RIVERS: Dry & High

To Tin Pan Alley, the Rio Grande is a sparkling, star-filled stream that incites cowboys and senoritas to romance. Normally, the river is a chocolate-colored ditch, treacherous with potholes where many an unwary wetback has drowned. It swirls between banks of cactus and mesquite down 1,800 miles of rich, irrigated farmland to the Gulf of Mexico. Last week most of the lower Rio Grande, from Laredo (pop. 51,910) to its mouth at the southernmost tip of Texas, was a dry arroyo; at Laredo, the river ran dry for the first time since...

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