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Drawing Water: A Boy's Rite of Passage on a Southern Farm
Drawing water from a well - Revolution from Home
In early Marion County
located in northwest Alabama, there was an area entitled the New Hope Community and like many rural families, this community was a farm-based area of Alabama. The two major crops of the New Hope Community was corn and cotton and these commodities were what made this rural area of Marion County prosperous.
But for this timeframe from 1940 throughout 1960, the word "prosperous," for these rural citizens just meant that their crops were sown, harvested, and carried to the nearest outlet for selling and that money was what paid their bills for the rest of that planting season throughout the upcoming winter until the next planting time. This was the true definition of prosperous.
In today's viewpoint, prosperous, for the most part, stands for nice cars, homes, lands, and plenty in the bank account. This version of a family working to keep a family with food on their table and a roof over their heads is a far cry from the earlier mentions of prosperous.
Not many today
even in the New Hope Community, which is still there, can tell others what the nouns, "well," and "windless" mean. This is also very sad because this area in Marion County is among the rural terms that are second nature to the citizens who live and work there.
In laymen's terms, a "well" and a "windless" are both relative to a water well that most all of the New Hope Community citizens had from the early 1930s to the late 1960s to bring water into their homes. Unless the homeowner had plenty of money, the older children (teenage guys) were responsible for keeping "the water drawn" for clothes washing, cooking, and even bathing. Not only was water the basis of life, but the well itself--both working hand-in-hand to make life easier.
Origin of water wells
are not that hard to understand. If a landowner, those just starting out with wife and acreage to farm, or an existing landowner needed water (in this timeframe in 1930 in the New Hope Community, Marion County), he sought the Marion County Extension Service and tried to locate a man who knew the land well enough so the future farmer could have a good source of water.
And if there was water found deep in the landowner's ground, someone had to be hired to dig the well. Not every potential farmer had money enough to hire a professional well digger. Although this term might lend one to laugh, but (a) well digger was a very important man in the rural part of Alabama.
The young farmer either borrowed the fee to pay the well-digger or it was given to him at the time of marriage just so the newlywed couple would not have to walk miles just to have water in the house. And this guy, the well-digger, was a pro through and through. When he was expected to work, he worked until he got a morning break, a lunch time (possibly at noon) and an afternoon break and the cold fact is that when a man was digging a well, no one was to distract him for every lick he took by his pick was one inch closer to having a stream of good, clean water.
meant one thing: excitement. And to many youngsters of this time, excitement, like prosperous can be misunderstood. In this rural setting where this piece is written, the more-mature male children knew that the day of taking over the task of "drawing" water somewhere in the yard was coming to them without as much as the father having to tell them that this vital task was coming.
The only indication that it was time for the male kids to "draw the water" was for the hard-working mother to hand the pre-teen male with an empty aluminum water bucket and hand it to him. That was it. No negotiation. No frowns or long breaths from the excited teen because teens in this rural time knew better than to talk back to their parents. That is just the way it was.
A boy would take the bucket and literally let it go down until the bucket hit the well that was found several hundred feet below. In a few seconds, the hearty male would start the task of turning the crank on the outside of the "windless" (a slick piece of oak log) where he rope holding the well bucket was hung and start the crank turning with the bucket now heavier from a good bucket of fresh well water.
Upon the male now seeing the water bucket, he would masterfully negotiate the well bucket and pour it into his mom's aluminum water bucket that always sit in the kitchen with a matching aluminum dipper sitting inside for drinking of God's many gifts: fresh well water--that was key to the livelihood of this rural farming family.
The water could be used for cooking, washing clothes, mopping floors, and irrigating small produce gardens when Mother Nature was being stingy with the summer rains.
It might appear
that a teenage boy having watched his dad or older brothers "draw the water," could be an excitement growing inside of his soul--and him waiting for his turn to take on the task for the job of drawing the water in order for the mom to get her weekly chores finished.
But by the same token, that same boy who had watched the water being drawn and then given to the mom for use in the house might be a bit apprehensive due to the task being (at his time) so daunting. Not at the water bucket falling off of the rope and sinking in the water, but lifting the heavy well bucket full of water for this can be overwhelming for any guy in this rural setting.
Sure, the label, "a rite of passage," being placed on the next oldest male for drawing the well water when in fact it was an expected job to be thought of (by the boy) as a challenge, but it was more seen as a time of growing to the eager boy drawing water as his way to enter his dad in helping tend the fields.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery