not to be taken for granted
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
Well, folks, it hasn't always been that way.
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
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.
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
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"
1, 2007 Column