Memories of New Years

Today’s guestpost was written by David Templeton.

Witching for Water


I got married a second time and it was on a New Years eve, thirty-one years back. The anniversary is easy to remember but I am always drawn to some other memories full of their own poignancy.

Two memories anyway. They happened on the same day. 1953. New Years Eve. Hank Williams died. Like when I heard of John Kennedy’s death, I remember just what I was doing and where I was standing when I heard the news about Hank Williams.

Dad blew up his well that night, too. We had to carry water in lard buckets every day from Old Man Rogers’ well down over the bank. We had no running water, used an outhouse, carried all our water up the hill, even on wash day.

Dad’s pride had been hurt many times that year, but Mr. Rogers’ overbearing, solicitous attitude was hard on Dad. He cut a forked branch out of the apple tree out back, just a kind of a small, forked twig that would bend easy when it passed over water. He held that divining branch in the curled way he’d been shown and walked all over our hillside of a front yard until that branch struck straight down and there he dug a well.

He dug and dug all through the Fall of ’53 … he had two jobs of work and could only dig on the well a while each evening. In December he was tired. He got down about six or seven feet deep and hit the bedrocks and stoney outcroppings of the hillside. There was enough water to keep filling up his hole, and he’d have to bale it out, but it was just the groundwater running down the hill in the bedrock. It wasn’t good water.

He hand-chiseled a hole about an inch or two wide trying to get through the rock but the rock was solid to China. He was wore out. He got some dynamite and was going to set it off in that drilled hole but as Winter poured on its cold, Dad finally gave up any hope of reaching good water.

New Year’s Eve, he rigged the dynamite into the drilled hole, wired a blasting fuse to it, connected all that to an electric cord and ran it back the thirty some yards to a plug-in on our front porch. He had lost a lot that year, in pride, in heartaches … in backaches. But he was about to be in control and make a statement about it all, with one thrust of that extension cord plug into the socket.

At midnight, he plugged in the cord and an explosion like an A-Bomb test roared its percussion up and down the valley and off the hillsides and lights went on all up and down the road and people stuck their heads out the door. Dad grinned and went to bed. Next day, neighborhood kids asked me if I heard the commotion last night. All I knew was, Hank Williams died last night.


I hope you enjoyed David’s post as much as I did! Got any memories of New Year’s Eve to share? If you do I hope you’ll leave a comment and tell us about it.

I’ll share a quick one-actually it’s not my memory it’s Granny’s.

Paul was born on New Year’s Day. I can’t count the times I’ve heard Granny tell the story of how excited she was when she went into labor with Paul. She was excited because she thought she’d have the first baby born in the new year and get her picture in the paper.

Granny says just as the new year dawned and Paul was ready to come into this world howling and screaming-another woman in labor was brought into the hospital ward. Granny says before you could snap your fingers that woman pushed out a baby-the first baby of the new year-leaving Paul to be the second baby born in the new year.



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  • Reply
    January 4, 2015 at 6:17 am

    There it was….New Years Eve…1999…the dawn of a new millennia…
    My wife, daughter and I were all assembled at my sister-in-laws home for all the regalia of the evening… where my daughter and I were scheming throughout as to what “great” scheme we could prank everyone… Well at least I was anyhow… Do you all happen to recall back when and everyone was all worried about “Year 2000” aka “Y2K”….??? No you say…?
    Allow me a brief refresher… It was literally the chatter nearly everywhere you went…at work all the preparations for global unrest…spewing of know-it-alls on the nightly news [rpfessing doom and gloom the world over…caterwauling at church…all about all the microchips in computers controlling everything from alarm systems to banking systems to air traffic control systems to the power grid…well you get the picture.
    So my….”our”…scheme was pretty simple…just before the stroke of midnight on the dawn of this new millennia…I slipped into the garage… eyeing the circuit breaker panel and thought…this is gonna be a good one… So there I was…within ear-shot of the hens cackling in the kitchen and someone mentioned “Y2K” and the scene was set… just at the stroke of the dawn of the year 2000…I did it… I pulled the master breaker on the panel and EVERYTHING went off… You should of heard all the screams…it was fantastic….”Oh no Y2K” they were shouting… After a few seconds…I flipped the breaker back on restoring the power back to the home and you could hear the sighs of relief… “Oh thank goodness”… Well it was short lived as after 15 or 20 seconds or so…yep…flipped the breaker off again plunging the entire household back into darkness… What fun it was…! To this day, it remains grist for the mill…

  • Reply
    December 31, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Nice job, David, and I hope dad
    didn’t shatter too many windows
    around there…Happy New Year to

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 31, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    and folks….
    Don’t forget to purchase your black-eyed peas, hog jowl, streaked meat or ham hock and collard greens…Tomorrow we eat all the peas and greens for good luck in the coming year.
    I done used my ham hock on a pot of pintos, so I will be getting a lump of streak meat to season my collards and peas! I never liked hog jowl much floatin’ around in my peas. I was cured of that when I got me a mouthful with a spoonful of peas when I was a teenager…ewwwww! That cured me of the fatty stuff! Mom and Dad didn’t mind it much, since they grew up with the stuff…
    Thanks Tipper and

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    December 31, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Well, that story David shared reminds me of my Daddy, who was a well digger. I don’t know how he ever survived with such a demanding way of making a living. But it was a mighty fine day when he came home and told Mama he would dig no more wells.
    Then he starting working at Ritter Saw Mill in Hayesville. The dreadful level of noise where he was working damaged his hearing. But he always kept a smile on his weary face as he climbed the hill, where I was sitting on a big rock, waiting on him to come home in the evenings.
    p.s. I loved HANK WILLIAMS!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Will-I have never been to the Possum Drop-way too many people for me : ) But I enjoy watching Clay complete his preparations for the big day every year as I drive to and fro through Brasstown. Happy New Years!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    December 31, 2014 at 11:06 am

    That was a fun story to read. I can just imagine the fright that the neighbors felt with a noise like that. I just want to wish all a very ‘Happy and healthy 2015!’

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 31, 2014 at 10:58 am

    David, I loved that your father closed the old year and started the new year with a bang! I too, have seen my Dad do things that I thought would be impossible to accomplish! I call it good ole mountain grit, “it’s better to wear out, than to rust out”!
    Never give up, never give up!
    I remember sitting in the Packard, Dad and all of us kids listening to the radio, WNOX mid-day Merry-go-round, while Mom ran in the White store for milk. They announced, that Hank Williams had died. Dad loved Hanks music. The announcement, I remember, made him real sad for a few moments…and him “shushing us” so he could hear the details of his death!
    Thanks Tipper and David,
    PS…Did your Dad’s efforts produce water!
    PS…We had a ‘water witch’ divine our water here on our place with a peach limb, after the old well went dry! The drillers hit water at 80 feet, a underground spring with a pool! They had ‘smirked and doubted’ the spot she had marked, until they hit the water. It spewed muddy water up the casing and flooded where they were standing! She was a gooden’!

  • Reply
    Will Dixon
    December 31, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Going to the Possum Drop in Brasstown this evening? Wouldn’t be my cup of tea but obviously many other folks enjoy it!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2014 at 10:20 am

    David covered so much in this post, and thanks for such a great post. I recall when many had wells, and if they were dry other water sources had to be found. That is fairly easy in the mountains, but you might have to walk a “fer piece.”
    I have a very early memory of an older aunt babysitting me. Daily we would make a walk down hill to a neighbor, then she would have to carry the pail back up a steep hill. She caught water for laundry, but had to have drinking water from a clean source. I was small and several sisters would ooh and ahh over me when we went to fetch the water. I tried to waste the water in any way possible so we could make the trip back. This was usually by drinking numerous dippers full until I was almost floating. This could not have been a good thing, as there was no indoor plumbing. Not sure if my Aunt caught on, but she is not around now for an apology.
    Hank Williams traveled route 19 on that fateful night, and it is very near my home. It has since been named for him. I try to stress the importance of this to the youngsters, but they can’t grasp the importance of a country legend. I was pleasantly surprised to find some like Hank Williams Jr.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    December 31, 2014 at 9:37 am

    It is traditional in the Navy to rhyme the deck log entry for the mid-night to o400 watch on navy ships. This is the USS Cole’s, a guided missle destroyer, entry for the first watch of 2004. The USS Cole was bombed in a suicide attack against the United States Navy on 12 October 2000, while inport Aden, Yemen for fuel. Seventeen American sailors died in the attack:
    USS Cole DDG-67 Decklog 0000 t0 0400, 1 January, 2004:
    The year of ’03 has come to an end
    Sit back and listen to a story, my friend.
    The story of Mighty Warship COLE,
    And her survival of the “Big Black Hole.”
    So here we are in the Ionian Sea,
    Destroyer 67, as bad as can be.
    DESRON 18, a part we are,
    Sailing the seas, near and far.
    Our course 045T, Speed 7 knots,
    Our plant full steam, our guns ready with shots.
    One last comment, to the terrorists, before I leave,
    The message we send should be clear to see.
    In honor of our shipmates lost in the blast,
    Remember our motto “17 Reasons To Kick Your Ass.”

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 31, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Tipper–I enjoyed David’s guest post and think his father was a man I would have greatly admired. Anyone who refuses to let things get them down and answers back with a bang rather than a whimper is someone to be admired. I would have liked to know whether the well came in with the big explosion.
    As for Granny and her disappointment with Paul not being the first New Year’s baby in the area, that’s readily explained. Clearly Paul, right from the start, wanted to get everything in tune before he emerged. He’s been doing that, in grand fashion, ever since.
    Jim Casada
    P. S. I wonder if any of your readers are familiar with “Hank’s Last Stop,” a little roadside place on a country road outside Fayetteville, WV? I know about it because I’ve passed it multiple times going to fish a nearby stream, Dunloup Creek.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 31, 2014 at 8:14 am

    David Templeton has written a wonderful story about his Dad defying the odds and persisting on getting that water and the well! Well-written. David’s story reminds me of when my own Dad took a forked peachtree limb and went dousing for water and found our bubbling spring when he dug at the spot the stick led him to around the hill from our house! It wasn’t on New Year’s Day but in the hot, arid, draughty summer when our well had gone dry. That day became a “New Year” because we had precious water available!
    And looking back on the year 2014, I remember this year, a wonderful poet and writer died on May 28, 2014 at age 86, Maya Angelou, who wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Her inimitable words from that book give a good quotation for our consideration on the dawn of this New Year, 2015: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 31, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Was there water after all that effort? Of all the nerve, that woman slipping in and birthing in front of Gran! Me, I’m a ponderer. One of the reasons I moved to Murphy was to escape all to noise and clutter in the air of more populated areas. It worked, the air is clear and quiet and I can think and ponder.
    Sometimes on New Year I like to come up with a word to think about for the year and see what hidden treasures I can tease out of it. This year I think my word will be simply, ponder.

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