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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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unsettled 10B

"Dig a Little Deeper in the Well, Boys"

In Chapter 10A, we left Dad and me standing at the well site which was in a freshly excavated slope of earth that would someday be our basement. Because I was assigned to take over Dave's Detroit News paper route that morning, I'd missed everything that had happened so far and was full of questions.

"So what are these little stones for?" I asked pointing to a large pile that had been delivered that week.

"That's pea gravel," he said picking up a handful. "See it's all the size of green peas. That's why the call it that. It serves two purposes. I'm using it like ball bearings to help slide the crocks into the hole I'm digging, but beyond that, it helps filter the water that will run down to the bottom of the well and come up inside."

I didn't quite follow, and the puzzled look on my face may have prompted further explanation, but Dad was hungry. "You'll see this afternoon," he said. "We've got a whole nuther crock to sink. Let's go eat."
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We walked back to the barn. Paul and Dave had set the table just outside the open double doors, where a nice breeze was blowing in the shade of the tall black Cherry trees between the barn and the out-house. As always, Mom covered the old Duncan Phyfe with the red-and-white table cloth and paper plates, weighted down with the old settings of mismatched silverware we kept in the barn. The table cloth was not an attempt to be fancy, for these were always simple meals with little fuss, but she hated the idea of eating on the same surface Dad used to sharpen chainsaw blades or tinker with whatever needed fixin’ for that day’s work.
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Paul and Dave had already washed their hands at the pitcher pump in the barn, so it was already primed and ready when Dad worked the handle three times and rinsed his hands. He pumped up some more, cupped his hands beneath the stream and splashed it into his face; pumped up some more and drank from his cupped hands. "Ahhhh... that's good!" he said, reaching for the old towel that hung on a nail in one of the log posts.
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(A few years ago, when I finished my "cabin basement," my Mom gave me the old pump from the barn. It had not been primed for nearly twenty years, but it's full of wonderful memories.)
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I've not mentioned it here until now, but we had dug a shallow well the summer before right there in the sandy floor by the south wall of the barn. It was only 14 feet deep. Dave and his friend Don did all of the digging in one Saturday. They hit water at about four feet, so it was a combination of digging with shovels and "bailing" out with buckets. Inside the hole, Dad stacked cement drain tile like a chimney, filled the base with pea gravel, back filled in around it, and stuck a 2" PVC pipe down in the narrow well, and attached the hose to the cast iron pump.
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Digging it in one day was true yeomen's work (which Paul and I somehow managed to miss out on). It was also an experiment of sorts to see where the water table was, and to make sure the idea of this much bigger well would work. It worked fine, and the end result was this green pump on a wooden stand with a Rubbermaid dish pan for a sink. At the end of each day's work we left water in the pan or a can beside the pump to "prime" the "leathers" the next week.
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(A dry pump can't create enough suction to draw water up the pipe, but if you pour the water from the can down the top of the pump while working the handle it starts to gasp and squawk like a drowning beast until the air is out and the pump is primed and each stroke brings a full silent gush of clean, cold water.)
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So you see, this little well not only helped Dad clean up from work that day, it gave him the confidence to begin the work that day.
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Around the table was an assortment of old folding chairs that had all seen better days, but like the silverware and the table itself, they’d found a second life in the barn. The legs sunk a little in the sandy soil as we took our seats. Dad took deep breath, raised his eyebrows, closed his eyes, bowed his head, and we did the same.

“Our Heavenly Father,
We thank you for this beautiful weather, for today's sunshine and last week's rain; for the healthy bodies that can serve you. We thank you for this land that we will someday call home. We thank you for each other as we work together here. And for water and for this food that Mom has prepared. May all we do with the strength it brings also bring honor to you. And if it be Your will, Lord, we'd ask that we sink that second crock today. We pray these things in Jesus name. Amen.”


It was as natural as a cricket’s chirp to say grace before a meal. [We still do it to this day.] During the week, each kid had an assigned day to ask the blessing. I had Wednesdays. Dad took Saturdays and Sundays. Jim was too young to pray meaningfully at the table, but eventually he took Kathy’s spot in the rotation. It wasn't just some quaint tradition as illustrated by Normal Rockwell (though I must admit it feels like that to this day in public places.)
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Saying grace as a family is a constant reminder that we are not alone, that there is an unseen guest at the table--except He’s not “a guest” really... He’s the host. Prayer is not us asking God to enter our world as much as it a reminder that we daily walk in His. Prayers are conversations, and Dad’s were never flowery—no “thees” and “thous.” No memorized lines or repetition.

Memorized prayers are fine and beautiful things. “The Lord’s Prayer,” for instance, turns our hearts to the attributes of God and our dependence on Him for daily bread and forgiveness. It reminds us that the present is but a pause in the path toward things to come. If you’re like me, that prayer has been memorized in King James English, and like all of the well-know church texts, it’s somewhat iconic and lofty and choric, imbued with the resonance of Gregorian chants in a cathedral and the whisper of a country chapel.
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There is a place for such prayers and any pattern of words that turn our face to God. But when we said grace around the table, it was simply talking to God about concerns and blessings of that day. Sometimes we forgot to even mention the food.
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The meal was simple: chicken salad sandwiches. coleslaw, and potato chips. In winter, Mom would bring out hot dishes--a pot of goulash or Spanish Rice--perfect in the cold barn, but she kept it simple in the summer.

I hesitate to include this next detail but it’s true. Mom threw in two peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for me (made with “crunchy" Velvet peanut butter [a Detroit brand of the time. I had gone on an elementary field trip to the Velvet plant] and Smucker’s strawberry preserves). I now love chicken salad, but at the time, I was in my fourth year of what would be a twelve-year streak of preferring PBJs over any other sandwich. [To this day, I love them. Julie bought herself a Panini maker day after Thanksgiving, and I made PBJ Panini’s—don’t knock it. They’re really good.]

The next chapter includes the details of how the digging process worked. Did we get the second crock sunk that day? I'll tell you in Chapter 11.

In the meantime, enjoy this Oakridge Boys song written by Flatt and Scrugs, who also wrote "I Walked the Line," "The Ballad of Jed Clampet"(which was The Beverly Hillbillies theme), "Detroit City," and "Angel Band" to name just a few. (Being from the North, we did not have southern accents, but whenever Dave and I sang "Angel Band," we harmonized in southern twangs--I'm not sure I could sing it any different to this day.) We didn't know all the words to this song, but the chorus was stuck in our heads that summer of 1970.


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To Be Continued...

7 Comments:

Anonymous quilly said...

It is raining so hard that even at full volume I can't hear the song! This would fill up the well in no time! In fact we got a record 2 inches in 24 hours just Sunday.

16/12/08 1:50 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Quilly,
Wow! That sounds like a Hawaiian mansoon.

It is soooooo coooold here right now (+13 F) that if we got that two inches of rain it would be 2 feet of snow and all the kids would be thrilled. We did get an inch of snow last night with more coming every day this week. We're very likely to have a "white Christmas." I like that.

We got a phone call from our friends in Hawaii Saturday night before the rain you mention hit.
Stay dry!

16/12/08 7:09 AM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

MKy Aunt's camp had a pump like that as did the old family house next to ours. I remember priming it and then trying to get iot started.
Looking forward to your next chapter.

16/12/08 12:04 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John,
Dad called the valve part of the pump "the leathers." I guess they were once made of leather, but I think they are now made of rubber. The "leathers" in this now-forty-year old pump are shot.

16/12/08 8:13 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I love P&J too! I think it's may favorite and it brings back so many great memories.

I'm glad you got THE pump. It is definitely a keeper. I have one, very similar, but I didn't know about the leather. I can't wait until daylight to check it out.

The song was hard to hear like quilly said but I was able to get it on full volume. I sang along in my southern slang which is exactly the way I talk! And I ain't kiddin!

17/12/08 8:33 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Nancy,
It was when Dave and I sang "Angel Band" that we put on the twang.

"Oh, come, Angel Band,
Come and around me stand,
Oh, bear me away on your snowy wings
to my immortal home..."

So I'm wondering... did your sister in Michigan keep her Carolina accent? I'm sure there is at least a hint of it there. I hope so...that's a good thing.

18/12/08 7:41 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I'm glad you think it's a good thing... most people consider it "Red Neck". hehe

Cheryl did keep some of her Carolina accent but she's lived in Michigan for maybe 15 years, so her girls have none at all. Her girls tell her that when she gets around me her southern accent gets worse... and they didn't mean it as a compliment either. The daughter that reminds you of your daughter is pictured in my blog... a very funny photo- check it out!

Have a great weekend!

19/12/08 4:04 PM  

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