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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The First No Well

I like Christmas music. We've been playing it for a couple weeks in our house and cars, but we're not yet playing it in the halls at school. We wait until after Thanksgiving for that--no point in getting the kids ready for Christmas Break too soon.

In the years following 1970, I used to sing the Christmas chorus "The First Noel" this way: "No well. No well. No well. No well. How can we get water if there's no well?"
I meant no disrespect to the original words; it's just that I was warped by our "no well" experience in 1971.

When you hear the word WELL, what image comes to mind? A quaint little "wishing well" with a bucket on a rope wrapped 'round a wooden crank? A farm well--the kind with rusted windmills that still stand against the big Midwestern sky? Do you think of a scary movie or a song "'bout a ghost in a wishing well"? Or of abandoned pits like the one down which “Baby Jessica” fell in 1987?

I'd almost forgotten about her. Like nearly everyone in America, we were glued to that "baby-in-the-well-drama" for two nights, and the viewership paved the way for what networks would later called "reality TV." But I digress...

The purpose of this post, like the one about cisterns, is to lay some groundwork for the "Unsettled" chapters that will follow. I plan to write those in story form so it may make more sense if we have this discussion first.

There are basically three ways to excavate a well (double-click picture to enlarge) : A well can be (1) drilled, (2) driven (sometimes called a "driven-point well" common here in the sandy soils of west Michigan), or (3) dug--as in hand dug with a shovel. When I think about wells, I think about digging.

Through the years when I've told people "we dug a well with dad" they envision one of these methods, and the truth is what we did looks closest like the drawing on the left of the diagram above, but it was a little more complicated than that. This is obviously not my dad in the video, but this is very similar to the space in which he worked.

The workers in the video above were digging and then pouring cement around the inside bottom of the well as they dug. They had not yet hit water, but every time they had a foot or so of exposed earth under the concrete wall, they lowered buckets of concrete to "add more wall" at the bottom as they gradually went deeper.

Wells like this old one, were dug first and then the masonry work was built from the ground up inside the dirt hole.

This was the method most commonly used throughout history. If you have the time, you can see how it's done in this seven minute video. The labor involved in this sort of well is even harder than what we did with Dad, whose idea was unlike anything I've seen done anywhere else.

I wish we had some video of Dad down in the well and my brothers and I hauling up 5-gallon buckets of dirt and clay. I'd settle for some photographs, but the truth is during the nearly ten weeks of digging the well. We took no pictures. When we first bought the land, Mom took lots of pictures. (I've shared many of them in previous chapters.) But by '71, she had grown somewhat weary of the slow progress we were making out at "the property." Oh, she was still very supportive and brought out hot meals for us every Saturday, but in the two years since the barn had been completed, all of our Saturday work was on roads and creeks and "infrastructure" such as electrical and excavation for where the house would someday be, but there was no sign of a house.

Add to this the fact that my sister Kathy had gone away to college during the 1970-71 school year, and parting with kids for college has a way of making parents feel old, and the place you live, because it becomes the place children "come home to" feels more and more like where you ought to stay. Mom never said this aloud, but it was part of her mixed feelings about moving and the slow pace of our hard work.

There was much more involved, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Suffice to say that during those years Mom took fewer pictures. So these images and videos from third-world countries are very helpful.

See the men rolling the concrete culvert in the photo above? Our project, when I get to that part of the story, began with seven culverts just like that, and by the end of the project they looked like this. How we got there, I trust, will be as interesting to you as it was memorable for Dad, my brothers, and me.


Anonymous quilly said...

I almost didn't click on this link. You keep posting things that aren't really there when one goes to look for them. Like the lovely poem, There Was a Time. I trust it will actually be here some day so I can tell you I loved it?

Your dad's idea of lining the well with culverts was very cleaver! I can't wait to hear the story.

23/11/08 7:45 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Oh, my!
I didn't realize that could happen. I did post a poem to see what it looked like then pulled it down but it will come back. Sorry about that. I sometimes have to "test" video links and pictures, etc. but I didn't know it triggered whatever mechanism tells people there's a new post. I'll try to be more careful.
I'm actully still a novice about much of the details of blogging. When I post that poem, I'll try to remember to post the first draft in the comments. (It was slightly different and I'm never quite sure if I improve upon lines of a poem as I tweak them.)

23/11/08 8:07 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

We had a well like that. The pipe might have been a culvert pipe as it wasn't poured cement. This was in Upper Michigan .

24/11/08 1:51 PM  
Anonymous mommyknows said...

You should have said, "oh WELL" to Quilly. Haha

I spent several months in Honduras working with the poor Camposinos. We did something similar.


24/11/08 2:03 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John,
The way we sunk the crocks in the ground made sense. I'm surprised I've been abel to find no other examples of it, but it did have some risks as we will see.

Welcome to POI. After that bad pun in the opening lines of this post, I resisted all other temptations to play on the title of this deep subject.

24/11/08 6:48 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

bring on the Christmas music-
I could listen to it most of the year.

24/11/08 11:39 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It's been a while. I was telling someone at tonight's boys basketball game that I heard Christmas music on the radio on Halloween. I like Christmas music, but that was surreal--especially since the weather was warm. Now that there's snow on the ground, I love it. (Sorry for ruining "Noel")

Some Christmas recordings make me very nostalgic. I hear a certain voice singing a certain song and it just takes me back in time. Bing Crosby singing "I'll be Home for Christmas" gets me every time.

Last year at this month, I was writing that story about the Duncan Phyfe table and the chapters were chronologically tying into the actual holidays. I liked that.

This story is taking us into the summer of '71 the week of Thanksgiving and it seems more out of place. I hope to wrap it up well before Christmas.

Wait 'til you read the next chapter. Talk about "out of place." It's includes a dream that I hope is somewhat of a universal experience for readers, if not, you guys are going to think I've lost it. =)

Oops! I've said too much--don't want to give it away. Thanks for dropping by. Hope to see you soon.

25/11/08 12:45 AM  
Anonymous mommyknows said...

Deep subject indeed! Hahaha

25/11/08 8:57 PM  

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