Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church

Water Hunt – Well Blog Post #3/4

March 4th, 2013 by Pastor David Echelbarger

3rd in A Series on Pastor Dave and Christine’s search for water when drilling their well up north.  “Water Hunt” was first published by Eagle Printing September 4, 1992


                           Water Hunt


We don’t think about it much.  Turn on the faucet and liquid gold comes running out.  Water!  I’m speaking of water, the gusher gift!  In my life I have treated water as abundance.  My wife, Christine, is always correcting my overuse when I brush my teeth.  First, I dress the toothbrush with paste, then turn on the water and manipulate the bristles the way the hygienist in her white suit taught me.  All the while the water swirls down the drain.  At this point Christine will lean past me, shut the faucet off and expel air through her teeth in a guttural gesture of disgust.  Finally the verbal pronouncement on my behavior arrives:  “You shouldn’t waste water!”

True.  And I doubt I will waste it again.  For water is not a certain thing.  It is a gift and just because it is abundant doesn’t make it less of a gift — just more so.  I’ve changed because I had a well drilled Saturday and waiting for it to produce a clear stream caused me more anxiety than fifty final exams.  This is how it went.

Ever since we purchased our land, I’ve worried about the well.  Where I live in the Upper Peninsula is not the shore of a Wisconsin Lake where a point can be driven and water found twelve feet down.  Huge bluffs, granite deposits, and underground rock ridges can turn a well into a roll the dice operation.  Readers of this column may remember the article a few weeks back describing how an old fellow suddenly materialized out of the trees near where I was clearing our land and offered to water witch it.  I marked the spot but my skepticism remained.  Still, I continued to fret.

“Don’t you worry none,” folks continued to say, “you’ll find water.”  Of that I had little doubt, the question was where?  And after how many holes?  And after how much money?  And how would it taste?  “You’ll find water,” I said mockingly to myself, “sure, eventually, even if we have to drill through the earth to the ocean on the other side.”  And then I began to worry whether or not there was an ocean on the other side of the world.  What is opposite the Dead River Basin? — I didn’t know the globe was still packed in our moving boxes.

I knew the story from every well around: across the road 132 feet through rock 5 gallons a minute.  Okay.  To the west of me on my side of the road, someone had pushed a well to 1,000 feet and had only one gallon per minute through rock — and it tasted terrible.  This was my worst fear.  My nearest neighbor had hit a water vein at 110 feet, 20 gallons per minute but rock at 60.  Down the lane behind me a guy went 330.  “Pick your spot, pay your money, takes your chance.”

I finished clearing the land, the stumps were removed and suddenly where a forest had stood was now a clearing under an azure sky.  Where in this scrapped mud should I place the well?

I remembered where the Woodcutter’s rods spread like open arms, near the huge triple oak in our newly ordained front yard.  Just then there was a rustle in the brush and my neighbor to the west stepped into the clearing and jokingly (I think) complained that I had frightened a buck with my chainsaw that he had been tracking out of curiosity for an hour.  Out from his belt he produced a set of brass rods.

“Thought I’d give it a try for you.  You already know that the Woodcutter and I found water 110 feet down 20 gallons per minute.  I don’t know how it works, but I’m four for four!

Where did the Woodcutter find it?”

Now ministers are not supposed to lie, or even deceive, but I did.  Go ahead, call my bishop, I mean I was desperate.  Turning to my neighbor I misdirected him.  “He found it over there somewhere,” I said making a huge gesture with my right arm.  I started it behind my back, shaped it into a curved C and moved my arm forward until it completely crossed my chest and touched my left shoulder.  I had pointed my neighbor, Mark, to a huge sweep of land.

I learned this gesture from a guy I fished with recently on Lake Superior.  Being a very quiet person of Finish ancestry it was an effort for him to speak above a whisper.  I kept asking him which way I should pilot the boat.

“This way,” he said quietly and he made the gesture I have since practiced, the wide 180 degree sweep.  I took it to mean that I should turn the boat in a large arch.  After which he said just as softly:  “No this way.” And made the same motion.  It was sufficient to thoroughly confuse me and keep me moving in circles.  It had the same effect on Mark.  Mark was on his own, no help from the previous water dowser.

Mark started at the extreme point of my misdirection, the rods didn’t even tremble.  Finally when he neared the oak, they opened again.  “Wow,” I thought.

The next day the well drilling rig appeared.  “This will be science,” I thought, “none of this weird stuff.  These guys know their craft.  No doubt they’ve studied the geology of the area.”

“Hi,” they said, “where do you want it?”

“Want what?” I asked.

“The well.” they replied.

“What do YOU think?” I asked.

“One place is as good as the other.” they said.

“Don’t you study geological charts, do they exist to show you formations that might produce water near the surface?”  I said urgently my stomach churning.

“Oh, I suppose the government might have some of those, I don’t know; just keep it 75 feet away from the septic system. One spot is as good as another.”

So it was to be a blind shoot.  We send satellites to Mars, is this the only way to drill a well?  I pointed to the triple oak, where at least two people had placed their conviction.

“There” I said.  “Right there.”  Do we take things for granted or what?

As they set things up I drove home and ate lunch.  Then I went upstairs and brushed my teeth.  This time I shut the water off.

To Be Continued Next Week . . . .


David Echelbarger

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