Bon Jellico Water & "Miss Manners"
By Velma Pemberton Decker (2006)

   Many of the Bon houses had pumps. It was good tasting water but had a lot of sulfur and iron in it which caused the clothes to turn yellow. Mom wouldn’t even cook with it because it made the kettles turn dark inside. She washed the vegetables in it but couldn’t cook with it. The water we used for drinking and cooking came from a community pump located above the store. Just about everyone around got his or her water there. Our water buckets were shinny aluminum. Whoever went to the pump carried two buckets. We drank out of a dipper.
   Just the family used the dipper; company got a glass. I learned why company couldn’t use the dipper when I was about five years old and I heard Mom say, “Here comes old ‘Moe’.” ‘Moe’ lived with one of his children, and he would leave home for some reason and visit people he knew. Every summer we could expect him to drop in. He wore a white shirt and a light colored suit like “Matlock’s” and it was dirty because he walked a lot of miles to visit people he knew. He always had interesting stories to tell. As soon as he got there he had to have a drink of water and he was very thirsty. He got a dipper full of water but he stood over the water bucket and dribbled back in the bucket. As soon as he was finished Mom grabbed the bucket, dumped the water, and scrubbed the bucket and dipper. She gave me a small bucket and had me go get fresh water to last until the boys got home. Then she gave ‘Moe’ a nice big glass and told him to drink out of the glass instead of the dipper. Then Mom gave him some of Dad’s old clothes to wear and told him to go in the smokehouse and take a bath. Our bathtub was a washtub and we used Castile soap. She said, “Give me your dirty clothes ‘Moe.’ You stink.” So she would wash his clothes and he would be cleaned up for supper. Another thing he did was butter his bread with his knife and lick the butter off the knife. Mom watched him like a hawk when he was ready to butter more bread mom would say, “Here ‘Moe’, use my knife. Your knife is nasty because you licked it and you can’t put it back in the butter.” He said, “That is a bad habit of mine.”

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