by PamFord Davis
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We roughed it, not at KOA, but our remote Florida property. Neil and I, along with our two teenaged kids, moved from a spacious brick house to remote uncleared property. Two used mobile homes were a step-down socially and in size. If locals measured success by our occupancy, they astutely calculated our standing precariously atop the bottom rung of the ladder. Moving to the desolate location, prior to hook ups of utilities, was a horse-sized pill to swallow. I’d reckon my contentment level in the pits.
“When you go to Tom Thumb to fill the water barrels, see if they have candles, I said.”
Reminiscent of a dashboard-bobbing dog, Neil nodded. Reaching deep into his trousers pocket, he jangled keys to his Junker International pick up. Stepping outside, and into sand, he left on a mission of mercy. One-step for my man, one imaginary leap toward H20. Without water for cooking and bathing, we’d wish we were up the proverbial creek.
“Sue, let’s go outside and start digging before it gets too hot.”
“Mama, I’ll go. Fix us some iced tea.”
“Good idea. I’ll be right out.”
With a hand auger, rental water-well boring implement, we dug a deeper and deeper hole. Firmly gripping the handle, we took turns rotating the T-shaped-auger around and around. We periodically measured our progress; craning our necks, we looked into the deepening hole.
Vigorously rubbing my stiff left forearm, I heard the annoying muffler sound of the International. In a cloud of dust, Neil turned off German Club Road, and into our yard. He pulled up to the trailer; dropping down the squeaky truck tailgate, my sweetie pulled two heavy-duty 30-gallon trashcans forward. White knuckling handles, one-by-one, he hoisted water containers down to the ground. Water sloshed around, spilling over the rim and down upon his clothes.
I envied him for his unexpected shower of cool refreshing water. He placed the barrels outside the kitchen door; stepping inside, he went to shave and change into clean clothes for work. I wiped dirt from calloused hands.
“Sue, it’s time for lunch. We’ll do more digging later.”
I prepared tuna sandwiches and tossed a half-empty bag of chips onto the table. After removing a pitcher of sweet tea from the frig,’ I poured tea over ice cubes, into drinking glasses. We’d need to buy more ice tomorrow; it was a waste of precious water to make it in ice-cube trays.
Neil scarfed down his lunch; pulling away from the table, he spouted instructions. “Don’t stay out too long. You could have a heat stroke.”
Wringing with sweat, after Sue and I returned to our grueling job, I wondered.
Are we wasting our time?
Sue turned loose of the handle, peered into the hole, and breathlessly exclaimed, “I see wet sand!”
“Are you sure? Eureka, we struck water!”
We needed the advice of a water well expert.
[Enter old water well man]
He wore crumpled clothes, had disheveled hair, needed a shave, and smelled of body odor. In addition, he was a chain-smoker. I hereafter refer to him as dirty old man.
Having no transportation, we played taxi. Neil and I picked him up after running errands; sitting in the middle of the bench cab seat, I tried not to rub against him. Arriving at the well, Neil asked him how deep he’d estimate the well to be.
“I’d reckon it’s not much more than 30 feet; but people round’ here do git’ good water from shallow wells.” The letch eyed me like a dog after a bone.
He asked Neil, “Ya’ say yer’ little woman and daughter dug it deep nuff’ to hit water?”
Shaking his head from side to side Neil replied, “Hard for me to believe it myself, but they did!”
I later told Neil how uncomfortable I felt around the man and he did not laugh it off. It was easy to see the old geezer had eyes for me. We had no choice but to continue the working relationship. If we wanted to complete the job, we’d have to put up with the man, even though he made my flesh crawl.
Neil did the hands-on work; the dirty old man told him what tools to use and systematic directions. Together, they brought running water up from the well; installing a pump and PVC pipes, they finished the job.
Our son Ron had to forgo spring break in Panama City; he got his suntan while putting in our septic tank!
*Based on a true story, names have been changed.
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