Don’t Drain the Well

Tuesdays with Jo

When I was under 6 years old a Hobo—as we called them in those days—came to our back door asking if we could spare any food. Without hesitation, my grandmother fixed a plate of food for him.

My folks said that men would ride the rails, and when the train stopped in our little town on Mt. Vernon, Ill., they would sometimes hop off, find a bite to eat, and move on. I’m sure my grandmother knew of people facing hard times. It was no disgrace or dishonor, and if someone showed up hungry, you fed them.

I don’t know if the man had stopped at other houses before ours. We had a simple house, we weren’t poor, but we weren’t rich either, rather like the neighborhood, I suppose. My grandmother was widowed, had been since my mother was 12.  My father was in the war, my mother worked. We lived with no running water. We had a well in the backyard, the sort that was open on the top. The trick was to throw a bucket into the hole and draw up the water. I think there was a pump in the kitchen, so maybe we had a holding tank. We had an outhouse, electricity, and a furnace.

My Grandmother was an excellent cook. My stepdad said she made the best fried chicken, and I say she canned the best-pickled crabapples and mouth-watering dill pickles. Big ones, like you see at fairs, but her’s were better.

Except for the war hanging over our head–and I learned that war was the very worst thing that could happen. It surprises me that some people don’t necessarily feel that way, but I was young and innocent of the horrors I later learned and ran wild with the neighbor kids. We ate gooseberries that hung over the fence and sat under an apple tree with a saltshaker eating green apples. We put on our bathing suits in the summer and played in the water ditches, and we couldn’t wait for the first day of May when we could go barefoot. This was our way of living. We always had food, and my folks had the luxury of a car. I remember mom and her friends pooling their money for gas so they could go out on Saturday night.

Before my dad became a soldier, a mentally challenged boy lived next door. Often in the summers, my folks would get into water fights, and the neighbor boy loved it., He would egg my dad on, “Glen, I’ll get the water. I’ll get the water.” My mom would squeal and run up the stairs into the house. One time she broke her toe, tripping on the steps.

After being away from the house one day, we came home to an empty well. 

The boy had drained it.

It refilled.

Later my dad got a nanny goat, for he wanted to gain weight and had some stomach problems, and heard that goat’s milk would help. My dad would chain the goat to a stake and place it in various areas around the neighborhood to graze. The trouble was, no matter how deep he pounded in that stake, the boy would pull it out. The boy would then drive it around the neighborhood.  Soon the goat became so nervous my dad gave it away.

Why am I telling you this? I’ve been reading about feeding the homeless, and it caused me to think of Grandmother. And that sometimes it is not the most affluent who are the ones to help their fellow man.

I thought of the tent city in downtown Eugene, and with Thanksgiving coming up, I thought, why don’t we throw a couple of turkeys in the oven and take them down for a feast on the grass. I don’t know about the logistics of that idea or the health issues, but wouldn’t it be grand if when someone showed up hungry, we fed them?

Here’s a quote from a reader. She found it on the inside cap of her Tazo iced tea.

“Truth is so rare that it is delightful to tell.”  

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