DIGGING A WELL

When I was eleven or twelve years old and my brother Roy was three years older we had a summer job that was rather unique.  My oldest brother Ed was going to build a house just down the road from where we lived and had hired Mr. LeRoy Shaw to dig a well for him.  This wasn’t to be some drilled well, that would come later.  It was the regular well that was dug with a shovel and pick.  Mr. Shaw needed a couple of boys to handle the project of drawing the dirt out of the well and dumping it as he dug deeper and deeper.  It also meant that as he got down further we would be drawing him out of the well and letting him down into it several times a day.  Can you imagine digging a well that would end up being 65 feet deep and having an eleven and fourteen year old boys drawing the dirt in a five gallon bucket out above your head and drawing you out of that well?  I have to admit that I don’t think I could handle just getting down there and up again if I had assurance of strong, stable men handling the drawing.  

As Mr. Shaw prepared for the task he started by cutting a small branch from a tree and trimming it to have two limbs in his hands with the longer stem reaching out.  He held the limbs with his palms out and the stem sticking out straight as he walked around over the area where the well was to be.  As he walked that long end began to shake and then went straight down.  He changed directions and walked from another direction to come over the same spot and again the long end went straight down.  After doing that a few times and always coming back to the same spot he declared that this would be the right place for the well.  He then stood over that spot with his magic limb and as it was vibrating in his hand he counted and declared the well would be about 60 feet deep.  I thought at the time this seemed really strange.  Truthfully it still seems that way, but we dug the well and he hit water at 60 feet in the ground.  He dug down five feet more to make certain the stream was strong into the well.  After that process was completed we had the pleasure of putting the cement tiles into the well to make certain the walls were strong and would hold up without any caving.  Sometimes as we put the tiles down there would be spots where it would stick and he would have to go down and dig a little along the side for it to go on down.  Each tile had to go to the bottom of the stack for it to be secure.  Amazing things happened with that whole process.  It amazed me then and still does that a man could dig a circular hole at the right dimension from top to bottom so that the tiles would eventually fall all the way to the bottom.  I suspect if I had been digging it would have curved in several spots and caused all kinds of problems.

This wasn’t a week or two project.  It went on for quite a while, especially for young boys who get easily bored.  As Mr. LeRoy got further and further down into the ground and the time between drawing up the buckets of dirt and at times for drawing up Mr. Shaw became further and further apart we looked for other ways to entertain ourselves.  We wanted to be paid at the end of the job, but that didn’t mean that we would be so dedicated to the job that we could just stand there for long periods of time, like ten to fifteen minutes between each call to work, without anything else going on.  We created lots of games along the way with each other.  But that soon became boring so we tried other things like dropping small clods of dirt down the well to see what would happen.  Like everything for a couple of boys that too became old hat pretty quickly.  But then one day we spotted a rather small rabbit running around close by.  I’ve long since forgotten whose idea it was, but one of us came up with the thought of what fun it would be if we could get that rabbit to run toward the well and make a flying leap down that deep hole in the ground.  It wasn’t an easy project, especially since every few minutes Mr. Shaw would call up for us to draw the bucket of dirt up and empty it and let it back down.  But we were persistent.  Finally, after chasing the rabbit for a long time in many directions, it headed in the right direction.  When it darted in the wrong direction Roy somehow got in its way and it turned right toward the well.  

When that small rabbit made it last jump it became really exciting.  The scream that came out of the well turned two laughing boys into panicking boys pretty quickly.  At the time the thought of it actually doing any harm or hurting anyone had never entered our minds.  It was just the idea that it would be fun to have that rabbit fall on him and see what would happen.  When he screamed for us to pull him out, we stopped laughing and went to work wondering what in the world would happen now.  By the time we got him out of the well with him talking all the way up about what that was and how that happened we had become very innocent by the time we got him to the top.  “What happened, Mr. Shaw?”  “Did you not see that animal that fell into the well?”  “What kind of animal, Mr. Shaw?”  “I don’t know.  It was a rabbit or squirrel or maybe a big rat.  Didn’t you see it up here?”  “Well, we saw a rabbit running around a while ago.  We didn’t think much about it.  Do you think it might have fallen into the well?”  “I guess it did.  It was probably just running around and fell into the hole. From now on you boys need to watch out for such animals and scare them away.  It like to have scared the life out of me when that thing fell.  I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”  “We will Mr. Shaw.  We’ll be more careful from now on and run anything off that gets close to the well.”  “Alright, I guess I’m ready to go back down again.  Be sure to watch now after this.”  “We sure will Mr. Shaw.”

Surprisingly, we kept out jobs and actually worked the whole time until the well was completed and the cement tiles had been placed in the well and he built a shed over the well to keep anything away from it.  If he ever suspected that it might have been us that caused that rabbit to run into the well, we never heard about it.  But, as I remember we never did get any more calls to help him in his well digging either, so he may have figured out more than we thought.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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