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Well Water and Night Crawlers
What Sweet Memories…

Kathy Dingus


I remember when I was a young child visiting my grandmother, and she would send us out to draw some water from the well. It would take a couple of us "kids" and we all would volunteer for the chore.

We'd grab the kitchen bucket that held the drinking "dipper" and take it out to the well out behind the house. There was a wooden frame, two sides and a top…and a large nail on the right side of the well that the rope hung on, and a big pulley attached to the top. The well itself wasn’t very big around, about as big as a pie plate maybe with a wooden lid that was made to fit over the top. The lid would come off and we'd untie the rope from the side, drop the well bucket...(although I never understood why they called it a bucket. It was a long cylinder...) into the hole and we'd all listen for the glug...glug...glug...that told us the bucket was full of water.

We'd all fight for the best place to grab hold of the rope and pull the bucket up- usually so full of water a little would splash on our bare feet. We would then pull the release latch so all the water would run down that dripping wet cylinder and straight into the kitchen bucket.

Again, there would be a tussle to lug the bucket full of water into the kitchen, sloshing about half of it out as we went.

We would all have to have us a drink…and since there was a bunch of us grandkids…we made sure that plenty of water needed to be drawn, since it was so much fun. Maybe we need to do more of that now, the kids might drink more water, instead of so many sodas. Taking a big long drink out of that dipper was a great memory. We didn't worry about diseases or catching anyone else's cold. We just all drank from that same dipper.

That fresh cool well water sure was good back then. I think we need a well...

Now, as for food…my goodness the food! My grandmother would make "pone bread" oatmeal, fry bacon and sausage, salmon patties, gravy and biscuits and fry eggs. We'd usually have fried apples too...or homemade apple butter or jam. Yummmmmmmm...makes my mouth water!

We’d sneak down to Mamaw’s patch and snitch strawberries and eat them off the vine until she’d catch us and run us out. We would beat the bluejays off the blueberry vines for a handful, and I know that they were the best blueberries I have ever eaten...and we would eat grapes fresh from the arbor...and tommy-toe tomatoes – I suppose to be politically correct they were cherry tomatoes - as fast as we could gobble them up. My cousins and I would sneak into the kitchen and steal the salt shaker and head for that tomato patch as quick as we could, so we could at least eat a few before we were caught.


There were gooseberries, elderberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries and apples, all different kinds, pears, grapes, walnuts, chestnuts, not to mention the usual garden fare, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, white and yellow, tomatoes, several different kinds, green beans, greasy beans, mustard greens and turnip greens and turnips to go along with them greens too! Why the temptation was so great!

It's a wonder mamaw raised anything for all of us kids....well…in a way she did. She just never got as much of it preserved as she would have liked for all of us eating it straight from the garden.

How about going to a molassy stiroff? We couldn't wait to get home and make some biscuits and eat the "foam" from the fresh made molasses...

What our kids are missing...

I asked my sister, what one of her childhood memories were. She said it was getting to go night-crawler hunting) for those of you who don’t know what a night-crawler is….it’s an earthworm) with a flashlight with my grandpa...putting them in an old coffee can filled with dirt. My Papaw Olvia used to keep this huge round washtub full of dirt in the “can house.” (A can house was a room built specifically to keep things cool, and where most of the food that was canned during the summer was kept) This washtub was used specifically for night-crawlers. Lots of nights we’d go night-crawler hunting and we’d stick them in that washtub full of dirt, so when we wanted to go fishing on the spur of the moment, and that could happen most any time, we’d always have a ready supply of fresh night-crawlers. The next day I’d sneaking off to JP's pond and fish until I had either caught some bluegill or all my night-crawlers were gone, and then I’d terrorize the snappin’ turtles till dinner time.

I never got asked where I'd been or how long I'd be gone when I left...it was just a sweet fact of life that you would just be safe...I sure miss my own child knowing that.

My cousin Angita Lowery Fleming has her own memories to add. They are as follows:

Spending the weekends with mamaw and papaw and sneaking into the can house and finding papaw's homemade wine. It might have been grape, peach, or maybe even blackberry, it really didn’t matter what flavor, it all tasted so good and sweet. "We girls" (without calling names) would sit on the back porch and drink it until Mamaw would find us and say in a high pitched voice "you girls get out of that stuff! Olvia, these girls are in your wine." Papaw would say "Orhpa, leave 'em alone , their not hurtin’ anything". We would giggle and continue tasting Papaws sweet, sweet wine.

My next memory is standing behind my Papaw while he was sitting in his rocking chair and brushing his curly hair. (I couldn't have been more than 5 - 7 yrs old) I would brush and brush his hair, and then I would take my hands and mess it all up and start brushing again. My momma would tell me time and time again to stop but Papaw would say "Shirley, she's not bothering me". Maybe that is why I am a hair stylist today.

These are just two of the many, many memories I have. I must say, spending time with my Papaw Olvia and Mamaw Orpha in the mountains were some of the most precious times of my life as a child.

Ain’t it the truth? What would we give to have that innocence and peace back today?