A magic man
Art Pfister, who died Monday, changed my life immeasurably and likely never gave it a second thought.For this, I am eternally grateful.In the early 1990s, my wife and I had blindly sunk all the money we could beg, borrow or steal into a postage-stamp-size piece of land atop a glorious, lost hillside in Old Snowmass. We didn’t buy it as an investment or a hedge in a hot real estate market. We bought it because we thought it was the most beautiful, most peaceful place we had ever seen.But, being naïve Californians, we simply did not know what we did not know. So it came as a great surprise when we discovered, after closing on the property, that we had to actually drill a well if we ever had any hope of building a house.The best way to find water, we were advised, was to find a water witch, and there was this guy named Pfister who had the gift. It sounded like a joke to us. Not the “witch” part, but the pun about a guy who finds water and has the name of a faucet manufacturer. Still, my wife gave Art a call and he agreed to meet us at the Old Snowmass Conoco station one bright June morning.Art must have been 80 years old at the time, but he was lean and strong, and his face was tanned and lined with character. As we drove up the road I tried to make small talk, but he was having none of it. He was there that morning to find water, not make friends.We crested the steep hill toward the property and Art let out these words of discouragement: “You didn’t tell me you lived up here. There’s no water up here.” With that, he exited the car, took his forked divining rod out and began walking the width and length of our small site.Anxious out of our minds, we, of course, fell in step right behind Art and began peppering him with questions until he suddenly stopped and said, “If there’s any water, I’m not gonna find it with you both jabbering at me.” We got the picture and retreated to gaze at our investment that was now starting to look more like a landlocked dry hole than our future homesite.Strutting out of sight, down a swale, he soon summoned us. “Maybe here,” he said, pointing up ahead and turning the rod toward the earth. My heart sank. “Art,” I replied, “you’re about 100 yards over our property line.” He just gave me a look that indicated I should have been smart enough to buy more property and moved back between our little lines.We were probably 40 minutes into the “witching” when Art got a nibble. I say a nibble because his divining rod began to twitch, just like a fishing rod when a bluegill takes a small bite at the bait. “Right here,” he said, “come take a look.” There he was, just a few feet inside the corner of our property line.My wife and I made a beeline over to where he stood. There we saw the rod in his hands moving with an unseen energy. “About 400 feet down you’re gonna find some water. I’d say 10 to 15 gallons a minute. It should be enough for a house for you two.” Sweeter words were never spoken. He then handed his divining rod to my wife, and I held it as well. There was magic in it as it twitched in our hands.The rest is history. We built that house, and now, every shower we take and every glass of water we drink, we owe to a man named Pfister.On Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Hotel Jerome, we’ll be sure to raise a glass – a glass of fresh water – to our favorite witch.