“Does it look alright?”
“It’s pretty clear.”
“I don’t see anything swimming in it.”
We did our own “water testing” back home. The clarity of the water, the vessel containing it and its drinkability often depended on how thirsty we were. If we had been chasing pirates, ghosts and each other up and down the big ditch all day, we weren’t so choosy. We didn’t wade out into the pond like the cows. We weren’t stupid! We’d lay on our bellies where the small stream in the ditch poured over a natural levy into the pond.
It looked almost clean there. And it was just deep enough to stick your mouth in without hitting the bottom. There was certainly an art to drinking the moving water without it running up your nose. We’d usually cradle a hand in the stream to divert it up and over the fingers; shoot, we near ’bout had a fountain! It helped that at close quarters you couldn’t drink and see any foreign substances at the same time. But remember now, if we were really thirty, we did a lot more drinking than we did inspecting.
It was pretty simple if we were up town. Some thoughtful city fathers had put a water fountain right close to the middle of our little square. The water was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Ricky Hale pointed out how much better it would be if they could reverse that someway. But it still came in pretty handy. We “filled up” after the long walk to town. We hit it pretty hard if we’d been playing “hide and go seek” while our mothers shopped for groceries. And we “made do” with it if we didn’t have the ten cents for a cherry coke over at John Motheral’s Drugstore.
Water was a snap when we had a ball game roaring in the back yard. The water hose was just behind home plate or piled up right past the south end zone depending on what time of year it was. It had a distinct “rubbery” taste but we didn’t have time to run into the house. We had to get to the next inning, or kick-off. We always called it the “water hose”. It was never just a hose. That seems silly now. But I reckon we were hoping one day to have a NuGrape hose and a Pepsi hose or, maybe, a lemonade hose…..now that would have been a living the life of Riley!
We never carried any water with us. You’d have been laughed out of town! We didn’t even use those Boy Scout canteens. Water was just too plentiful. Every house had a faucet or two attached. And nobody ever minded “thirsty boys” helping themselves to the liquid refreshment.
We fished, swam, took a bath and drank out of Sugar Creek. Our cousin J. C. figured if it was “alright for the fish, it ought to be alright for us.” The creek was much clearer than the pond. You could use your hands to sorta move any “floaters” away before you took a drink. It had to be purified, sparkling and mineralized, nobody I know of ever got sick drinking it.
Football practice necessitated a whole new look at this water question. Back in 1963, it was considered a sign of weakness to “need a drink” during practice. You had to be tough! I’m not sure I’ve figured out to this day the connection between “toughness” and “waterless” but that is for another article.
By some ill-conceived and diabolical plan, football practice started in August. We lined up, as aspiring gladiators, and put on a hundred pounds of gear, covered it with a heavy practice jersey, and went out and sprinted across an endless field from “can to can’t”. The relentless sun beat down on us like a runaway fire in a cotton warehouse. My throat was as dry as the Mojave Desert. I saw dancing elephants and shimmering mirages in the distance. My tongue felt like the Seventh Cavalry had camped out on it. When we did get a “few seconds” break for the “sissies” we would catch the water in our helmets to make it last. We’d suck on a damp towel. We’d soak our grass and blood stained sleeves to hopefully get a moist lick later on.
“You know”, Kenny Butler could barely get the words out of his dry mouth, “someone could make a fortune selling water out here.”
The ones who had the energy fell out laughing. “You dummy, no one is ever going to pay for water! It is too plentiful.”
“And it don’t taste like nothing. You tell me what idiot would plop down real money for a drink that has no taste. No fizz. No color. And you can’t even mix peanuts in with it!”
“Folks wouldn’t buy water if the world ran out of Coca Cola tomorrow!”
“Selling water would be like selling air, or sunshine. It might be a thought right here, right now; but it makes no practical sense in the real world. It will never work. Something like that would have our forefathers turning over in their graves.”
It didn’t take us long to put that silly notion to rest!