The Farm Chronicles: The four wells

There were four wells on the farm. The one out behind the barn had been filled in probably in the late 1800s. I wouldn’t have known it was there but for riding past it on my pony Tricker when I was about six years old. I looked down, noticing the sinking hole in the ground and there were about three dozen baby garter snakes slithering around. Tricker snorted and jumped sideways and I almost fell among them. The second well was located about 20 yards from the house. This well was used as a back-up when more water was needed. We had a hand pump on that hand-dug well. It had a stone apron with a hole bored through the middle and we kept a large rock over it so no one or thing would fall in.

The third well was located on the East side of the farm house. This was our primary water source. It was a hand-dug well about 20 feet deep and was lined with a circle of stacked rocks about three feet in diameter. This well was also capped with a large stone apron sitting about three feet off the ground with a two-foot hole bored into it. The hole was covered with another large flat rock. When running water and indoor plumbing was installed in the house in the 1950s, a pipe was run down this well and connected to another that went into the cellar to a pump. In the 1940s, Dad built the new milk house over the fourth well. It provided the water for the livestock, but there were issues. In fact, all of them had issues.

The well in the milk house, which in 1968 became a tack room when we built the horse barn, was pretty shallow. It may or may not pump enough water to fill the 250 gallon (a 500 gallon oil tank cut in half) water trough next to the milk house, the trough we used to water the cattle wintering over in the old barn, and some 25 buckets of water for the horses—twice a day. If the water ran out, it was likely that we would take an axe and two buckets about 150 yards to the pond, chop a hole in the ice and start carrying water. The milk house well had a pump. But in the cold winter months, the pump would freeze up. So we had to take newspapers light them on fire and hold them to the pump for it to thaw out. It was a great day when Dad brought home an old pot belly stove that we could use to keep the pump from freezing and come in out of the cold.

The well at the house also would run dry sometimes. We would have to wait for it to fill back up to finish the dishes or worse, sit in the bath tub waiting for more water. AND, the pipes to the kitchen sink would often freeze because there was no insulation between the cellar and the floor on the inside of the Northwest wall. That would shut down the water for the bathroom, too, since they were on the same line. So we would go to the hand pump and carry water until enough newspapers were burnt to thaw out the pipes. Isaiah 12:3 says, “Therefore with joy you shall draw water out of the wells of salvation.” I often think back on those wells and the struggles with them. I’m thankful that my salvation wasn’t dependent on drawing water from them. Come to think of it, there was a lot of joy when they worked. But Living Water never runs dry.

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Bill Wilson