The Long Skinny Well Bucket

            When I was young, water didn't come from a faucet in the kitchen, bathroom, or a pipe protruding from the yard side of a wall. It came pure, cool, and clean from a well in the yard. Above the well was a structure that supported a pulley, rope and a well bucket. Drilled wells used long skinny buckets, dug wells were much bigger and could accommodate an ordinary bucket, so could cisterns. Cisterns were not wells at all, they were underground reservoirs for rainwater; however, they served the same purpose. All three had to have water drawn from them.

            Water often had to be drawn and carried. If you were blessed you had a pump and if you were living a charmed life it would stay primed from use to use. We had a drilled well and a long skinny bucket close to the house and considered ourselves lucky. I remember that we had a neighbor, a widow woman, who had no well and had to carry water from our well to her house across the road.

            Drawing water presented a number of pleasures; first, it was a sign of growing up... when you could finally draw a full bucket of water and carry it to the house you achieved "big boy" status. The novelty of this pleasure quickly matured into a chore for me. I later wondered who did it before I came along and lamented over who would ever relieve me of the task. Another pleasure was a fascination with the long skinny water bucket. It was a little over belly button high when resting in the carrying bucket and was about six inches in diameter. There was a trigger at the top that operated a stopper valve at the bottom. The stopper valve would let water in from the bottom of the bucket but would not let it out unless the trigger was pulled. Pulling the trigger would cause a rush of water to flow into the carrying bucket. Often the carrying bucket would hold more than one well bucket, but less than two. Getting just the right amount in the second load was a challenging and amusing game.

            The most interesting thing about long skinny well buckets was the sound you could get out of them by manipulating the flow of water. Pulling the trigger just barely enough to start a flow caused vibrations that produced a variety of sounds as the angle to the carrying bucket was varied.

            The easiest and probably the first sounds mastered by boys my age were variations on disgusting body sounds. Friends were often subjected to lavish demonstrations punctuated with exaggerated body language and accompanied with limericks like "Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit...” et cetera.

            One older playmate in the neighborhood became a juvenile folk hero when he demonstrated his ability to make the bucket talk. He could make it yelp like a dog, meow like a cat, and say "hello". But most notable was his numerous and often requested renditions of the "S" word expletive.

            I like running water, baths and all the things made possible by modern plumbing, yet I am saddened that it made extinct the long skinny well bucket, its art form, and the place of its many amusements among the milestones of growing up.

Copyright 1991 Charles Prier

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