The Little Boy and the Cistern
(c) by Jerry Davis


There was a little farm boy, but I don't know his age when this happened.

This boy knew his way around the farm really well.  He was an "only" child and had the "run of the place" but only had playmates when relatives came or neighbors brought their kids by to play while the grownups visited.

This boy's grandparents lived in a house with two cisterns.  There was a cistern up front and an outhouse out back.  Neat thing about cisterns; they were designed to catch rain water from roof gutters.  You poured charcoal from the fireplace into the cistern to purify the water and make it taste better; well, better than just letting leaves and stuff ferment in the bottom.  Sometimes you just had to let a little kid down into the cistern and have them scoop the old leaves and sediment into a well bucket to be drawn out.  The cisterns weren't very well sealed at the top and sometimes a few things managed to drop into the cistern.  I won't mention here all the things that were known to drop in.  But cistern water always had a distinctive taste even if nothing fell in.  One caught water from the end of the house near the master bedroom window and the other caught water from an area close to the kitchen window.

The bath water came from the cistern next to the bedroom and the drinking water came from the cistern next to the kitchen.

The cisterns always had a fiber well rope and a funny shaped bucket (V-shape) for drawing water.

Many times Grandmother said "go draw up some well water for the kitchen".  This boy was able to draw up well water if he really struggled with it.  He didn't know it at the time but the well pulley had an leverage advantage of one to one.  This meant that what ever the weight of the bucket and water together were was the amount of force needed to lift the bucket of water from the bottom of the well to the rim of the cistern.  Once the bucket was lifted to the edge of the cistern, it could be unsnapped from the rope and carried to the kitchen.

The problem was, one day when the little boy was unsupervised, the bucket of water slipped off the rim of the cistern and back into the well making a tremendous sound as it made its splash and thud in the bottom of the cistern.   The thud was so great that it caught the attention of everyone in the kitchen.  The well rope slipped through the pulley and followed the bucket of water back into the well. 

Everyone in the kitchen rushed out the screened-in back porch and down the steps and around to the well.  The little boy was not there.  The rope couldn't be pulled up with the bucket.  The little boy must be in the well.   Not being able to see the bottom of the cistern very well, panic set in and someone rushed to find a light to shine in the well.

Soon the light revealed the truth.  The bucket was in the well.  The rope was in the well.  The little boy was not in the well.

A search quickly began to find the little boy.  The conversation here can be imagined, "We will follow his tracks in the road and find him where ever he may have run off to.  I am not sure what we will do to him but let's go find him and have a talk with him!"

The little boy who had made his way down the caliche road, a couple of hundred yards, had left tracks in the dust of the road as he ran.  This little boy had found his way into the top of a peach tree located behind his dad's workshop.  The little boy could see the troupe of people tracking him down the road and coming to find him. The fear of what might happen was increasing as he watched the men coming to find him.  The peaches were very good as the boy ate them and tried to become invisible.  The boy's uncle and dad were very good trackers.  Soon they did the inevitable and spotted the little boy in the peach tree.  The dad asked a surprising question, "What are you doing in that peach tree?"  The little boy gave his logical answer "I am sitting here eating peaches."  He though at the time the answer was thin but he was eating peaches.

The little boy didn't think anyone was very pleased with his answers that day.  He anticipated the next question, "Why did you run off when you dropped the bucket in the well?  Do you realize that we thought you had fallen in the well and drowned?"

There are some questions and events that have no good answer and are not easy to explain.  Even now I wonder what this little boy could have been thinking when he ran away after dropping the bucket into the well.