Monday, March 23, 2009

Norman James - The Little Shack on the Prairie - Part 4


The availability of potable water was a continual problem for us. There was a shallow, hand-dug well just across the creek that ran behind the barn, but the well and creek were connected, so the water was unclean. We used that water for laundry and bathing, but we carried water from a deep well for drinking and cooking. There was a drilled well with a windmill pump at Clyde Brown’s place, about three-quarters of a mile away. There we filled our drinking-water jug, a large brown clay jug covered with a thick blanket of burlap. The burlap was kept damp to cool the jug by evaporation. There is something about such a jug, with the dank odor of wet burlap, that makes the water taste better and quench the thirst better than any other source, or so it seemed to me.

Later on, Clyde put a powered pump on the well at the old Garrett James place, which he owned, and built a well-house over it. From that time we carried our drinking water from there, since it was a little closer. This water had a very strong sulphur (hydrogen sulphide) taste and odor, and took some getting used to. Later, when I drank water anywhere else, it seemed weak and tasteless! Since Dad was gone much of the time, Mother was left with the job of walking after water. We boys did help out when we got older.

After rural ice delivery began, we used an old baby buggy to carry a 25-pound cake of ice from the road (the ice truck stopped at Granddad’s place) to our house, a distance of about one-third mile. During those times that we had a car, ice was carried from town. A 25-pound block of ice cradles nicely in the back bumper of a Model A Ford.

Mother used a wash tub for an ice box. She wrapped the ice, along with the food to be cooled, in a quilt and set it in the tub. The ice had to last a week, for that's how often the ice truck came. The tub sat in the floor near the back door. A special treat that we enjoyed in the summer was "milkshake", made from milk, sugar, vanilla, and some ice, shaken together in a quart fruit jar. Cool and tasty!

Dad dug a well just behind the house. He hoped to find good water so we wouldn't have to walk so far to get water. He started with a shovel and dug away the topsoil and subsoil. A few feet down he hit the solid limestone that underlies that area. He used a sledge hammer and a drill to bore holes in the rock, then blasted it loose with dynamite. When the well was eight or ten feet deep water began to seep in, so Dad quit digging. When the well had filled with water, a few drowned earthworms were found floating in it, so Dad pronounced the water unfit to drink. We were all disappointed, as this meant that we would have to continue carrying drinking water. However, water for laundry would be close at hand, for up to this time it had been carried from the well across the creek. Sometime later Dad put a pitcher pump on the well, so we no longer had to draw water with a bucket on a rope.

As did all farm women in those days, Mother hand-washed our clothes and hung them on a line to dry. Water was heated on the kitchen stove and carried out to the washtub, which sat on a stand behind the house.

The clothesline ran from the corner of the barn to a persimmon tree about fifty feet away. One windy day the nail holding the line to the barn pulled out, dumping a full load of wet clothes and sheets on the dusty ground. Mother had to gather them up and wash them again.

We usually kept a cow, and so had plenty of milk for drinking, cooking, and making butter and cheese. We had no churn; we made butter by shaking the cream in a fruit jar until the butter formed. Mother made cottage cheese from clabbered milk by first putting it into a cloth sugar sack and hanging it on the clothesline to drip. When it was fairly dry she added salt, pepper, a little sugar, and chopped onion tops. Nobody makes it that good anymore.

1 comment:

  1. chief moytoy was my 6 greats grandfather. The lineage is Tame doe-mary woodson-thomas creasy-susan creasy-anna martin miller,boyea,lowers-isaiah boyea-alphonse boyea & myself naoma boyea , le barron,winkel,mike.