Catching up with the times
If you had asked me, as recently as 10 years ago, to make a list of functional things I’d never expect to see in the head of Blair Branch, things like skyscraper office buildings, fast food eateries, major agriculture crops, and stuff like that would have probably come to mind. And then, if you’d told me to tone it down a bit and think of some common utility enjoyed by most other communities, I’d have told you that public water was probably impossible that far up the holler.
But back in October Loretta, my brother Andy and I were sitting on the front porch of our old home place that my youngest brother, Steve, still maintains and I noticed a round, flat object lying beside the driveway just over the hill below us that looked remarkably the water meter cover in my own front yard here in Paint Lick.
So I pointed it out to Andy and told him what it looked like and wondered why it was lying there. He was totally surprised that I didn’t know Steve had “hooked onto city water.” He went on to explain that the water line had been run over 2 years ago and that everybody on the holler who wanted to had “tapped on.”
Before that Steve had relied on a well pump and a few hundred feet of rubber hose buried between the house and our old well that had been dug in the 1890s.
I can’t imagine that anyone who lives on the holler failed to “tap on.” It must have been akin to getting electricity back in the 1940s and no longer having to read at night by kerosene lantern or candlelight. Well, actually I can imagine that some folks have relied on their wells and pumps for so long that they are perfectly content with their existing water supplies even if they do have to thaw out the pumps and lines a few times every winter and worry that the well might go dry in late summer.
I remember my Mom talking about several homeowners being initially skeptical, if not absolutely scared, of electricity. But, by the time I was 5 years old, everybody on the holler had electricity as best I recall. I do remember several families who burned “coal oil” lanterns at night to conserve electricity because they were afraid they would use more than was covered by the base rate.
In the meantime I would dearly love to have seen that water line laid up Blair Branch. I am curious as to how they got it across the creek in so many places because you certainly can’t tell by looking 2 years after the fact. The road crosses the creek 8 times between our homeplace and the mouth of the holler and I am left to wonder both how they managed to make the crossings and how they ditched it through solid rock in several places.
Until I was out of college, the notion of “running water” in our home was you had to run out the well and draw a bucket and run it back into the house. This never seemed to be much of an inconvenience except for “bath nights” and “wash days” in cold weather. And we did all take baths once a week whether we needed one or not. Ditto for doing laundry. That may sound strange and unsanitary to a lot of people but it was everyday life for most of us who lived on Blair Branch in the 1950s and early 60s. But by the 1970s most folks had installed electric pumps to get water indoors, at least to their kitchens, even though most of us relied on wash tubs and stove tops when it came to having hot water.
My children and grandchildren would faint at the notion of not being able to bathe at least once and frequently twice every day of their lives.
As one Richmond car dealer likes claim when he is pitching automobile deals on television to entice Lexington residents to visit his place of business, “it’s only 17 minutes from Richmond Road to Richmond, Kentucky but he makes it in a little less than that.”
Well, I could take a bath everyday if I wanted to. But I’m betting that a lot of folks on Blair Branch are a lot like me. We may have unlimited supplies of water, but we make do with a little less than that.
Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.