We were awoken one night in early Spring by men shouting and the sound of gunfire. Dad got up to investigate, there was a full moon and he could see several men on horseback pass our house.
They seemed to be racing their horses and Dad said they were probably drunk or at least drinking, and might shoot toward the house. So we all moved into the back bedroom, closing the doors for protection. Ralph, Harry and I slept the rest of the night on quilt pallets on the floor—or at least tried to sleep. Just about time we thought the riders had gone on someplace else, they would come by the house again.
When morning came and we went into the kitchen, we found there was no water from the faucet there. It was piped from our deep well about a quarter mile West of our house, beside the roud to Trenton. There was a gasoline pump (engine) at this well, and a huge galvanized stand-tank on a platform. It was the only deep well for miles, and the water was clear and cold. Every farm had a hand-dug well, but these wells were not used for drinking water, because they could to contaminated by surface water from stock pens. So Dad let all the farmers nearby have all the drinking water they needed from our deep well. They all had large tanks on their wagons and would come and fill them as needed.
Dad went up the road to our deep well, and saw there was water in the ditches beside the road. He found the big stand-tank had been shot full of holes and all the water had run out. There was no way to repair the tank, so he had to go to town and buy another one.
Some of the men from adjoining farms came to help with the work, and soon we had water again. We had a hand-dug well at our house, too, just off the back porch, but we only used that water for washing clothes and such. It was cold as ice, and with ropes and pulleys, we let down food, milk, butter, etc. in tightly sealed honey buckets. It served well for that purpose. We learned later this well was fed by and underground spring, which years later broke out above ground, causing a deep ditch in front of our house that flowed on down toward the “bottoms” which was almost a swamp. No doubt there were underground springs there, too. A little creek ran along the edge of the “bottoms,” on the side toward our house. This little creek—more like a little brook—crossed our cotton field in front of our house, and it was here we had our “pet” craw-fish, or crawdads as we called them. Mine was a mean old warrior I named “Old Blue” and it liked nothing better than to latch onto one of my fingers and refuse to let go—no matter what! I nearly always had a swollen, sore finger.
This little brook crossed the road at the edge of the “bottoms” and flowed on down to that part of the “bottoms” where Old Man Cole’s cabin was. Dad built a bridge over the brook where it crossed the road—in those days each land owner had to maintain the portion of road on which his land bordered, and build whatever bridges needed at his own expense. There was no highway dept. then. And it was just dirt roads, not highways—this was before automobiles came into use—there was only one in the County then.
It belonged to “Strawberry” Sparkman, our mail route deliveryman. This was a little red car—and the first car I ever saw or rode in!
Under the bridge where the brook rossed the road was a nest of ill-tempered bumble bees. Harry and Ralph often stirred the nest up with a long pole, and when the bumblebees came out they batted them with paddles they made, a little larger than ping-pong paddles, with holes in them to make them less air resistant. They could pretty well defend themselves by batting and attacking bumblebees. I had a paddle, too, but I never won a battle much less a war. They said I batted wild “just like a girl.” They never got stung but I did—several times, always on my forehead. The sting made a lump about the size of an egg—when Dad saw such a lump on my forehead he would ask me “when I was going to learn to leave those bumble bees alone.”
That wasn’t my problem—they didn’t let me alone. Jack hated them, and could actually catch them in his mouth and kill them without getting stung—always spitting them out.
The first we knew that our hand-dug well was fed by a spring with an outlet somewhere was one day when we hauled a bucket up out of the well, and there resting on top was a water lizard almost a foot long. (Of course, the bucket had an air-tight lid, and they were never completely immersed over the top of the bucket. There was no way it could have entered the well except through a spring somewhere.
This was the only one, however, we ever found in the well.