every irrigator to help repair it. This was considered a sacred duty.

Comprehension Questions
  1. Why does the poet urge the reader not to hurry past the orchard too quickly?
  2. What is the moment of flaming?
  3. What does the poet want her reader to remember? What is the process she is describing? Write down the steps taken to plant the peach orchard.
  4. What did the old woman dream?