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Jess Jackson wriggled into his half-wetsuit, threw on an air tank, regulator, and mask, and plunged into the vineyard’s dark reservoir. The icy water burned his exposed arms and legs. He could see nothing under the surfacedawn was still hours away. He’d have to feel along the slimy bottom of the pond until he found the weeds and algae that had clogged the irrigation pumps, then rip them loose so the reservoir waters could once again flow to the vines.
His big hands reduced to clumsy clubs by the cold, he tried not to panic as he felt around with numbed fingers. He knew time was not on his side. The banks of drippers and sprayers in the fields could protect the grapes from fatal frost. Liquid water soon froze once sprayed on the vines, but that was good: it insulated the fragile fruit, forming a barrier between the grapes and the much colder air temperature that would burn and ruin the crop. But the vital pumps had clogged, the protective waters were not flowing, it was the middle of the night, and there was no one but this middle-aged lawyer and part-time vintner there to do something about the incessant frost alarm. Jackson knew he either could complete this crazy, bone chilling dive and risk possible hypothermia to save his fledgling vineyard, or he could walk away, go sit by the fire, and lose the farm in a matter of hours. As in, literally, lose the farm.
In truth, this wasn’t much of a debate for Jackson. In a crisis he preferred offense to defense, whatever the consequencespunching rather than rolling with the punches. His years working as a policeman, an ambulance driver, a lumberjack, a gambler, and assorted other risky and dicey careers had convinced him of that mucha resumé that, years later, would make him a unique entry on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest men. So
he had raced to rummage through the storeroom where he had stashed his diving rig. No one else in the family had been quite sure why he had hauled all this junk up to the farm. Now it seemed there had been a method to the madness, as he told his wide-eyed daughter, “I’m going in.”