Archive for January, 2022

Cool Water and Wet Feet

Posted: January 18, 2022 in free verse, poem, poet, poetry, writing

The first thing that comes to mind is usually exactly what I write about. When I begin to write and the first lines are these, it means I have no idea what I will have when I’m finished. I just call this my primer, my priming the pump . In the same way as I would begin pumping the handle on our old farm water well pump so many years ago during my childhood. And what do ya know, I have something to write about, the water well!

I have written about my mother and father before. My father was a man that could make up his mind very quickly. When an opportunity would arise, he was very quick in deciding to “jump on board” whatever it was that appeared to be a great idea. In the very early 1950’s, an opportunity was for Dad to take over the family farm that Grandpa was ready to retire from. Grandpa would still draw some of his retirement income from the farm payment, Dad would manage and do the farmwork and also draw his share of his income from the farm. Whenever the time of the death of my grandparents, my father would inherit the farm. My grandparents were in their late seventies, of poor health and it appeared to be a great way to smoothly transfer the ownership to my father.

Dad immediately began to build a new house on the property. He was a carpenter/contractor at the time and quite capable of building a new house from the ground up. He even had a saw mill and had sawed some of the needed lumber already on hand left over from work done of other carpentry jobs. As soon as the foundation, walls and roof where finished, we moved in. The house still didn’t have any indoor running water or furnace and only electric wires enough to light a few bulbs to light the construction job as it was. But Dad was fast deciding to do everything and the seven of us, 2 parents and 5 kids, were living in basically a bare house with a potbelly wood stove, no finished walls or finished floors. There were only bare boards with unpainted drywall only around the outside walls. Our toilet was an outdoor privy and water was drawn from the farm windmill and pump water well a few hundred feet from the house. This sounds like great fun, doesn’t it! I had no idea of what was transpiring. The farm deal fell through and Dad never finished the house. We lived there until I was 8 years old.

I had helped my older sisters do this many times but never by myself. To start the pump well water running I would have to pour a tin cup full of water, dipped from the cattle water tank, into the top of the pump. Then I would start pumping the handle. This primed the pump, wetted the leather seals, providing a suction as I pumped and water would soon begin to travel up the well water-pipe to begin pouring water one pump at a time. After a few pumps and the water running clear, I put the handle of the galvanized two gallon bucket that I brought with me onto the pump’s large spigot.

The average weight of a 5 year old boy is around 45 pounds. The weight of a full two gallon water bucket is around 16 pounds. As I remember this, the first time I was asked to “fetch” a bucket of water by myself I was 5 years old. As I think of it now, this was a big deal for me, being asked to do a chore as important as getting water for the house. At 5 years old I was totally unaware of water weight. But I tried to be very careful to pump and fill up the bucket as full to the rim as possible. Then only to realize that the bucket was almost too heavy to lift off of the pump’s snout. With both hands, I slowly slid the bucket’s handle off of the pump and onto the well’s wood floor, spilling two or three cups of water onto my pant legs and bare feet. This actually lightened the bucket a bit and I was able to slide my load off of the well platform the 3 or 4 inches down to the bare ground, which spilled another 2 or 3 cups onto my bare feet and the dirt path. My water bucket was getting lighter and lighter with each of my actions. I still had to carry the water along the few hundred feet of dirt path back to the house.

If you have ever carried a bucket full of water, you know it is easier to carry it with one arm at your side. But if you are a little guy, you need two hands to lift a bucket of water, even one that has lost a pint or two. Using two hands the bucket is in front of you and your feet sort of get in the way of the swinging bucket. Your knees can’t help but splash water pretty much everywhere. Your wet feet start to pick up mud, grass and little sticks from the dirt covered path you are walking on. And you have to stop a lot to rest! By the time I had travelled the whole path and standing outside of the house, there was probably less than a gallon of water left in the bucket.

Mom only looked in the bucket and to my frowning face and said “Thank you for the water, John!. You know, if you go after a bucket of water for me everyday, it won’t be long before you won’t be spilling a drop and you’ll be strong, too!” and I couldn’t wait.

Such is the life of John