Monday, March 4, 2013

The Way it Was in Darke County

© By Abraham Lincoln - born and raised in Gordon, Ohio

Sixty-five years ago, when I was about 14 we had a privy out back. Old Sears and Roebuck catalogs and pages from the Dayton Journal Herald newspaper were left on the seat to be used for toilet paper. I seldom got to see a real roll of toilet paper

In those days, nobody had toilets or running water in the house. Most people had water pumps to pump water into the house. Just like the toilet paper could be torn into different sizes, the water pumps had different size handles.

Usually a large pump handle was used when water needed to be raised up from a deep well one hundred feet or more in the ground. And the pump itself was outside the house mounted on the well casing with the spout over an old iron trough.

On the pump hanging on a piece of wire was a tin cup. The tin cup was there to be used by anyone who was outside and wanted a drink of water.

The village that I lived in had two water wells in town and both had pumps and troughs and a tin cup.

In those days a farmer drove a horse and buggy into town to pick things up at the stores, or to visit friends and relatives. And they tied their horse up at a hitching rail along the edge of the streets near the stores or beside a home.

Our house was on the west side of town along the railroad tracks on Railroad Street. We had an iron post with a horse head on top and an iron loop in the horse’s mouth. That was used to tie up or hitch the horse to the post so it would not wander off.

Our town also had a blacksmith shop run by the blacksmith, Tommy Rice. He was always busy trimming the hooves of horses and making iron shoes for them. He also made shoes for the oxen farmers owned.

He has a large water trough he used to water the animals with who were brought to him for the services he offered. There was a large iron vessel filled with water that was used to harden red-hot steel.

Interesting enough, my wife and I owned the old blacksmith shop and it was made over into a four-room home that we lived in before we moved to Brookville.

It had a pump in the kitchen that was used for rainwater that was kept in a cistern. And the handle was short because it didn’t take much leverage to pump the water into the house.

The water in the cistern was rainwater and was collected from the water that ran off the roof into gutters. The water in the gutter ran into the cistern.

It was called “soft” water and was used to wash hair or better clothes because we used home made lye soap and ordinary well water was considered to be “hard” water and it would not make suds like soft water from the cistern made when we used our lye soap.

It is amazing to me now that we did not seem to get sick like we do these days. Those pump handles had to be covered with germs. But people didn’t caution us to wash our hands after we pumped a glass of water.

Women wore aprons over their dresses and those had pockets in front where things could be stuck. My mother always had a potholder in one of the pockets and a hanky in the other.

Sometimes a dishrag was left in one of the apron pockets and the dishrag was used for cleaning up or wiping the tabletop. It was always dirty looking and it was always in and out of the dishwater.

I do not remember anyone who actually went to a doctor for a cold or for an infection. A friend of mine was hunting rabbits and climbed across a wire fence and somehow his rifle discharged and he shot himself in his leg.

He did not go to the hospital and didn’t go to see a doctor. A family doctor would come to the home of one of his patients and it was unusual that his parents did not call the doctor to come have a look at his wound.

Times have changed a lot. People did get sick and people died from some of the diseases they had. But there was no emphasis on maintaining a healthy lifestyle like there is today. I don’t remember people dropping dead from heart attacks or spending months suffering with cancer. Why we have those ailments today and seldom had them back then is a mystery to me.

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