Tuesday, October 20, 2009
It's A Long Drive Down Interstate 5, or that's a lot of cotton!
Title: The King of California, J.G. Boswell and The Making of A Secret American Empire.
By: Mark Arax
This book dovetails perfectly if you happen to be reading John Steinbeck, or studying the photographs of Dorothea Lange. A biography which examines the life of a very powerful farmer (at one point owning over 200,000 acres of rich farmland) used to driving bargains across bar stools and shaking down his opponents in boardrooms. The book is written by two L. A. Times journalists who, after much convincing, are lucky to have their subject, Jim Boswell himself, drive them around in his old pickup truck and tell them his version of the story. Boswell’s company drained Tulare Lake, once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, (four times the size of Lake Tahoe). Finally it comes down to the value of water and to what extremes Jim Boswell and his business empire did to get that water. Boswell & Co. was one of the first companies to employ lasers to level fields so that water flowed evenly and efficiently. He hired the best and most creative scientists who perfected the soil and germination of cotton seed. Boswell & Co.'s special Pima cotton is considered the finest cotton grown anywhere in the world. Carefully intertwined throughout the book are the personal sacrifices and racial differences; stories of sharecroppers escaping to California; the strategy and consequence of importing laborers from Mexico in the 1930's. Did you know that it takes 257 gallons to make one cotton T-shirt? But at what cost to the environment? Includes maps and photo illustrations.