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 wrote this guest post way back in 2009. He now resides in his homeland of Appalachia and I’m positive he’s enjoying that wonderful mountain water that he so beautifully described.