Sunday, May 9, 2010

Divining , Dowsing and Witching For Water in Pokiok

I grew up in Pokiok in the 1930s and '40s with a well across the road and an outhouse in the far corner of our backyard. Running water could have been Pocahantas's twin sister for all I knew..... but otherwise it was not part of my early vocabulary. However , I did know it existed since we had running water from a tap at Saint Peter's School  , at church , at the rink and all my friends out Douglas Avenue had it their homes .... as well as our family friends downtown...... the McElwaines , Joyces , Scotts , etc Whenever we were invited out to supper in town during my toddler days I would often spend the entire evening flushing the toilet ... if left unwatched  .... so my Mom told me ! To my mother's great dismay the morning following one of these " nights on the town" the hostess informed her that one of the family's newborn kittens had mysteriously disappeared....... the burden of which I bore on my awakening conscience for much of my youth. And now back to the main theme of this post.... finding and fetching water in Pokiok.

By the time I came along in January of 1936 most of the finding of water had already taken place ......folks knew where it was and they harnessed and harvested it as best they could at that time in accordance with their needs. In some cases one well serviced  a small community of 7 or 8 households...... for example , the well across the road from our house was "watering hole" to the Campbells up the Clubhouse Road , the Doyles , the Johnstons , the Dobsons ( and later the Londons ) , Vaughn and Annie Fownes ( later the Byers ) , Bill , Alice and Cecil Estey and family ( later on King Bailey and extended family). Others like the Hurders and Hatfields , halfway up the big hill , had a well in their backyard with a hand-activated suction pump to "entice" the water from the loins of the earth below .. up the hose , out the spout and into the waiting pails. However , since it was most natural for all to want their own private well as close to home as possible..... it was not uncommon back then to see people walking to and fro in their backyard holding on to both ears of a wide-angled slingshot called a dowsing or divining rod....... with the handle pointing straight inwards toward to bellybutton...... hoping against hope that some magnetic force would soon draw the handle downwards , thereby indicating the presence of water below. The wood of choice was usually willow or alder according to my Dad because these trees thrived by living close to streams or lakes.When he came home after the War I well remember Ernie MacDonald and his brothers-in-law digging for hours .... straight down to maybe 12 feet or so..... but to no avail ! Dry as the proverbial bone ! And God only knows how much finding water would have meant to him , Kaye and their son , Tommy ( my best friend) as they lived on the very top of Glad Hill.... the highest point along Pokiok Road .... and had to descend the other slope about 300 yards to fetch their water.... and then lug it all the way back up the hill to their home. I can vouch for that since I would often help Tommy , at chore time , to carry a pail or two back up to Kay... and he would reciprocate by lending me a helping hand when my turn came to do the same for my Mom ... although the distance to our back porch from our well was much shorter.

Two days ago Rebekah and I drove up to Pokiok  to snap a few pictures of the Twin Ponds and immediate area. On the way back I pulled over to the side of the road in front of the old Armstrong/Howard Bishop place. Directly opposite this house ..... some 60 to 65 years ago.....Tommy and I , carrying two pails each , would trot along a well-beaten pathway about 25 yards into the woods to the community well I just spoke of in the above paragraph , fill our buckets with the help of a dipper ..... then trek all the way back up the hill to his place. Nowadays , however, there is no longer a well-defined path .... nothing but a wall of thick undergrowth and trees ... a full-grown forest so to speak. Anyways ...... into the dense woods I go ..... Rebekah and camera in tow .... guided by my memory's GPS...... and after maybe five minutes .......... Bingo ! There it was ....... our old watering hole of yesteryear. I had not laid eyes on it since 1950!

P.S.  3 of the photos above show the well in the woods as we found it two days ago while the fourth is an update on what has happened to our own well across from the old homestead. The old spring has been covered over with crushed rock but is still functional as someone has somehow corralled the water below the ground so that it wells up inside the cylinder ..... and added a tap to boot !! I turned it on and it works just fine !

Have you read the link About Pokiok ?

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