Friday, January 23, 2009

Flooding the World

In my last post, I talked about my Grandmaw’s spring that I used to carry water from. Well that reminded me of another story. This story concerns the Bent Family who lived down the road from us. They were related to us in almost every way imaginable since they came to the mountain about the same time as we did, and like my family, they never left either. But for some reason, the Bent brothers didn’t have good common sense, they always done foolish things and were known far and wide as the laughingstock of the area.

Well one time, three of the Bent boys decided they were gonna dig a well close to the house so they wouldn’t have to carry water so far. As it was, they were carrying water from a nearby creek. Since we all lived up on the mountain, a person had to dig a well quite deep to hit water, unless you were lucky enough, as my Grandmaw Mary was, to have a natural spring on your property. Well, the Bent boy’s water witched all around their house and located a powerful stream of water right outside of their yard gate. They say that the Bent boy’s used a peach limb to water witch with, and the force of the water stripped the bark clean off right in their hands, a sure sign that there was water here…a lot of water…and not located very deep either. Everyone figured it’d be less than 30 feet down, which was great for up on the mountain, where most wells were 50-100 feet deep. Well, the Bent boy’s got real excited over this and took to digging their well. They got down about 10 feet the first day, and started on it again early the second morning. Oren Bent was doing the digging that morning, and his brothers Les and Res were shoveling and hauling the dirt up in buckets. About midday, when Oren was down about 15 feet, he felt the ground give a little under his feet and water started filling up the hole. They got real excited at this and quickly dipped the water out, so they could dig another few feet. It is common knowledge that once water starts coming into your well, then you only have to dig another 10 feet or so for storage.

Well they started digging more, but water started filling in the well faster than they could dip it out. This made for slow going but eventually they dug out another couple of feet. About mid-afternoon, the three boys stopped for a break and to eat, and when they started back digging at the well, they hit a big flat rock. Well, Oren said he just knew that the water was under than rock so it had to come out. They pounded on the rock, and pried on the rock with a big iron bar. Eventually it was starting to loosen. Then Oren said the rock started to shake a little and he got scared and come up out of the hole. Soon after he got out of the well, water filled up the hole. Thinking it was a wet weather stream of water that was feeding into the well, the boys didn’t think the water would last in the dry summer months, so they had to dig it deeper. They fashioned a crude water pump and hand pumped all the water out of the well, and by then, word had passed around about the goings on with the well, and several neighbors had gathered around to witness the spectacle, and lend a helping hand if it was needed. As soon as the well was pumped dry enough to dig some more, they once again started prying on that big flat rock. One of the neighbors offered to help by bringing his team of workhorses over to pull out the rock. Everyone agreed to this and Oren got a chain hooked around the rock and to the horses. With sheer horsepower, the rock was pulled up out of the well, and with it a great gush of water that shot several feet into the air. It didn’t let up either, water was going everywhere. Nobody had ever seen anything like it, and one old-timer said that it was what was called an artesian well. Everyone was jubilant that there was plenty of water now at the Bent home, and they all went home and spread the good news.

Mom & Dad's hand-dug well.

After a few hours, the water was still spouting up out of the ground and the Bent brothers were getting worried. They couldn’t get the well walled up or anything, and it looked like a river running down through the front yard. They got to thinking that if they couldn’t get this water stopped it was going to flood the world. The more they studied and reasoned on it, the more they convinced themselves that just that very thing would happen, so they knew they had to do something. They worked each other up into a frenzy of worry. After about an hour of this, they decided the only thing they could do was try and cover the well back up. They grabbed up anything that was heavy enough to sink and frantically tossed it into the newly dug well. They threw in old junk, they threw in rocks, and they threw in metal. Eventually, they had a heaping pile of garbage over the well, and then they covered that up with dirt and made what looked like a small mound over it. They felt pleased that they had saved the whole world from being flooded.

When the neighbors found out what the Bent boys had done, they were flabbergasted. Why, they asked, did the boys fill in one of the finest wells in the county? But the boys couldn’t be convinced that they had done anything less than helpful now that they had succeeded in saving all of humanity from a great flood. They never again tried to dig a well for their house; they were content to haul water from the creek for the rest of their lives.

I remember hearing this story from my Granddaddy Burns. He was a boy when the Bent brothers dug this well, and he said that there was a helluva stream of water down in that well. He showed me the little mound of dirt that covered the junk-filled well, and you can, even to this day, even see the water still seeping up to the surface from it. The ground all around there is wet and marshy, and it flows down onto my Uncle Chub’s property where he captures it into a small pond. His pond, fend from the Bent well, never goes dry and it is a great watering spot for cattle, even in the driest of years.

Do any of you readers out there have a well or spring story? I’d like to hear them if you do.


Vera said...

Well, Matthew, you have the best stories. I don't really have a story,but when I was a kid we had a spring. It was carved out in a big rock, it was big enough that you could dip your water bucket in and get a full bucket. At that time we didn't have electricity, so my dad built a "spring house" over the spring and my mom and grandma would sit the milk and butter or anything that needed to be kept cold in the stream that ran from the spring. That was the good old days.

Matthew Burns said...

Ah, yes, I had forgotten about the old springhouse. It was gone before I was born but I remember my Grandmaw Mary talking about it. It was located down in the holler near the cow barn (which now that I think about it, wasn't near her spring) but it was beside of the Burns Holler creek, and it is always cold down in the holler.

I remember my Grandmaw telling stories about Reeve Lambert's springhouse down near the head of the meadow. Reeve always had the coldest spring and springhouse. Grandmaw said that ice would lay in the springhouse all year long, and she used to send her girls down to Reeve's place in the summertime to bring home a big chunk of ice. Reeve, being a friend of Grandmaw's, was only too happy to send give her ice. Reeve's springhouse is still there, I wonder if it still has ice on it in the summertime? I think I'll ask around and find out.

Thanks for triggering another memory for me.


Jason Burns said...

Way to change the last name - to protect the stupid! LOL!

Vera said...

Matthew, there is something else that I remember having as a kid. It was a "gum". I dont know where it got it's name but I thought maybe you had heard of it. It was a barrel sunk all the way in the ground and it stayed full of water, that is where my mom got her wash water and dad used for killing hogs, watering chickens, and so on. I always wondered if that was just a name that maybe my dad or someone in the family gave it. Have you ever heard of it?

Matthew Burns said...


I don't remember anyone ever talking about a gum. I'm sure it was something made out of the black gum tree. The wood doesn't rot so it would be great to contain water.

Gum tree's were also used to make bee hives, hence the term bee gum. They lasted forever. I know my great so many granddaddy who died in 1810 had bee gums which were sold in his estate sale. The person (a relative) who bought the gums handed them down to his children and they still exist, albeit they are now fragile. They are now kept in out of the elements.

I'd like to know more about these watering gums. Was it like a trough of sorts? About how big was it?


Vera said...

Matthew, the gum was a barrel sunk in the ground, I bet it was made from a gum tree and thats where it got its name.

tipper said...

Loved this post!! I've been planning a post about springs since back in the fall-and this just adds to my excitment!!

My husband was a well driller for a few years and has many stories about artesian wells. On one or two the water was so powerful it did make the ground shake and sink-which is scary when 2 monstrous trucks are sitting right on top of the sinking ground. The waters of the deep have always fascinated me.

I've heard folks talk about barrels sunk in the ground that were used for hog killing-but I've never heard them called a gum. Pap says his family put scalding water in the barrel and dipped the hog in it to get the hair off.

Matthew Burns said...

We used 55 gallon drums for scalding the hair off of our hogs when we butchered them. We'd put a fire under the barrel until the weater was hot, then shovel the fire away. The barrel of hot water was on a slant. The men would dip the hog down in the scalding hot water, head first, and then we'd all pitch in on the scraping. Oh that is a smell that you never get out of your mind. Whew.

I remember in the late 1990's when my granddaddy got a well drilled up at the homeplace. The driller was down about 50 feet and water shot up out of the ground with a type of black sand, and it that water there were thousands of little white frogs. I've never seen anything like it. Frogs were everywhere around the yard. We all supposed that the drill had hit a cave or something, never did get a good explanation for it.

Mom and Dad had a well drilled about 2 years ago, and it is 275 feet. All but the top 30 feet is solid limestone. They get about 5 gallon a minute, which is really good for up on the mountain. They didn't even have to case the well below 50 feet because of the solid limestone. Still cost them $5,500 though. Small price to pay for good water.

Martin Woodside said...

I am completely enjoying these stories and plan to read them all. Your writing skills are great Matthew , thanks.
My well is in an area where NOBODY has ever hit a well. It is a given that under our soil is nonpermeable clay .... NO WATER.
That would be fine except I owned a small backhoe so one day I made sure nobody was watching me and went digging.. The very first spot I picked at random hit a spring fed underground stream of nice clean water. That just goes to show if you are stubborn and own a backhoe miracles can happen.

Matthew Burns said...

Glad you liked the post, and I really appreciate getting your comment. I get the feeling that you are quite the storyteller as well. Yes, miracles never cease to happen when stubborness is coupled with a backhoe. I sure would like to have a backhoe on the mountain.

Janet, said...

I don't have any well or spring stories to tell, but I've enjoyed reading your post and comments. Vera, you never told me those stories before.

Granny Sue said...

What a story. I can just see this as a children's picture book--but it would be a noodlehead story!

I'm glad you changed the name--I wondered if Bent was really their last name. Although it kinda fits their twisted way of looking at things.