When the well ran dry ...


Take a stroll through your least-favorite Walmart (everybody says they hate Walmart) and back where they sell pretzels and beer, you’ll find about as much bottled water as you do Bud Light.

Since I’m the only person east of Bentonville, Ark., who loves Walmart, I consider a stroll there as exercise. And when I walk the aisle of beverages a couple of things come to mind.

1. I am a son of a rural South of dirt roads and bare yards you kept living-room clean with a “dogwood brush broom.”

2. In those years if you’d told me you could bottle water and sell it by the truckload, if you’d told me you could grow grass and sell it by the truckload, I’d said “You’re crazier than a betsy bug.”

But in looking back, when the well ran dry out on the farm, folks would have promised next year’s cotton crop for a truckload of bottled water. And maybe a reservation at Bryce Institute, if that’s what it took.

OK, so maybe I’m losing a few of you, so I’ll explain a bit.

You got water from a well, a round hole in the ground approximately eight feet in diameter and deep enough to get to the water table. No faucet, either. You had a bucket on a rope on a windlass with a crank. You lowered the bucket to the water, pulled up water, took it to Mom.

A “dogwood brush broom” is self-explanatory. You whacked off a few dogwood limbs, tied ‘em together with cloth strips, and swept the yard every day or so. If a blade of grass popped up anywhere, you got out your favorite cotton-chopping hoe and dug it up.

But when the well ran dry ...

Out on the rural south of dirt roads and bare yards, it is August. The sun is a mid-day furnace and the water in the well is ... gone. That’s the way it was in August on my paternal grandfather’s farm where I spent most of my growing up years.

In my case, when the well went dry it was sort of a blessing.

Our well was up a long slope some 200 yards from the house. When I was 15, I was already 6-1, but weighed like 141 pounds. Dogging my way up to the well and back with lard cans in a red coaster wagon I’d gotten for Christmas one year kept me from growing sideways if not “up-ways.”

The solution was a 1942 green Plymouth and a trailer that would hold three large wooden barrels and three or four lard cans. In a time when getting to drive a car was a blessing instead of a constitutional right, I was always behind the wheel when that ’42 Plymouth headed for a clear-running stream behind “The McCullars place.”

With my sister along to tell me what to do, we’d pull off the road into the gravel-bottomed stream, and a cold and wonderful respite from that August sun. Not only did we fill the barrels and the lard cans, but did a lot of splashing and hollering along the way. The finish was to wash the car.

So what got me into all this? An item from a recent on-line issue of Newsweek:

“Coca-Cola is one of the mightiest brands ever created ... whether in teeming cities or steaming swamps, Coke is the biggest selling soft drink the world has ever seen. But recently the iconic American brand stumbled before a competitor - not Pepsi but Poland Spring.”

Poland Spring is a bottled water, but I’m not preaching against bottled water here, nor Coke.

“Without rain and six inches of topsoil, life as we know it would not exist.”

Another truth is you don’t put peanuts in a bottle of water, only in Coke. That would be like eating a Moon Pie with a Pepsi Cola instead of an R-O-C (Royal Crown Cola).

So, let’s lift our glasses (water or Coke) to the peaceful co-existence of  bottled water and Coke ... and salty peanuts.

It’s the little things, people.


George Smith can be reached at 239-5286 or e-mail: gsmith731@gmail.com