On summer mornings, young James Eklund would often wake before dawn. When daylight was just a suggestion on the horizon, the eight-year-old rode with the cattle from his family’s Flying Triangle Ranch to higher pastures in the mountains. Occasionally he would accompany his grandfather, Edwin Gunderson Jr., on the walk from the house to the irrigation ditch to bring water to the fields. He’d help his uncles fix fences, clean the ditch, and move cows on the Mesa County ranch near Collbran. These were the moments when Eklund first learned about water, the life-giving force, an inalienable right, and a critical ingredient to the business that sustained his family. He learned the water that flowed through the head gates from Plateau Creek was theirs to use because they had been in the area long before others upstream—ever since his great-great-grandfather arrived from Norway and homesteaded the land in 1888.