Growing up in the country a million miles from the nearest town doesn’t provide a to’ sack full of modern facilities. For several decades, we drawed our water from a deep well right outside the back door. At least I didn’t have far to tote the half-full five-gallon slop buckets strategically positioned on the back porch table.
Friends, the metal well bucket chain was wrapped around the stob juttin’ from the framework supports. This kept the bent, dented and partially rusty bucket from flying down the dark, wide open cavern that held our cool, sweet tasting clean, clear country water that we loved. Especially, on a blazing, hot, miserable summer day.
As a pup I was responsible to keep a full bucket of water on the back porch regardless. Can you remember the silver dipper hanging over the side of the bucket with the crooked end for drinking? Most handles had a hole drilled allowing you to hang the miniature ladle on the nail. A good fresh dipper of water, oft times warm settin’ on the back porch was a delight for a country boy. We kept a worn out dishrag thrown over the top of the bucket to keep bugs, ‘skeeters’ and flies from floatin’ in the water. But, sometimes the rag was so thin; the thirsty varmints drilled through and slurped their refreshment fill.
Neighbor, if you were not country, this may seem a little unsanitary, but not to us. What did we do? No problem! Just ease over to the slop bucket on the back porch located right beside the back screened door and skim off a little contaminated buggy water and take a cool refreshing sip. Mighty fine, refreshing and above all, mighty good!
Another chore was to have water to wash our face and hands when we came in from working. A 16-penny nail was driven into the joist right above the wash pan for convenience to hang the big old rough towel. I think Daddy bought the old dish pan from Davy Crockett on one of his bear huntin’ tours. The white enamel pan with the inch rim even had a hole drilled in case someone wanted to show off and hang this pan on a nail right beside the hand towel. Over the years the wash pan was dropped a few hundred times, chippin’ the enamel, but it still held water.
One thing I learned real fast: When you got through washing yo’ face, don’t sling dirty water all over the table and the floor. Momma would throw a Southern hissy (that’s bad) and supervise the cleanup right then and there. Naw Suhh, now, not later. As we say in the illustrious South: That’ll break a speckled hound dog from sucking hen house eggs!
Some of the families in our community were big farmers and come dinner time, the back porch got full real fast. Arvis had to draw water for two five-gallon buckets and make sure they were plumb full, with a silver, bent-handled dipper in each. Mr. Solon, Arvis’ Daddy, worked several hands and come dinnertime, no one was going to waste time and stand in a welfare line. “Rabbit” told me the water got low in the buckets one time and Mr. Solon warmed ’em britches. Never happened again. That’s called a down-home Southern (attention getter).
Neighbor, I kept the galvanized water buckets full on the back porch for Momma to cook with and wash the dirty dishes. At an early age, as soon as the slop bucket got half full, (that’s all I could tote), I had to empty it in the hog trough. I think I (drawed, drewed, drew, maybe yanked, pulled) that cylinder well bucket so many times the Mis’sippppi River must have dropped two inches a day. I believe the term, “c’mere little water boy” originated in Rosemark.”
My fellow Southern Americans, can you imagine any youngsters today having to draw water? They might want to draw on a computer or draw sumpin’ on a brick wall called confetti. I’m not saying what is right or wrong! But, that’s the way ‘pore’ folks had to survive if you wanted cool, clear water. Now a days, just turn on a spigot and splash water all over the porcelain or metal sink. Better still, instead of drawing water, they’d just run to the sto’ and buy some plastic bottled water. Just think, they don’t know what they are missing! If you ain’t country, it just don’t make sense….GLORY!
Otis Griffin is the author of the book “Southern Raisin." He was born in Charleston, Tenn., and attended Rosemark Grammar School and Bolton High School.