On Mountain Water

On Mountain Water by David Templeton

One of Life’s greatest pleasures for me is wading and swimming in some sweet water stream that has come down out of an East Tennessee or Southwest Virginia mountain. I allow that I will also stick my face down to the water and drink until my belly hurts and that I will find some flat rocks and send them skipping over the water, counting how many times I can make each one skip; I got nineteen one time.

Where one ends up is usually not the result of some well-planned journey but more accidental. I don’t get to live in Appalachia any more. My father lost his job of work at the defense plant, he had no skills, he heard about a place in Indiana that would hire him, a new start sounded good, and so we left Tennessee. I was fourteen. A part of my psyche never grew up past fourteen. For sure, I have remained Appalachian, lo these fifty years on.

Here in Indiana the land is so flat that I can almost watch a train coming from tomorrow; see until the Earth curves away. The land is flat. The land is flat and well-farmed. From the land, up here, water comes colored like coffee with cream. And, I can see many rivers and streams but I can’t see clear, clean water in any of them. That’s not to condemn the farmer; it’s just the way it is. But the water is dirty, the streams and lakes. Not poison but unclear, giving the sense of unclean, and uninviting. It doesn’t hurt the snakes but people don’t swim in these waters.

We swam all the time back there in Hawkins County. The water was cold but it was crystal clear and refreshing. As a kid I didn’t think about the water, not philosophically, not scientifically; I didn’t think about it at all…it was there. I was born with it all around…like I was born with skin…as a kid, some things don’t beg reflection.

It is remarkable though that water so abundant in the hills was often a scarcity in our home. Up the dirt road where we lived the water utility didn’t come that far. We had to carry water home or sometimes we had a well. The well wasn’t deep so the water wasn’t clear all the time. Dad tried to dig his own well one time. Took a forked twig from the apple tree and doused around the yard till it pulled hard down and there he dug. When he hit solid rock he covered up the hole and soon packed us up and moved us to a place with a spring and a spring house right there in the yard.

Now there was sweet water. And, fresh-churned butter from a butter mold, kept in a crock in the water in the spring house. And sweet milk, cold. And all the mountain spring water we ever wanted, crystal clear. It ran out and down a little stream with water creesies in it and the cows drank from it and then it finally went murmuring on down to the Holston.

God gave us rainwater, too. Mom had a rain barrel. My four sister’s and Mom’s Cherokee black hair was washed and rinsed in it. And, when there was enough, clothes were washed in it.
I don’t stop missing all that was the mountains. The breathless beauty, the heavenly peacefulness, the simple ways of the folk, and, yes, the clear clean mountain waters. Maybe more than anything, I miss the mountain waters. I miss the mountains and I miss the waters. I know nothing else to drink will ever be as perfect as that.

David Templeton

I hope you enjoyed the Blind Pig’s first guest writer-Mr. David Templeton.  Please leave him a comment and let him know if you did!

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  • Reply
    Greg Zeck
    July 8, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Beautifully done. Whether or not we’re from the mountains, the prospect of cool, clean water invites our bodies and our souls. An invitation that is, alas, rarer and rarer these days.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull WIke, Ph.D.
    April 5, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Ok David, I am just a year late on reading this fantastic CLEAN WATER story. Your note on how your Dad struck rock when he was trying to dig a wall brought back precious memories! My Daddy was a well-digger and got $1.00 per foot of digging. He could dig the well perfectly round! Only once he hit rock but the lady for whom he was digging the well just said, “Too bad! You said $1.00/foot and that is all you get!” Lord how he worked to raise us eleven children!
    Warmest regards,
    Eva Nell Mull, A native from Clay County NC transplanted to Roane County TN!
    Author: “The Matheson Cove – In the Shadow of the Devil’s Post Office”

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    April 22, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Great post…we love to drive on the back roads and especially enjoy it if we can drive by the creeks and rivers. Love, love the shallow rippling creeks. Just a great post. (My grandparents and great- grands were natives of Hawkins County. Not sure, but I think my family called the defense plant, the Holston B.??)

  • Reply
    April 19, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    A very good story, David. I dont’ think you could every forget the mountains, hills and the spring water.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 19, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Thank you, David, your words make my heart sing. All of my young life we lived away from these mountains and we always looked forward to coming home for visits and the water was always a highlight of those visits home.
    You know there are a lot of people in this country who have never had good water. I now have two water filtration systems on my home in order to have water I can drink!
    I always enjoy your comments on Tippers Blog. Thank you for this guest post!

  • Reply
    April 18, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    I can relate to the water. Clear vs. muddy. We barely have water here at all. I grew up around creeks and lakes. But what really got me? Skipping a rock that skipped 19 times? I’m lucky for 2. My mom used to be a pro, but I never mastered it.

  • Reply
    April 17, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Lovely writing, Mr. Templeton. I enjoyed this piece very much.

  • Reply
    April 17, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Wow! Mr. Templeton sure has a way with words! I think he needs to write an Appalachian novel. I know I’d love to read it. He could be the next James Still or Fred Chapel!

  • Reply
    Kerrie Kerns
    April 17, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Thank you Mr. Templeton for your memories of Appalachian water. One of the Kerns sons left the family homestead in West Virginia and came to Texas when oil was discovered. Artus did not get rich in oil, but started a water well drilling business. Kerns Water Well drilled many of East Texas’ city wells. Sadly, the natural water in the creeks, streams and rivers here is clear as chocolate milk, and filled with snakes and gators. When I get to travel, I am so enthralled by clear, clean water in its natural state.

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    April 17, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Beautifully expressed, David!
    Considering how necessary it is, it deserves due reverence. Thank you for the lovely piece!
    Beautiful post, Tipper!:))

  • Reply
    April 17, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I understand your taking the water for granted. I grew up in a beautiful area in PA where there were abundant clear springs and a lovely river and lake. It’s funny when one steps away from that how much it hurts. Still, I drink of that water whenever I go home to visit. I swim in that river. It’s good for my soul!

  • Reply
    April 17, 2009 at 8:26 am

    i just love these photos~i have a real connection with water.
    interested in seeing there is a Hawkins county~i am a Hawkins through my maternal line going back (so far as i have traced them to date) to the 1700’s~

  • Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    That was wonderful! Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Awesome post! I have a real thing for water of any kind – streams and waterfalls are like a magnet for me. I especially love mountain spring water – we have taps in our area sticking out the side of the mountains in a lot of places. Love it! Thanks for the post!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 9:27 am

    As with many things in life we do not see the philosophical nature of an object until we no longer have it. I have very similar memories of clear spring water. Very nice piece of writing. Thanks, Pappy

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    April 16, 2009 at 9:14 am

    This was very beautiful and heartfelt. Poetic.

  • Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 9:13 am

    This post took me back to my childhood.
    Thanks for the memories of the mountain streams and falls I miss so much.

  • Reply
    Jim Anderson
    April 16, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Well written from your heart.
    I too like you grew up in the
    Appalachia Mountains of South West
    So very proud to have had that
    special time of my life there.
    Please continue writing about your
    thoughts and memories.

  • Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 7:55 am

    I enjoyed Mr. Templeton’s post very much. I could taste that water as I read. And I could relate to the business of never growing past the age of that big move.
    My daughter and I are vacationing in NC this week, so reading this felt like listening to a neighbor!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Oh now do these creeks bring back memories. Crawdad huntin!!!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 12:55 am

    David’s writing choked me up and brought tears to my eyes. He wrote from the heart and made me so miss my own mountains where I grew-up. Beautiful words!

  • Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Well written post! Today’s children just don’t know what they are missing.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    David ,you have a way with words and write I’m sure just like you talk. I really enjoyed reading you little story and remember well the thing you write about , if I were to write about my memories it would not be a comment , but a book . Thanks Malcolm from Thailand

  • Reply
    April 15, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    That was wonderful. I could feel the coolness of the water like I was wading in it myself.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Lovely! I love spring water, straight from the creek – it is so sweet! I don’t think I will ever taste it again, but I wish people would realise that we’ve wasted our good, natural resources. Great post!

  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    April 15, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Wow, that brought back memories! I remember skipping stones across the lakes of my youth in Indiana.
    And bathing in the lakes as well!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    I enjoyed reading this. I can identify with David. I left West Virginia when I was 19, and though I am drawn back yearly, I miss it terribly.
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece of work with us.

  • Reply
    Brenda S. 'Okie in Colorado'
    April 15, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    This brings memories of when I was a child visiting my cousins in the countryside five miles from my small town in Oklahoma. I loved spending time at their house. We would get up early and spend the entire day playing in the spring behind their house. We would catch tadpoles and crawdads.(but always released them later)The rocks in the spring were slippery and we would fall, but all the better to get wet on a warm summer day. The spring would flow under a bridge and drop into a swimming hole. We would swing from a rope tied to a large tree and drop into the water. Oh what fun we had back then. Simple, innocent and full of imagination.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    April 15, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Tipper: David is a writer extraordinaire, he writes from the heart on a place he remembers from his childhood. I know our views of youth are colored over the years and the hard times are forgotten. Times with little food and yet we just kept going. The streams of my youth also call to me. I remember the clear cold waters that flow over the timeless rocks. The photos were a fitting tribute to the writing.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    David did a beautiful piece of writing here. I could feel the coolness and taste the sweetness of the mountain streams. Great job!
    When I was young, we swam and waded in the creek. We carried water from the pump at Grandma’s across the fields to home. Everyone in the neighborhood had a rain barrel. Oh, how soft ones hair after washing and rinsing it in rain water.
    Thanks for the memories, David.
    Tipper, I am glad your girl read the book. It certainly is a touching tale.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    That was a well done tribute to the waters of his youth.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I guess we had it all back then
    and didn’t appreciate it. We had the spring water and clean water from the stream to play in.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Wow! I love this piece. I can almost taste the clear and cold water David speaks of. Beautiful writing.

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