We seemed to have jogged a few memories of old cistern tales out there. Thanks to everyone that sent in their stories. Also, we forwarded those stories to "The Prairie Connection."
Just for a few minutes let us put ourselves into the footprints of our ancestors who had no electricity and running water to their homestead. To get water to the house for drinking, cooking and washing we might step out onto the back porch. We would crank up the old pump which would then start a chain of little buckets going round and round while it dumped water out of the spout into the bucket.
Do you remember the hand pump which brought that sweet, soft water up in small cups to fill the water bucket for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc...? AND... Never wasting a drop of that precious water.
AND... what about those community baths we would take in galvanized tubs setting on the back porch. Letting the baby of the family go first in the clean water while it would then proceed on down to the oldest before it was dumped out.
We would have the rain water washing off the roofs during a rainstorm into metal gutters and a filtering box -- filling an underground cistern or wooden barrels above ground. It was a sweet, soft water. Unlike the water wells of hard, mineral water.
Remember as a young child looking down into that dark hole with a claustrophobic, scary feeling of what was down there. How far would I fall?
I remember the concrete cistern we had out at our ranch north of Waynoka when I was just a young girl (perhaps in the early to mid-1950's). It seemed at the time that it was about 3 or 4 feet wide -- not sure how deep, though. It had a concrete lid with rebar handles set into it for lifting in and out to fill it with water hauled from Alva, Oklahoma. It did not have a crank/pump outside, though. It seems like it was piped to the electric pump in a room on the back porch. Those memories are vague. I suppose my two older sisters memories of that concrete cistern might be a bit clearer.
How big was your cistern? 5 or 6 feet wide? 12 to 15 feet deep? 30 feet deep? What kind of filtering systems did you use? Pebbles in the bottom of the cisterns? Big sand vats that allowed the water to filter through and drain into a big underground storage hole with a bucket chain crank system on the top?
Do you remember when it came time to clean the deep, dark hole in the ground? It seemed like the smallest one in the family had the responsibility, honor (if that what it was) to be lowered down into the bottom of the cistern to clean the debris that might have settled at the bottom. Meanwhile, the adult would send down buckets of clean water and haul up in buckets the debris that you might find down below.
We would love to share your old photos of Cook Shacks, Cisterns, threshing machines, etc... in our OkieLegacy Ezine. If you have a scanner, scan them to a jpg file and send them our way to: firstname.lastname@example.org. IF NOT, you can snail-mail us a copy (or original, which we can mail back to you). Our Snail-mail address is: OkieLegacy Ezine
c/o Linda Wagner
PO Box 619
Bayfield, CO 81122-0619
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Comments: Thanks! This NW Okie has been corrected and her memory refreshed. So... our water was hauled from Waynoka, Oklahoma on a flat-bed truck leaving a washed road look behind. I never knew that part of the story. Thanks for sharing. ~NW Okie (a.k.a. Linda Wagner) 2006-02-05 13:35:59
LK, your cistern water came from Waynoka on the back of a flat bed truck in a tank that leaked so much that it looked as if a road washer was headed up highway 14. And the cistern water smelled and tasted like cistern water, nothing else like it. One of the best things that happened to that part of the country was the rural water program. ~SBW 2006-02-05 13:15:44
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