Thursday, August 4, 2011

Well Water

The hand pump on the right side of this picture was over the well outside the back door of the house my Mom (on the left, talking to one of her many cats - while the cat in the window was listening in) called home for over 65 years. She always said the water from her well was the best tasting water anywhere. She also said the well never went dry - even when all the other wells on the farm did during drought years. It wasn't very deep, so it must have tapped into a very good aquifer or a spring.
I wonder which came first, the well or the house. It makes sense to me that the early builder of that farm site would have wanted a convenient source of water near the house - i.e. the well would have come first and the house built next to it. Regardless, that old hand pump brought up many, many gallons of water before an electric pump was installed.

We all grew up with the pumping of water as one of our 'chores' - buckets full for Mom to carry out to the chicken house and down to the brooder house. Buckets full to carry to the garden to water the plants. Jugs full to haul out to the hay field or to the threshers or to take along on a picnic.

Ron was five and I wasn't quite two years old when this picture was taken of us near the well. The dipper always hung on a piece of wire which encircled the top of the pump. A bucket was always kept under the spout so no water was wasted. In the summer if you wanted a drink, you pumped the water out until it got as cold as possible. (Dad would usually pump a bucketful before deeming the water cold enough.) Obviously I did not want a drink of water as much as was thought - or else I couldn't hold the dipper by myself. I'm pointing out that I spilled the water and Ron is saying, "Yeah, and it got on my foot!"

Pumping the well was more of a fun thing to do for the grand children and great grand kids. As soon as they were big enough, they wanted to pump water out of the well. There was a time when a little frog would come out almost every time the well was pumped. What a surprise that was for those little ones!

Remember in the movie A Christmas Story where the little boy is dared to stick his tongue on a pole and it freezes? Mom was always warning us not to stick our tongues on the pump - that it would get stuck if we did. I believed her. However, my little sister Betty had to try it for herself. She learned the hard way that she should listen to Mom's advice.

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis, J. Wilson's brewvana, is what got me to thinking about well water. J. is a dedicated home brewer and while I prefer wine over beer, I enjoy following his blog. A couple days ago he wrote about being asked to sample a couple batches from a new father-son brewery. Both batches used the same recipe. The only difference - one used well water and the other used 'city' water. J. preferred the one made with the well water which reminded me of my mother saying her well water was the best water anywhere.

In this old picture (1978) my kids and I are at the Elm Spring pump southwest of Carbon. Doug is pumping water; Kari is cupping her hands to get a drink, I'm laughing at her and I'm not sure what Preston is doing. The Elm Spring pump has been a reliable source of water for many years. The water is very good; very cold.

(In the late 1800's, Bud's great uncle, 16 year old Michael Bronner, was killed in a sand cave-in near this spring.)

When I was in Ireland in 1994, I saw many what I considered 'unusual' pumps. Not all of them were as nicely painted as this one in Athlone. That's an Athlone Castle wall in the background. Athlone is a strategically located town on the Shannon River in County Westmeath - the county of my Lynam forebears. Before there was a castle, there was a fort. Before there was a fort there was a bridge (1100's). Before there was a bridge, there was a ford - the only way across the Shannon until Clonmacnoise to the south and beyond Lough Ree to the north. Athlone held a vital position during many wars.

There are more than 3,000 Holy Wells in Ireland. I stopped at St. David's Well in Oylegate in County Wexford. It was/is believed that drinking from or bathing in water from holy wells can heal. At many well sites, strips of cloth can be seen tied to the branches of trees and bushes. These are known as clootie wells. (In Scots nomenclature a clootie or cloot is a strip of cloth.) The belief was the cloth absorbed the illness and was left behind. Another practice was making a wish and leaving an offering of a coin or stone. It has been estimated almost three million English pounds a year are thrown into wishing wells.

St. David is the patron saint of Wales. Some of his last words were: "Do the little things in life". My Mom would have related to that. She excelled at doing the little things in life while being content to do so.

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