An empty bucket tied to a rope was lowered into the well and a bucket full of water was pulled out (some people had a hand pump; wet hands could stick to the metal handle in freezing weather). The bucket of water was carried into the house one bucket at a time. This bucket was set on a special table that also held a wash pan and a bar of soap for washing hands. A dipper hung on the wall to dip your water out of the bucket for washing or drinking. (Yes, people usually drank from the same dipper and sometimes dribbled water back into the water bucket.) In addition to wells, many houses also had cisterns and barrels to store rainwater.
The cistern was a large, round, deep, concrete lined, enclosed hole in the ground near the house and rainwater was channeled by means of gutters on the house into the cistern which was fitted with a hand pump that was fastened to the top of the concrete enclosure.
The stored water was used to supplement the well water. Sometimes a well would go dry in the summertime if there wasn’t much rain so the cistern water could be used for watering animals, washing clothes, taking a bath, and drinking when necessary.
I wrote about getting water from the well and where there’s water for indoor use there must be sewers. Now, about our rural sewers … there were none. No septic tank either, such as are used in rural areas today. Dirty water from dishwashing and such was taken outside and poured on the ground (good for watering flowers in the summer). But what about the bathroom sewer lines? What bathroom?
The ‘bathroom’ was a small wooden shack located several yards away from the house. The path to this ‘outhouse’ (ice cold in the winter and hot as blazes in the summer - hold your nose) was illuminated at night by the moon (we had no flashlights but there were kerosene lanterns - watch your step and take your own means of hygiene with you - often a Sears-Roebuck Catalog or something similar) and in the daytime as you sat there, you could watch spiders busily working on their webs; at night you would wonder where they were and what they were doing. I’ve often wondered how many people suffered spider bites (and wood splinters from the so-called seat) on their buttocks ‘in the good old days’.
It wasn't always necessary to walk to the outhouse at night. Many, many flowers were watered at night, ha. And who can forget the pot? Pot back then didn't mean a weed to be smoked. The pot under the bed was for nighttime convenience, be it an old coffee can or a decorated porcelain utensil. Older readers will also remember the more formal name for the pot; it was called a slop jar.
Most houses that I remember had a cellar - a roughly dug out area under or near the house where perishables were stored to keep them cool in summer and above freezing in winter. These often doubled as storm cellars where one could seek shelter from violent storms. Unfortunately for humans, snakes enjoyed this shelter too and that well-known fact kept many people out of cellars.
Some farmers went a step further and built a spring house. First, you needed a spring. What is a spring? It’s usually an area where fresh water seeps from the ground or a rocky ridge, forming a pool of water that runs off into a creek in the distance. A spring house is a small house ranging in size from dog house to small shed. Spring water is usually clear and cool, having come from sheltered areas below ground and filtered by passing through many rocks that have worn clean over the years. Before the days of water pollution it was good water for drinking, watering cattle, and providing a cool place for temporarily storing perishables. If a farmer had a good spring and a spring house on his property he was fortunate.
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