Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Early rural residents got water, refrigeration from cold springs

For some reason Bess and John Estes sometimes walked the five miles to Columbia. I can see them now: Bess in front, carefully groomed, carrying her purse and a basket of eggs. She wore a stylish dress or suit and a big matching hat. John, about 10 paces behind, carried a partly filled cream can.

Sometimes Bess went alone in the buggy, but she was not in any hurry.

Her life was simple and quiet, hard at times, but her calling was that she had a knack with flowers. She raised and gave away many varieties of beautiful flowers. She milked their cow, saved cream and churned butter. She raised Buff Orphington chickens for egg production, to eat and to sell or for Olivet Church basket dinners.

Mother and I often walked through the woods to visit Bess, and she’d walk to visit Mom; they couldn’t plan these visits because Bess didn’t have a phone. A few times my mother, Nancy Meyers, felt that she hadn’t seen Bess for weeks. She’d look out the window, and there came her friend Bess!

Bess protected her skin from sun damage by wearing a big wide hat in the vegetable garden or while working with her poultry or flowers. At home she was always in a clean, ironed cotton house dress.

Bess and John Estes got their water from two sources: a cistern that collected soft water from rooftops and a ground water spring that had hard water good for drinking, but it curdled in the wash pan or laundry tub! City women sometimes went to the homes of farm friends to get cistern water for their shampoos.

As a preschool kid, I loved the Estes’ spring. It always had the same amount of water in it, and I lingered there till Bess moved the big rocks that held planks down to keep animals and kids from falling in.

It was cool and dark down in the spring, and the water was always the same distance down. I’d get belly-down on the ground and see my own image on the water. I’d make funny faces to see them reflected on the undisturbed surface. Mom liked making faces too, but Bess just stood by and waited.

There were other things to do at the spring; there was always at least one frog living there. Half-grown green frogs, with beady eyes, were hard to see against moss-covered stones, but I could always locate at least one. It bothered not at all that this was our drinking water, refreshing and welcome after the long walk through the woods.

The spring also served as a refrigerator, keeping butter firm and cream sweet. The tall cream can with the tight-fitting lid was partly submerged and tied down to prevent spilling. Leftover food was also partly suspended.

Too soon Bess and Mom would want to take me with them to the house. The log cabin summer kitchen was about 14 long strides from the Estes’ home. The two buildings had a wide concrete runway connection with several steps for hopping up and down.

I could also sit there and practice bouncing a hard rubber ball and picking up jacks while the women talked.

The home was made of vertical support logs joined by horizontal planks. Bess had covered them with colorful flowered wallpaper, but that couldn’t have made the room warmer for winter sleeping.

Regardless, I was always happy when Mom asked, "Shall we walk over to Estes’ this afternoon?"

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