Monday, August 31, 2009

The Old Well

From the old house we lived in on the farm, it was a long walk for short legs to the well. It was located up past the first garden, about half way to the barn and corn crib. There was a farm road to cross to get to the well.

It had a little shed over it with a floor around the well. A box enclosed the well which was about four feet in diameter. The box would shake like there was an earthquake when we let the bucket down. Remembering, I'd say it was about 20 feet to the water. The sides of the well were of dirt. There was no way to get out if you fell in.

The windlass was used to haul up the full bucket. It was made of a log with an iron rod through the middle (more or less). The rod was crooked so all you had to do was turn it round and round and let the rope wind up around the log. When the bucket got within reaching distance, you leaned over and grabbed the handle and swung it to the edge of the box while holding onto the iron rod. If you accidentally turned loose of the rod (handle) the bucket would go back to the bottom or to the water surface with a big bang. It could damage the bucket so you tried to never let that happen. If it did happen, it was good to not have your fingers on the handle or try to reach and grab it. It could break fingers and arms. You could however slow the bucket by putting your hand on the log.

On wash-day, we might draw up dozens of buckets of water. It was a job that left your body one big ache. Bath water was the same if the river was too muddy or the water too swift.

The worst time was after dark when the water bucket got empty in the house and someone had to go get a bucket or two of water. Snakes were common on the farm. That is why we loved our dogs, they would attack a snake if it got close. Those buckets would be heavy for me now, I know they must have strained my arms back then.

I never fell into the well but I had a cousin who fell in another well about that time. He survived after his dad jumped in and held him above the water until someone could get a rope to them.

Nowadays, the wells are drilled and are too small for a person to fall in, but those old wells were dug by hand and were death traps if not treated with respect. Something to keep in mind while exploring old home sites.

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