Wednesday, June 8, 2016

That Little Backyard Spring

Our family was so blessed when we were growing up in so many different ways. We came to appreciate what we had more every day. We didn’t care if there wasn’t any indoor plumbing, we made do with what we had. And unlike so many people that didn’t have well water like us and had to tote their water all uphill, we had a little spring in the back yard. All we had to do was grab the bucket and step off the back porch and walk a few feet. That was the best drinking water in the world and we always had a little dipper hanging on one of the hedge bush limbs that grew out over the top of the spring. We also kept one in the house as well. Those were the handiest little dippers and the water even tasted better.
 Every time one of us came through the back yard we’d grab a cold dipper of water. After working in the garden we felt like drinking the spring dry. But we never had to worry about it going dry cause as long as I can remember that spring stayed full all the time, even in the hottest part of the year.

 It run out down the side of the yard as a little branch and we liked to catch spring lizards in the summer.
We also loved to wade that little branch and play in it what time we wasn’t playing in the creek. Sometimes mama would pitch a bar of soap at us when we headed towards the creek and say while you’re at it take a bath. We didn’t care that the creek water was just as cold in the middle of the summer as the winter like the little spring. We’d lather up good with the soap and throw it on the bank of the creek and keep on playing and splashing till suppertime. We’d go in home wet and wrinkled up like a prune and the first thing mama’d say, “did uns wash with that soap like I asked uns to?” She sure did believe in being clean.

That little spring came in handy for many things. Back before we got a frigerator we’d put our milk in the spring to keep it cold. We even put our homemade butter in there too. Mama would put it down in a glass, milk jug or bowl with a lid and stick it in the spring. That cold, spring water sure took care of us in more ways than one.

And the many buckets of water that we carried, I could never count in a million years. Come wash day we’d carry so many our arms felt like they’d fall off, some to heat outside in the big black pot over the fire in warm weather or on the wood cook stove in the winter on wash day. And there was plenty of rinse water to carry as well. It’d take the whole day cause we had so many clothes, bed linens, etc.

In the summer we’d carry buckets after buckets to fill up the wash tubs and sit em in the yard in the sun all day to warm so we could get our weekly baths that evening in the bedroom or the ole smokehouse. In the winter the tubs were placed in the kitchen by the wood cook stove. We had to heat our bath water in big pots on the cook stove in the winter.
 We took baths in between too, the only way we could in a wash pan.

Mama made sure we never went dirty to school, church or anywhere for that matter. Her motto was, “there’s to much soap and water in the world to go dirty.” And the one I liked the best was, “rags are honorable long as your hind end ain’t shinin and they’re clean.” She always made sure we washed behind our ears and she’d tell us to be sure and clean them rusty ears. I don’t think there was ever any rust behind our ears, except for the boys and that was cause they‘d been out playing in the dirt and running through the thickets.
I do recall her scrubbing some of the younger ones ears before with a wash rag and soap. I heard her say one time, “if I catch that rust on them ears one more time I’m gonna scrub em till they’re raw.” She’d even tell daddy the same thing. I heard her tell him one time, “you’re worse than a youngun to let your ears go rusty.” He must of remembered it cause later on in life after we all were about grown and we had indoor plumbing he hollored at me one day to come and check his ears after he’d took a bath. I inspected his ears and he looked like he’d scrubbed em raw they were so red. I told him they were clean as a whistle and he said, “ I just don’t know about your mammy anymore, she sure is bossy.” It was all I could do to keep a straight face.

Yep, that little spring was a life saver. Before dusky dark every evening we’d grab the water buckets and carry in the night’s water, come morning they’d be empty again, my name became, “Go Fetch.”

We all had our own share of chores to do and tried to take turns but sometimes it fell on the one that was the most handy. The boys helped daddy chop, split and carry in the wood. In the winter time it was worse. They had to keep both wood boxes filled, one for the heater and the other for the cook stove. And there was always plenty more water to be carried from the spring.

That little back yard spring sure was a God send and kept us going for many, long years. Times have changed and I admit I wouldn’t want to carry those buckets of water again unless I had to but back then it was a necessity and I’d do it all again.  We never know just how much water we use till the bucket's empty. 

Back when times were different
Water was a most useful resource
And carryin plenty of buckets
There was never any remorse

The dishes needed washin
Clothes were hung out to dry
And washin those dirty ears
Was a rule to always comply

Havin water nearby and handy
Was something to be admired
A cold dipper of spring water
Is something to be desired

And fightin over the dipper
With plenty of glasses around
Was worth every drop of spring water
There’s none better to be found

Awe, how useful that water could be
And bath time was worth it all
Even if those big wash tubs
Held so much ye had to crawl

 The branch was an added bonus
With quite a runnin spree
It felt so good on bare feet
Flowin to the next stream or sea

Even catchin spring lizards
Was such a joy and thrill
Just to make a few pennies
To a kid is surely a big deal

I still miss that little spring
And will forever be grateful for
The many buckets I carried
And my go fetchin chore

© Susie Swanson, 2016


  1. Susie, You seemed to have lived a hard life..not saying it wasn't fun or good...just kind of hard. We had water in the house but I remember an outhouse when I was 5. I remember drinking from a dipper at homes though. My mom lived the same as you did. Blessings, xoxo,love, Susie

  2. Susie, the backyard spring sounds like it came in handy for so many things. When you mentioned the lizards that you caught, I smiled, because during the warm summer days I see the lizards in my back yard, and I have to say that I don't like them, and I'm a bit scared of them. But when we're kids we're not scared of most of the creatures that we see in nature. Your dear mom sure made sure that all your ears were clean. wow, you even put your milk and butter in the spring water to stay cold. I am wondering why the water didn't get warmer during the summer months?

    What a delightful story, Susie. I really appreciate each story that you write.

    love, ~Sheri

  3. Susie you did it again! We had a spring just off the bank of our back yard which was later turned into our garden patch. I carried many a bucket of water while growing up both from the spring by our back yard and also from the spring approximately 750 or so feet back up the hollow behind our house. Yes springs were cold and ours was so cold Dad carried a $50.00 bill in his pocket at all times for that very reason. He would offer boy or man that $50.00 if they could hold their hand in our spring for five minutes on his watch. according to a thermometer that I took up there one time that water was just under 38 degrees temperature. Until Dad got the brilliant idea and the money to buy pipe with to run the spring water into our kitchen via gravity flow. I used to carry two five gallon buckets full from the spring to the house for our use. I have only found two other springs that were very cold and also very sweet tasting. The spigot into the sink ran 24/7/365 and it was just as cold at the sink as it was at the spring. As a lark, I took a bottle of the water and had it checked for hardness, just out of curiosity, and the results were only 0.0025 hardness and no other things were found. The spring came out of a hole through a big granite rock and we kept it covered all the time after we got water into the house.Finally in late '64 or early'65 Dad had another brilliant idea. To build a bath room on one end of the back porch and run it off gravity flow water. It was a very pleasant surprise when I finally got to come home in September of 1966 for a few days on my way to Thailand where I finally got my Senior Class Trip. LOL Dad ran a big three inch pipe from the kitchen down to the branch from both springs. When we finally got the old house wired and hooked up to electricity, in early 1952 and Mom saved enough money from eggs, milk, and butter to buy a used small Fridgidare we had had a spring box on the bank of the branch where we kept our stuff that needed to be kept cold, cold. As you said that branch was probably colder than a refrigerator. Hard times but great memories. Yes bath time was in a wash tub in the kitchen summer or winter with water heated on Mom's old wood burning stove. I think Bland and Ted my older brothers finally bought her an electric range and Dad ran wire from the fuse box to the kitchen.

  4. I love this, Susie! And you are so right, there is no water as good as icy cold spring water. My grandparent's well went dry and my grandfather put in a pump and pumped water into the house from the spring on their property. It made the best iced tea I've ever tasted! You've taken me back to a happy place in my memories today. Thank you!

  5. Wonderful stories about that spring you had, Susie! It's hard to imagine there are so many in the world today who have no source of clean water to drink or cook or wash with. It makes us all the more grateful for what we have now or had when we were younger.

  6. What a great story. It took me back my childhood.We had a spring also, the best water in the world..people would come to our house and ask for a drink from the spring.Life in the mountains in those years might seem hard,but I am eternally thankful for being allowed to grow up there.Thank you for a great post!