1927: Finishing the well

Since I have always been interested in history, most of the following details were told to me by my mother so I could record them. Years later, she retold many other family historical stories and happenings that are treasures today. My siblings didn’t have the same interest as I did.

When Papa first bought the farm in 1925, they were not living in an adequate house before they could build their own. They were living in a small house about 300 yards north of where the house was eventually built. The house that the Scott family moved out of was rented by someone that wanted to stay. Papa preferred building a house on the crest of a hill he liked and which afforded a full view of the entire farm. So, he began building a house as time permitted. As most of us know, attention to the farm and to the animals is absolutely paramount to succeed in the 1920s and beyond.

Papa tried to finish the house before Jack was born in 1925, but didn’t quite make it. To get the farm going required a great deal of work, such as cutting sprouts, cutting more timber to enlarge the farming area, removing stumps that had never been dug out or blasted out. Papa used dynamite and blasting caps to do the job for him. He burned the pile of stumps when there was a really heavy frost or snow on the ground. Papa did everything he could to make his farm produce enough corn, cotton, peanuts, and hay, etc., which would provide food for the animals and also some for the family, as well as money for other expenses. Every living thing on a farm had to be cared for because of the return they gave to the owners.

The family, however, really needed easy access to water. They hauled water from the neighbor’s well for drinking and cooking and from the river for doing laundry. So, the well was extremely important. Papa had already dug the well to about thirty feet deep to be sure of access to water before building the house where he wanted. By the way, he “witched” for water using a peach tree limb, and it “told” him the water was about 30 feet down, and it was! He built a wood “chimney” and a “deck” to sit atop the “chimney” to set the well bucket on, and the “deck” encircled the “well hole.” After constructing a crosspiece about three feet high over the opening, he attached a pulley and added a rope for letting the water bucket down and filling it with water. To ensure that the bucket would tip over and fill up instead floating, he attacked a heavy nut to the top rim of the bucket, and that worked. Papa worked from daylight to dark every day except Sunday to keep up with the demands of the farm. But he had to finish the well, even though he was doing it a little at a time when opportunity arose.

In time, Papa poured a concrete structure in a wood frame that was exactly the size of the hole in the ground. When it set, he removed it from the form and also removed the wood “chimney” and placed the concrete “chimney” over the well hole. In a separate wood form, he poured concrete that, when set, formed a wide ledge that would go completely around the well’s outer interior setting atop the “chimney.” Before the ledge was completely dry in its form, he bent a 1 ½ inch pipe into a large upside down “U” and added a pulley to the top of the bend in the pipe. Next, he threaded a rope long enough to reach the water when the bucket was let down to the water. He inserted the legs into the top ledge before the concrete set up. Later, he attached a pulley to the top part of the “U.” On the side of the top rim of the water bucket, Papa fastened a very heavy nut in order to make the bucket turn over and fill. With water assured for the family, Papa went on to do other needed and necessary jobs, one of which was to finish the roof on their house.

Cutting sprouts had to be done to prevent spreading. Cutting down trees to enlarge the farming area was needed as well. Some farmers didn’t seem to care whether stumps were removed in their field or not, but Papa did. He wanted them removed so tilling the land would not only be easier but running into a stump root with the plow could be hurtful. Thus, many days were spent by my parents doing their best to improve the area of the field for an increased harvest. Selling an animal or two or some of the hay, etc., for money was a wonderful transaction for the farmer. The full completion of the house had had to wait for legitimate reasons.

A great deal of work was required, and both of my parents knew what farming meant back in those days. When crops were growing, it was satisfying for them to see their hard effort was producing what they envisioned. After years had passed and I recalled some of these details, it seemed to me that they had “too many irons in the fire,” but it wasn’t so for farmers in the 1920s.  Farming in those days was very hard work and required much energy and ingenuity to navigate the ups and down. That was especially true for Papa, when every bite of food the family ate would be what had been planted and the ground then produced it, or it had to be killed and dressed out.  

Growing up, we always had an excellent well with endless good water, even though a chicken fell into it one time. Papa got the chicken out and treated the water with something. I don’t know what it was. After that, he made a wood frame that covered the well hole so no chicken could fall into it again. Our family continued to grow, and the seasons brought a different set of lifelong memories of experiences we each had, whether good or bad.  And I and others who also have a country background have a legacy that is worth remembering.

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