In a barren place surrounded by the lush abundance of California's San Joaquin Valley live the 300 Negro men, women and children of Teviston. Most of the family heads went to the valley from Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas some 20 years ago as migrant farm workers, pinched their dollars, and with earnest pride bought their own land on a sandy alkali flat and called it home. The neighboring town and country were nourished by huge water projects and irrigation systems. Other valley towns thrived, but Teviston never amounted to much because it had no water supply of its own. To get their water, Teviston people had to go to nearby Pixley or Earlimart and haul it back in battered milk cans and oil drums. They measured their status by the number of cans and drums that they could acquire.
For years, some of Teviston's leaders dreamed of digging a deep well and creating a water district of their own, but cash and hope were scarce. Then, five years ago, Field Hand James Morning, Farmer John Williams and Missionary Baptist Preacher Robert Daniels began talking up the idea. They got Bard McAllister, a representative of the American Friends Service Committee, to come over from Visalia to help. For four years McAllister worked and argued with the people, tried to explain how a community effort could bring running water into their homes.
At length, Teviston voted to create the water district, even though the assessed valuation on their land was so low that a bond issue seemed out of the question. Still, Teviston hired a lawyer, and the people emptied their pockets, begged loans from banks, floated a tiny ($7,800) bond issue. Even after the deep well was dug, the hard-pressed laborers had to dig down for more money to help pay for equipment and water lines. A few bluntly refused: "I'll believe it when I see the water," grumbled one.
Early one morning last week, when the other valley towns were canopied with lights and tinsel, a big trailer truck lumbered past the great farms, turned into the chuckholed sandy roads of the drab alkali flat, and deposited its cargo on an empty lot. Ragged children and rheumy old men and women with babies shuffled over, and some men pushed forward and gently laid their hands on the new thing. The Rev. Mr. Daniels took off his hat, bowed his head and said: "Father, thank thee for this wonderful blessing."
For the children this week there were few toys, little tinselonly one Christmas tree (at the church) in the whole community. But the 300 Negroes of Teviston had a promise of bounty that seemed greater than all the growing things in the green valley: fresh water that would run to every house in Teviston from the deep well on the empty lot. And standing over the well like a monument, was the gift (sold at half price by one company, installed at no charge by another) that they had given to each otherthe pride of the new Teviston Water Districta big, blue, beautiful pump.