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Water, Part 1

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August 5, 2011 by wcobserver

We were fortunate to have water on this piece of land. A reliable supply of water has always determined whether people could live in any given place so Ozark properties with springs and good hand dug wells turned into valuable homesteads. The rest of the thousands of acres of this tough and radiant land had usefulness only to the extent that it produced timber for harvesting or fertile fields that might host cattle or crops, and that only to the point that Mother Nature brought enough rain to keep the cattle and crops alive.

When we first moved up the mountain, there was a place about a half mile in from the highway where lots of people stopped to get water. There was an old cabin there, and people living in it, but the spring belonged to anyone who wanted to partake of its abundance. The water flowed cool and strong from under a small ledge of rock at the bottom of a bluff. The cabin with its hand-built chimney of native stone nestled against the bluff, and at some point someone had seen fit to block up the entrance to the spring’s outflow and channel water through a pipe, so that the water not only rushed from under the small dam but also through the pipe.

Perhaps it was the same thoughtful person who built a handy small wooden bridge over the spring’s creek and flourishing vegetation, so that people could easily walk up to the pipe. The road wasn’t busy in those days, and two or three cars might be found pulled halfway off the pavement at the curve by the spring with their passengers engaged in some stage of filling water containers, walking across the little bridge, or trodding the beaten footpath back to their cars. This arrangement also fostered ample opportunity for catching up on community news and improving bonds between neighbors.
At some point in the early 80s, the county health department determined the spring was not a safe water source. We never had the complete story. We only knew that the pipe had been removed and the cabin had been abandoned. Maybe it had something to do with the lack of appropriate sewage treatment for the bathroom of the house, although being downstream from the spring it didn’t seem to have been a threat to the water quality. Maybe it was because of animal operations on the hills above the spring, so that their waste was filtering down through the rocky soil and contaminating the spring. It was a loss of water, beauty, and community for all of us on the mountain. (To be continued)

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