The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

The Wisdom Of Barnyard Bruke: "Fickle Weather, Steve Smith, Water Witching, Well Tragedy"

Greetings ta ever one in western Illinois and all readers of The Quill.

Fickle Weather

Here we are now, officially in the first week of winter and Christmas is upon us. It's enterest'n how each winter can be so different.

Last week was mild, with temperatures in the upper 50's and lower 60's. Rain fell regularly and the week before much field work was accomplished.

Steve Smith

In contrast, two years ago was heavy snow with much colder weather. I recall on a Sunday morn'n, the 15th of December, 2013, a good feller Stephen E. Smith was push'n snow with his 930 case tractor and blade, make'n a better pathway to walk ever morn'n to exercise his painful back injury.

The tractor with heat houser skidded, rolled over, and the heat houser trapped him ta become crushed.

Whilst alive, Steve farmed and managed a lot of land down around these parts for absentee landowner families. He was a "stellar" man, sorely missed by all that knew him.

Water Witching

In last weeks column I wrote, among other things, about early farm days. It brings to mind a method some folks used ta find underground water, referred to as water witching.

There are still a few folks in our area who yet believe in water witching. My grandfather, and his father before him, and an uncle were good at it.

There was a family named Martins who vainly tried numerous times ta find a good well for their cattle feed lot. They also sold John Deere equipment.

In frustration they offered a new John Deere tractor to anyone who could find em a good well. Grandpa took up the challenge with his witch'n abilities and with this happen'n back in the early 50's we had that model "A" John Deere tractor fer a long time. It was our main"large" farm'n tractor fer quite a spell. Then, we used it fer chore'n and haul'n in ear corn fer crib'n.

Deep well digg'n machines have slowed the practice of the art of water witch'n. The equipment for witch'n is simple and inexpensive.

All a feller needs is a green peach tree or willow branch, about two or three feet long over-all, with a fork at one end. Some fellers simply used two pieces of wire bent in L shape, one piece gripped in each hand. I have one of these devices on my shelf.

The water witcher seizes the stick by the fork, one branch in each hand with the single portion project'n from the fork in an upright position. Thus prepared for the exploration, the practitioner starts walk'n back and forth over the area where it is hoped ta locate a well.

When the point of the stick uncontrollably turns downward, point'n ta the ground, there will be a good vein of water directly underneath. The depth is determined by the number of downturns the point tips downward.

Some say the success of the effort is dependant on the way the operator holds the forked stick. Others claim it is an unusual magnetism of the individual that makes it work and that not ever one has what it takes. Others say it is all hokum.

As fer me I approach such antiquated practices with caution before resort'n ta redicule. Now and then, modern ways must bow their heads before the humble practices of our forefathers. After all, we utilized that gifted tractor fer a good many years.

Well Tragedy

Speak'n on past tragedies, such as Steve's accident and relate'n those thoughts to wells, I am reminded of a most sad and mournful accident that occurred back on September 13, 1877. Three young men, Clark Cusick, Isaac Rummery, and James Scovell, undertook the job of clean'n out an old dug well, on the farm of C. G. Cusick.

The well was about 35 feet deep. Rummery was let down by means of a rope, and when within ten feet of the bottom, he let go of the rope and fell.

Perceive'n that an accident had occurred ta their companion, Cusick hastened down ta his relief, but had not been let down more than fifteen feet, when he also fell.

Then young Scovell, who was a grandson of C. G. Cusick, was let down; but he fell before he had gone down ten feet, Others had ta be restrained from likewise help'n. Assistance soon showed up.

Some old well diggers coming on the spot claimed the well infected with "damps" or carbonic acid gas. Burn'n straw was thrown down into the well and was instantly extinguised.

They then knew that the three relatives at the bottom of the well were dead. Grappl'n irons were then brought into place, and after three hours the bodies had all been brought ta the surface.

The accident cast a deep gloom over their whole community, as does all tragic farm accidents.

No one remains alive that witnessed the tragedy, and few are left that even remember the story about it, one hundred thirty nine years ago.

I reckon I might be the only one familiar with what and how it happened, who it happened to, and where even the well was, which now both well and farmstead no longer exist.

The feller who meticulously told the story ta me is long gone.

Such is the way of much rural history, it simply fades away.

Not only do the fellers who will never forget the tragedy pass into history but those who remember the rememberer's also pass away. I reckon we must accept life as it is, fer sure.

Hope'n ta see ya in church this week and have a "Very Merry Christmas".

Remember: "Wherever ya is, whatever ya be a do'n


Keep on Smile'n

Catch Ya Later