we think nothing of turning on a faucet to get water. Daily, millions
of gallons of water are used, saved, wasted, discussed, bought and
sold without raising an eyebrow.
Well, folks, it hasn't always been that way.
Excerpts from "The Early History of Ochiltree County" tell about
the many problems suffered by the earliest pioneers there and recall
the problem of finding water on the High Plains. The first hand-dug
water well in Ochiltree
County was dug in 1887 by R.S. Cutter who "witched and found"
a likely place on which he dug to a depth of 97 feet before finding
water. The well was weak in production and finally abandoned.
The second hand-dug well was named "The Brillhart" located on Section
1010, going 240 feet deep, dug by Sam Brillhart and John May with
Bob Garrett lifting the dirt to the top by windlass.
Another well, thought to be the third hand-dug well, went to a depth
of 252 feet and was dug by D.L. Whippo, who encountered a streak
of hard rock 103 feet thick. He did not give up and finally broke
through to find "sweet water" that fed settlers, travelers and livestock
for more than 75 years. Imagine digging for months at the bottom
of a vertical tunnel nearly as deep as a football field is long.
There were many hand-dug water wells dug in the late 1890s before
the cable-rigged "spudders" were invented. It was estimated for
every good well found, at least two others were dry or weak producers.
James Lile dug a water well in the Oklahoma Strip near Gray, Okla.,
using wind power furnished by a new-fangled Eclipse Wind Mill. The
men "dug when the wind blew and rested when the wind was calm."
Our ranch in New Mexico sported a 6-foot Aermoter windmill, sitting
astraddle a hand-dug, rock-lined, water well located on the Rana
Creek bank. It was about 24 feet deep.
The remnants of a one-room rock house stood only a few feet away.
Someone had torn the walls down to a 2-foot height, rocked in the
doorways and hauled blue clay from a nearby hill to make a tank
bottom. With only one 20-foot joint of pipe and sucker rod, the
mill turned on a slight breeze, always keeping the rock tank full.
No one remembers who dug the well. It had just always been there.
Perhaps if each of us had to spend months of hard work digging for
water we would be more careful in our water use. Maybe some would
not be so quick to sell or ship our Panhandle
water elsewhere. If we had to haul our domestic water in wooden
barrels on sled or wagon, filling and emptying with a bucket, our
water bills would be much less.
At my age, I'm not worried about running out of water before I die.
However, I predict that there may be a lot of people living today
who will suffer water shortage or will pay fantastic water bills
at some time in the future due to a dwindling supply of water.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"August
1, 2007 Column