Thursday, October 7, 2010

A summer in the country - part six.

Post 568 - There was no electricity in our part of the country that summer – rural electrification didn’t come to Campile until about 1947. So I always went to bed by candlelight and my aunt Stasia read to us at night using the light of an oil lamp. Later on that summer, we got a Tilley paraffin pressure lamp which was a big improvement since it gave a much brighter and more intense light. There was also no running water in those days and my grandfather was always looking for somewhere close to the house where he could sink a well. He had many water diviners come to visit to locate where to drill. Some used hazel twigs and others used two bicycle spokes tied together at one end. They’d walk around the yard holding the twig or the spokes in their hands parallel to the ground and we'd watch and wait for it to dip down when they located water below the surface. They always found water but could never figure out how to get it to the surface economically.

The conventional wisdom at the time was that my grandfather’s house was perched on top of a hill of solid granite and so drilling through it to the significant distance required was a very difficult and expensive feat. However, there was a good well by the road across a neighbor’s field and one of my tasks was to draw water from that well as often as it was needed using two white enamel buckets. So I fetched the water across Ned Cahill’s field several times every day, rain or shine, and tried not to spill it. Some years later when I lived close by with my parents in a haunted house called Silvercrest, I still had the water duty and this time the well was about half-a-mile away. But that’s a story for another day . . .

Since nobody had a phone in those days, it was quite normal for people to drop in unexpectedly for a visit, usually on weekends. Sometimes, they came in quite large numbers too – whole families of them – and the custom was that whenever people came to visit, you had to feed them. So my aunt Stasia would have to bake some bread and my grandfather would kill a chicken for dinner. In addition, the men drank Paddy’s whisky and Guinness’s stout while the women and children drank Sandeman's port wine (I still have a soft spot for port today and like a glass regularly after dinner). Of course, we sometimes went out to visit others as well – usually relatives of one kind or another. So I guess it all evened out in the end. I always looked forward to these visits because it usually meant I had someone my own age to play with.

Living in the country was a relatively solitary experience that summer since neighbors with children my own age lived quite a distance away. As a result, I spent quite a bit of time entertaining myself, often by climbing some very big trees that grew in the lane at the entrance to the yard. In retrospect, this was quite dangerous as a fall of 50 – 60 feet or more was indeed a possibility. I remember when a visitor pointing this out to my mother once, she replied, “Sure if he falls once, he won’t do it a second time.” Thus I was encouraged to grow up adventurous, self-sufficient and unafraid. And thank goodness, I never fell out of the trees.

To be continued....

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