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Pump Water ~ a flash memoir
by Thomas Givens

John Milton Wesley, in his moving ode to growing up in Ruleville, Mississippi, mentioned pump water.

I'm wondering how many people remember pump water. For those who don't, let me tell you.

When you lived out in the country, especially the Linn, Mississippi (Delta) area, you had no plumbing of any kind and no runnning water. Water associations had not arrived. To get water for your basic needs, you drove pipes into the ground until you reached water, which in the Delta was not too far down. Once you got down there where the water was, you attached a pitcher pump to the top. That served your basic water needs. Now, once you primed the pump (you kept a bucket of water next to the pump for this) and pumped it for a while, you could get a cool drink of water.

For washing clothes and other needs, pump water was worthless. Leave the water sitting out for a time and it would turn almost red because there was so much iron in it, very hard.

Another bad thing about this water is that it was not filtered, the wells were shallow. Back then you had cows, hogs, dogs and all other animals and humans doing what they have to do on the ground, and guess where it went? I'm lucky to be here.

Luckily, I only drank the water when I got thirsty and it was handy -- it was good and cold if you pumped it for a while. We toted water from Ringold's plantation artesian well for drinking and washing needs, using a flat bed trailer to haul two 50 gallon drums about twice a week. Later on Daddy bought a water softener, and we could then use the water out of the old well . . . and we also eventually, thankfully, got indoor plumbing. Ah, the good old days!


Judge Tom Givens is a native Mississippi Deltan who now hangs his hat in Tennessee.
His memoirs are favorites at USADEEPSOUTH. Here are a few:

The Halfway Store
The Delta Theater
Memphis and the Delta
Whiskey, Chickens and Cherry Bombs

from Billy Tom "Bubba" Lusk ~
Mr. Givens, I understand. We hauled our artesian water from the Hart place. And yes, I've often wondered regarding the purity of pump water. I remember when the government was involved in installing the concrete floor outhouses; I think I recall that they required them to be a certain distance from the pump.

My Daddy, Claude, really liked to have cold frames and hot beds for mostly tomatoes and potatoes. He bought (from Sears-Roebuck, I think) a pump onto which a hose could be attached. It was my chore to pump while he watered the seedlings. I recall one time (probably an attitude accident) when my hand slipped off the handle and it flew up and made a cut on my chin -- more blood than injury but that scar was useful for a long time.

Dad eventually got our own artesian well. Wish I could remember the name of the firm in Memphis that drilled the well about eleven hundred feet. Maybe you can recall the name for me. Come April, I'll become eighty. I have trouble calling the roll of our seven grandchildren . . .

Read many more great stories listed on our USADS Articles pages.


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