I ran into the house ahead of a cloudburst the other afternoon – it started pouring buckets of water just as I got inside.
I turned the radio on, and they were talking about drought in California. Between the talk of the drought and the deluge hitting my roof, I felt like I had water on the brain.
After the clouds moved on and the rain let up, I went out to mess with the chickens, turning over the pan with the feed I had just put in, that was now filled with water.
I took a little walk, and water was bubbling up all around. I love to try to track water coming up here and there in places where I haven’t seen it before. We live on a south face and have a great spring up the mountain from us, but it seems dry at first glance.
When we moved up here, there was a spring beside the old house that had served the Prince family for years. It came from under a rock and was consistent for the several years we lived there.
The water we used in that house came from the same spring we use now. At first we had a handmade reservoir and the spring was open to the elements, but we had a new reservoir put in.
Even if it seems dry, there are things that show water is just under the ground in many places. When we broke ground for the house we now live in, we hit a spring that had not shown itself anywhere. We had to stop construction until we had that water drained off and away from the house place. To solve the problem, we diverted the spring into a small pond. Now that spring has dried up, and we have to add water to the pond from a hose. I suspect the water from under the house is being taken up by an ironwood tree we planted between the house and the pond.
We have kind of an elaborate gravity water system, but it is still spring water. I have been in several houses where the spring was above the house and a pipe would run straight into the house from the spring. Other times the water would be piped a long way into a reservoir and then down to the house. Mountain people have some very interesting ways to get water to the house. Our old friend Ben Nicholson had a ram pump he used to get water from below the house to a reservoir above the house so he could have gravity water.
I love to find old home places and track down the spring and figure out how they got the water into the house. Then I clear away the leaves and such to get a drink. I know it’s probably not safe, but I do it anyway. I guess I get that from my daddy. He loved water, but not the water that came out of the tap in Bryson City. He didn’t like water that had chemicals added, and he would carry gallon jugs around to collect water.
We’d go on a Sunday drive and he would stop on the side of the road to get water anytime he saw a pipe that stuck out of the bank. Those used to be all along the roads when I was a kid. Where are they now? (There was one on N.C. 281 going up the hill past Tanasee Creek Lake – I wonder if it is still there.) Anytime we visited a house that Daddy thought had a spring, he would ask for a drink. If the water tasted good, he would ask if he could have some of their water. Everyone was proud of their spring water and would brag about it, so they were happy to give Daddy a jug of water. I remember him carrying a load of feed to a family on Watkins Branch. It must have been summer because I was riding in the Jeep with him. When he pulled up to the house, the man came out and said, “Come in Glenn and have a dipper of cold water.” I remembered that sentence because it sounded strange to me. Granny would have said “Could I get you a drink of something?”
Once when we were in Bakersville visiting Granny and Granddad McKinney, Daddy took me down to a house that was just below Granddad’s to taste the water from their spring like it was some kind of special water. He told me it was one of his favorite springs from his childhood, so I guess it was better than the spring water Granny and Granddad had.
When Daddy came to visit Tom and me, he would bring plastic milk jugs and collect water to take back home and just carry on over the taste. Now I love my water, and I carry it with me when I go places, but I don’t have the refined taste that Daddy had. He would be amazed with the way people carry water around today – how people don’t leave the house without their water bottle or else they have to stop and get a bottle of water from the store. I don’t ever remember buying water in the store when we were on a trip – that was the time for a Coca-Cola.
I guess I thought Daddy was a little crazy over the water thing because I didn’t know anyone else who took on so about water or carried jars of water in their car. Looking back, I just think he was ahead of his time. If he were still alive, he could be a water taster in a fancy water-bottling factory. That would have been the job of his dreams.
Recipe for summer refreshment: enamel dipper and cold spring water.