The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Red water pump

Rachael Conlin Levy

Photo courtesy of Darwin70, Creative Commons

Pulling water from the depths of the Earth is no small achievement, especially for a 10-year-old, but this was my chore during the first summer in Silver Springs when we lived without running water.
My dad planned to erect a windmill to pump water to the trailer, but in the beginning we had nothing but a red hand pump standing amid rice grass and tumbleweed. If I stretched my arms and stood on tip-toe, I could reach the handle, pull it down, and after 50 strokes, be rewarded with icy cold water that splashed my feet and left a metallic taste on my tongue.
It was a pump with personality: Only my strongest, most exuberant strokes yielded a gush of water, and if I stopped for more than a few minutes to rest my arms, the pump demanded to be primed again. My little brother was 5 and could only hang from the red handle. So, while I pumped, he filled the empty milk jugs with water, then together we’d haul the gallons back to the trailer.
There was satisfaction in the growing row of jugs in the hallway, warmer water at the front, each jug cooler than the last, as we added to the line stretching toward the back bedroom. But in a trailer made of tin, everything warmed up quickly. Within a few hours, the last jug was as warm as the first, and like a fortune teller with her ball, I’d run my hands over the milky plastic containers to determine which jug promised the coolest drink.
I loathed pumping water and filling jugs when I was sent outside in the middle of the day, the air heavy and silent with heat. Only the grasshoppers clicked and whirled as I darted out of the house and over the baked sand in bare feet. I pumped, and from inside the well, came the clanking of pipes and the gurgle of water being carried to the surface. I’d reach out a cupped hand, while still pumping with the other, to capture that first drink.
I preferred to bring in water at the end of the day, when the air was easier to breathe, the sand cool between my toes and the sun melting into a sky of ice-cream sherbet. My dad would be home from work by then, and he’d command the pump while my brother and I filled jugs. His strong arms pulled the handle quickly, efficiently, and the pump obeyed, pouring out the water in one long, steady stream. When finished, he’d loop fingers through the handles of four or five jugs so I was burden free, and together we’d walk the narrow, sandy path created between well and home.

One response to “Red water pump”

  1. Rachael–
    A voice from your past! I read your thread and enjoyed it. You always were a good writer. Would be great to hear from you.

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