Tap water far better than dry well

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 6, 2014

Have you ever lived where the well ran dry?

When I was a little girl, we moved to a coal mining camp where my parents worked in the company store. We lived in a company house across the road from the store. Our water source was a community well. Along with everyone else who depended on the well, we had to be stingy with the water. Washday was often a problem since at times there was not even enough water available to wash and rinse clothes.

One morning my parents discovered a caved in hole beside the house next to my bedroom window. They thought it might be a long-abandoned mine. That scared me. I imagined myself waking up some morning sitting up in bed in a dark tunnel. I quickly put that thought to rest when my parents’ inquiries to the mining company and some old-time camp residents revealed it was a filled-in well.

Daddy was excited. He decided to clean out the well. We could still use the community well for drinking water. This newly discovered well might mean that we could water the grass and my mother’s flowers, have plenty for weekly washdays, and occasionally wash the car. Mother was scared. She was afraid there might be gaseous fumes in the well. Daddy was determined. Every evening after work, he headed straight for that well. That is where Bear, a man who did odd jobs in the camp, fitted in. He had helped my daddy with projects before, so Daddy recruited him. Bear was willing with one stipulation—he would help any way as long as he didn’t have to get down in that hole. They both dug until the hole was deep enough for Daddy to get in it to work. He filled buckets with dirt and handed them up to Bear who hauled them to the surface.

Daddy had a new adventure every day while my mother lived with fear of gaseous fumes or the hole might cave in. Daddy got excited over some of the things he unearthed as he dug. He pulled out old medicine bottles of every description, a brass bedstead, and an old pop bottle with a glass top attached. He found many bricks from a bakery that once stood on the site. Night after night, the work continued. Sometimes when I went to bed, Daddy and Bear were still at it.

My mother and I were relieved when the well digging ceased. Daddy piped the water into some storage tanks he had placed in the yard to catch rainwater. For a while, Daddy’s well provided plenty of water. Then the water suddenly stopped flowing. Yes, the well went dry. Daddy covered the opening carefully to prevent any accidents. Once again, we went back to conserving every drop of water.

When Daddy’s well adventure comes to mind, I realize how blessed I am today with flowing water at the turn of a faucet.