By: Esther Hastings Miller
I mentioned that we went to church a lot. On the nights that we didn’t go to church, we had family devotions. One of us would read a portion from the Bible, then we’d quote verses we’d memorized or we’d play a game based on the Bible, each of us would pray, and we’d end with the Lord’s Prayer. Once in a while, Mother would pass around the promise box. The promise box had Bible verses printed on small cards. Each verse was some kind of promise.
Late in the first winter we lived in the old house, we had gone without running water for four months. One night, I drew a promise from the box and it was from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, chapter 44, verse 3: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground.” When it was my turn to pray, my eleven-year-old faith prompted me to tell God that I was going to hold Him to His promise. We were definitely thirsty for good water (and profoundly tired of hauling it) and I fully expected Him to come through for us!
For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground.
That spring there was rain. And more rain. It must still be in the record books. Rain and melting snow made Walnut Creek, where the Greenbelt Park is now, fill the entire woods. Water was up over the barbed wire fence that ran along the base of the railroad track that went out to the steel plant. There must have been flooding all over town but I just remember seeing weeds and leaves caught on the top strand of wire on that fence.
One day when there was a break in the rain, Dad and an uncle went out to the well. Dad put an old ladder down there, tied a rope around his waist, and climbed down. The bottom of the well…a spring, really…was only about 9 or 10 feet down. Uncle Gordon handed him a shovel and a bucket and Dad started digging the sand and silt out of the bottom of the well. Suddenly he yelled up that water was coming in FAST. He climbed faster and Uncle Gordon helped haul him out. They grabbed the ladder and watched the well fill with water. It filled to the overflow pipe at ground level, then slowed down. Very little water ran out the overflow.
Back to the basement they went, pumping air from the long lines to the house. Finally the air was gone, the pipes were full of water and we had running water in the house!
For the next two years, the well never failed, even when deeper wells over on Harbach ran dry. The water was cold and clear and an inspector said it was the best water he had tested in years. Mom could run her washing machine, we could take baths, and eventually another family rented the barn and watered several horses from that well. It filled rapidly until it reached the ground level, then stopped.
I’ve never drunk better water anywhere.
Note: This is the third of 11 stories written by Esther Hastings Miller. Follow along as she shares her precious memories of growing up in Clive, Iowa.
About Esther Miller:
My parents, younger brother David, and I moved to the old house at the end of what is now Swanson Blvd just before Christmas in 1957. The address was University Avenue and the house may have been the “Kurtz Hill” mentioned in Mildred Swanson’s story about sledding. That yard was outstanding for sledding!
I was in fifth grade at Clive School and David was in third. We lived in that house until June of 1960 when the property was sold and we had to move. We moved to the Johnston area where we went to school for a year. In September of that year, my father was severely injured at work and was never able to work again. We moved to Des Moines, since Mother didn’t drive and Dad couldn’t anymore. And then, in December of 1961 we moved to California. Mother had gone to school in a small town in Southern California in the 40s, so she had friends there and she knew the climate would be a lot easier on all of us.
Both David and I finished high school in California, then I attended two small colleges nearby and graduated, first in my family, in 1970. I worked as an occupational therapist with severely handicapped children, then took several years off to raise my own two children. I eventually returned to work until my husband took early retirement. We traveled around the country in an RV, a long-time dream of ours, until we found some place we wanted to move to.
We sold our home in California and settled into an old farmhouse in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where we lived for several more years. I returned to California a few years ago and now live way out in the country. Do you see a trend? I love living in the country and over the years I’ve built on the skills I first learned in that old house in Clive.