Friday, May 16, 2003

Sweet Water

Did you ever wonder much about what happened to the custom of offerin' folks a cold drink of water?

Back when I was a youngin' it was custom when folks was a visitin' or even if they stopped by as they was a walkin' here or yonder to offer a cool drink of water. Most times that drink wasn't given till someone took time to draw up a fresh bucket of water from the depths of the well.

Wells in the mountains were usually of two types. The first and oldest was the big, open shallow well. Y'all can find these in the hollers...down between the hills where the water runs easy. It ain't peculiar to find it there. Every mountain stream runs down from the side of the hills in Kentucky and into the shallow hollers. The valleys are plumb full of streams, rills, trickles and creeks. They in turn are full of life...

Water skippers, mudpuppies, crawdaddies, minners and chubs. sometimes a hellbender and always, always tadpoles, little ol' frogs, salamanders and in the deep spots, them places where y'all better not tell about if'n ya find 'em is some of the best eatin' bluegill a feller can find. Ya know the ones I'm cravin' about now, don'tcha? They is only about as big as your hand, but when they are cleaned and fried crisp - roll 'em in corn meal and wait till your cast iron skillet is plumb hot. Then drop 'em in real careful like. When they are done...they ain't gonna last long. Whooeee.

Well, enough of chasin' that rabbit of a thought.

The first well is a shallow well, dug by hand, usually dug years ago and not too very deep. Sometimes a feller could go maybe 10 or 20 feet and have a well full of sweet, clean mountain water. Why, some folks just had a spring house built around a seepin' spring on the side of the hill.

The other and newer well wall deep and narrow. Folks had a long pipe-like well bucket they would drop into the depths of these wells. Only way a person could know when it hit the water was to listen for the "blurp". Another higher "blurp" would tell ya to draw it on up.

When a feller would want a drink, folks would draw up a fresh bucket of water. As it made it's way down through the heart of the mountain it was purified till it was clean and pure.

Great Aunt's Mag and Bess never wasted a thing at the old Arnett home place. The old bucket of water was thrown into the ol' tractor tire - cut in half- that laid out in the yard for the chickens. Then the bucket was filled full.

It was polite to give the first sup to the company. If they was more than one...everbody took a drink before youngins did. I don't know why, but other folks drinkin' that cold, sweet water made me want a swaller ever' time. 'Course, ya never drank from the same spot as other folks. Ya turned the dipper to a clean spot.

Didn't wanna pass nothin', after all.

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