Water Woes

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal 8 Comments

Wilderness Shower
I love the sounds and the power of pounding water, whether it is the waves or a waterfall. ~Mike May

The more often we see the things around us – even the beautiful and wonderful things – the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds – even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less. ~Joseph B. Wirthlin

The same can be said about the wonderful conveniences we are all so used to here in America. Sunday when we got home from church, I turned on the faucet as I was fixing lunch. Water dribbled out, but without any water pressure. Then it stopped coming out at all. A call to a neighbor revealed the problem wasn’t ours alone. That was good news. At least we didn’t have to search for a broken pipe in our yard. No, the broken pipe was up the road a ways and everybody on our road was without water. That was unhandy. I like having that nice clean water piped right into my house.

It hasn’t always been that way for me. For years we did not have water piped to our house. We had a cistern. A big concrete cistern that held a lot of water. When it rained, water off the roof flowed into gutters that funneled the water through a filter into the cistern. In those days out here on the farm, what we called “city” water wasn’t available except by hiring a guy with a big tank on his truck to haul it to us for a price. My teenage son loved going on vacation at motels where his mother didn’t yell at him to get out of the shower. But when it wasn’t raining, hauling water was expensive.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a big cistern. We had a rock lined well like cistern that was ages old. Occasionally my father would clean out the cistern when the water in it got low. Of course, when the water in it got low and it wasn’t raining, we were hurting for water. Then we’d have to take milk cans or jugs down to a spring around on the road that never ran dry. At least not in my memory. But most of the time it rained enough to keep us in drinking water. We had another big old tank outside that caught rainwater from a different section of the roof that we used to water the hens and dogs and hauled inside for washing clothes. The cows had the pond. We were country people but we managed. And we rarely got sick.

But the other day when water quit coming out of the faucet, it was harder to think about managing without that nice easy access to water. I no longer had a cistern of water to fall back on. We do have a spring, but it wouldn’t be easy to get water there. At least not nearly as easy as turning a tap. We’re spoiled to the conveniences of clean water at the twist of a knob, with electricity at the click of a switch, with heat that flows into our houses through vents, with television shows flying through space to us. We did have electricity when I was a kid. My sister remembers when the first wires were run out our way, but I don’t. But we kept our house warm with a wood stove. Well, only sections of it warm. In the winter, there was definitely family togetherness around the stove. We had a television with an antenna drawing in the three stations. One of the stations didn’t come in very well. And our telephone belonged to the telephone company and was attached to the wall with seven other families sharing the same line. Not much was secret for long in our community if you mentioned it on the phone.

But even then things were more convenient than for the pioneers before us. I think those frontiersmen were probably happy when they came across a waterfall like in the picture above. A great way to enjoy a shower. Of course, in those days it was considered foolhardy and inviting illness to bathe too often. So see, everything works out. And thank goodness, the water company worked on Sunday and got water running through the pipes back to all our houses again. That’s one bill I don’t mind paying at all.

Have you always had modern conveniences in your life?

In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it. ~Lao Tzu


Comments 8

  1. Pat Brown Holland

    My childhood experience was pretty much like yours. Saturday night we hauled the big old galvanized tub into the kitchen and filled it with water warmed on top of the cooking stove That’s when everyone took turns taking their weekly bath!
    One thing that my mom tells me about is that one time the party line was unavailable for a long period of time. Finally snoring was heard on the line. A neighbor checked on a lady who was known to listen in on other people’s telephone conversations. Sure enough, when they checked at her house she had fallen asleep catching up on the gossip while listening in on the party line!

    1. Post
      Ann H Gabhart

      That’s funny, Pat. I don’t think we ever caught anybody snoring on our party line, but that wouldn’t have been surprising. Some of the conversations weren’t all that interesting but they did go on and on or at least it felt like that when you were wanting to make a call and the line was busy.

  2. Betty w

    I, too, remember most of the things in your newsletter. I remember going to my grandparents house & having to go pull up water from the well or use the hand pump in the kitchen to get water to cook & clean. I appreciate the modern conveniences such as, water, air condioners & furnaces, electricity,etc. We had a water outage from the city water tower go out, & had to by water at the grocery. One winter an ice storm came & we were without electricity…I.e no heat or lights. Talk about tough getting ready for work each day. It was a blessing to go to work they had heat. My elderly parents were home using the fireplace as heat…still cold in the house. Give thanks in all things.

    1. Post
      Ann H Gabhart

      Indeed, Betty. We can give thanks for the wonderful conveniences we have. We had an ice storm several years ago and our electricity was out for over a week. Thank goodness, we were still heating with a wood stove then. I could heat water for my tea. LOL. And make some soup beans. But it was nice when the electricity came back on. Everything you thought about doing seemed to take power.

  3. Karen Jones

    Does that bring back memories! My Mother’s parents lived in upstate NY and every summer we would visit. They, also, had a cistern and water was rationed. When we were there my parents took the clothes to the laundromat because to wash clothes for seven would have probably emptied the cistern. If there was that much water to begin with. A wringer washer was used, a tub was brought into the kitchen in which to bathe (my sisters and I took turns bathing in the same water) and we stood to have a pot of water poured over us to rinse. The water was heated on a wood burning stove! Only the outdoor type toilets were available but they were upscale! 😊 Attached to a side of the house off the enclosed breezeway we didn’t have to go outside AND there were two holes in case of an emergency. My grandfather cleaned them out daily from the outside and I never heard him complain. He lived to be 97 and my Grandmother 89. When I was 12 they built an upscale bathroom with a toilet, tub, sink and running water, but still had a cistern. We were allowed only two fingers of water in the tub! Wow! How spoiled we are today. Thank you for sharing. 😊

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      Ann H Gabhart

      It does bring back memories. I did a lot of sponge bathing with a wash pan. You can get clean that way too, but a shower is much more refreshing. 🙂 I also washed many, many loads of clothes on a wringer washer. I wrote a blog about wash day changes last year sometime. I can never understand why people complain about doing laundry these days. It’s hardly even a task any more. And your grandparents did have upscale toilets. Most of those outhouses came with a path, not a breezeway. Thanks for going down memory lane with me. Whether we had the conveniences or not, we had good times.

  4. Lane Hill House

    During three years on the farm before moving because of drought, we had electricity and a hand pump outside. A woodstove for heat and a brick heated in the oven and wrapped in newspaper to put at the foot of your bed to keep you warm all tucked in. So many memories of those “4th-6th grade” years before we moved to the city where jobs were. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

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      Ann H Gabhart

      I’m guessing those years have left some good memories for you, Kathleen. We never did the brick in the oven to keep warm, but we did have featherbeds that cuddled up around us and kept us warm and of course, piles of quilts. One thing sure, you woke up fast when your feet hit the floor in the morning. 🙂

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