On our acre of land there was no well. We did have a cistern, but that water was unfit for human consumption. It was only used for laundry, moping floors and other household chores. We got our drinking water from the well at my grandparent's house. We walked across the field with a pail and pumped the water from the well.
When the galvanized pail that set on the cupboard was getting empty, Mom would pour the remainder into a glass pitcher, hand the pail to either my brother or myself and off we'd go across the field to Grandma's. This job usually fell to me. My sister was too young to carry a full pail of water and my brother was usually in the barn or the fields. So, I was what you could call the water bearer most of the time.
I'd take the pail and run across the field, pail swinging through the air. Then I'd round the corner of Grandma's house and climb the verandah steps. I'd hang the pail from the hook on the pump and began the tedious task of working the handle. If the pump had lost its prime, I would have to go into the house to get a bit of water for priming. That old pump was cantankerous and there were a few times that Grandma would have to wipe her hands on her apron and come to give me a hand. Priming the pump in winter was a rigorous task, as warm water had to be used. It couldn't be too hot or the cast iron that the pump was made of would crack.
Whatever the season, the old pump would finally catch its prime and the clear, sparkling water would gush from its gaping mouth. I would continue to pump. The pail had to be full. There was no going home with a half pail of water. When the pail was filled almost to the brim, I would begin the journey home.
The pail of water was fairly heavy for a ten-year-old girl, but I was used to hard work and never thought anything of it. I did take my time going home. I kept a sharp eye on the pail, worried that some of the water may slop. Water was precious! Every drop was a treasure, especially in summers when we received little or no rain. Finally I would hand the pail of liquid gold to my mother and breathe a sigh of relief. The water had arrived safely.
I don't remember ever spilling any of that water. I just knew that it was priceless and so was very careful when transporting it. If it was spilled, I would have to account to Dad. He was very strict about the water we used. He knew that the well could go dry at any time. However, Grandma kept that spring running into the well by giving thanks to God each morning for its neverending supply.
Today my aunt lives in my grandparents old farmhouse. The farm is hers now and so is the well and that old pump. Yes, it is still there and amazingly enough, it still pumps water. However, there is one difference. When my grandparents lived on the farm, that old well never ran out of water. It was a spring and back then springs didn't usually run dry. Today, when summers are hot and little or no rain falls, that old well goes dry as a bone. Then water has to be trucked in. How times have changed.
We must all be good stewards when it comes to water. The Earth will only supply so much and one day we may find that water is very scarce indeed. The water levels around here are dismally short of what they once were. The Great Lakes are not at the levels they once were.
Water is precious. Be a good steward and protect our water supply. Water is a treasure to me, as are my memories of my grandparent's old cast iron pump.
Note: The photo at the top of this article is one that I shot of a picture painted by artist James Lorimer Keirstead. It hangs in my home. James is the cousin of my husband's mother. I absolutely love his art. To see more of his beautiful art, please click here.