By: Esther Hastings Miller
The well that had been dug by hand back many years ago and then had gone unused until it silted in was now back in working order. It provided cold, clear water for the two years we stayed in that old house. Even in the hottest weather, we didn’t need ice. We’d just go to the tap and get a drink of wonderfully cold spring water.
Another family rented the barn and started with three horses then added several more animals and they all had plenty of water to drink. Even if somebody left the stock tank faucet running, the well recovered quickly and we never went without water.
One evening the sheriff came and gave us notice that we were being evicted from the house. The property had been sold to someone new and he wanted to move his family in. Mother was home alone and was in tears when we arrived and gave us the bad news. How on earth could we live anywhere else? The house wasn’t very nice but oh, so much land to run around in and grow gardens in and be free. Finally, we lived in the country and now we’d have to move. My heart was broken.
But before we could move, something worse happened. Mom got sick. Mom never got sick. She was always there for us, always doing what Moms are supposed to do. And now she was in bed, too weak and too sick to do anything. Finally, we called a doctor and he came out and gave her some medicine and slowly she got better. Still weak, she could get out of bed for a while every day but couldn’t do much work around the house and definitely couldn’t do anything about moving.
Near the end of the month, the new owner came out and got really mad to see that we were still there. After that he came nearly every day, after Dad went to work and before we got home from school. Every day Mom would be crying. Mom never cried. Moms don’t cry, they just do what Moms do. And she wasn’t able to do what Mom was supposed to do.
Finally, the man told her his family was moving in on Saturday and we could live on the grass in the front yard but we had to be out of his house. There was a house for rent in the paper that morning and Mom called about it. We could afford the rent so she said we’d take it even without seeing it and we started moving out while the new family was moving in.
Dad took the new owner out to the pasture to show him the well and then they came back to the house. Dad’s face was white, his eyes wide. The man’s face was red and he was yelling. Dad walked over to the kitchen sink and turned on the faucet. Out came sputtering, muddy water. Dad explained that he took the cover off the well to show the man the nice level of the water and all he saw were bricks falling in from the sides and muddy water all stirred up. He was afraid to stand too close to the well, not knowing if it was going to cave in. The man was sure Dad had done something to make the well cave in but I knew Dad would never do that and besides, he was so pale and scared, I knew he didn’t know anything about it.
We moved and didn’t worry about the well anymore but our friends with the horses had to move them to another place because the well never recovered.
Note: This is the fourth 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.