| Submitted by Ray Evans
These days, people take for granted conveniences such as electricity, modern
plumbing, central heating and other labor saving appliances. When I grew up
during the late 30s and early 40s in the Oak Hill Section of
Rockcastle County near Renfro Valley, most of those things were not available.
For example, modern plumbing and running water were almost non-existent.
Families used a number of different ways to secure their water for drinking,
cooking, bathing and laundry purposes. Some simply carried water in a bucket
from a nearby spring or a well. Others had cisterns where they captured rain
water and then used a hand pump or one of those tubular water buckets that
looked much like a stovepipe to get water from the cistern or a well. Some of
the more ingenious ones employed a hydraulic ram to pump water from a spring to
a place near the house.
We had what was referred to as a Water Boy. Our house was on the
edge of a plateau of relatively flat land. On one side of the house, the
terrain of the land fell away abruptly to form a rather steep hillside. There
was a good spring about 400 feet from the house diagonally down the hill. The
Water Boy consisted of a heavy gauge cable that was strung overhead
on L shaped brackets fastened to poles or trees from the house to
the spring. The upper end of the cable was fastened essentially to the eave of
the roof over a side porch. A small platform about 3 by 4 extended
beyond the porch. A J shape hanger with a pulley arrangement at the
top end of it was hung over the cable. A three gallon galvanized water bucket
was hung from the bottom of the J hanger. One end of a rope about
3/16 in diameter was tied to the hanger and the other end was tied to a
reel arrangement with a crank handle. With this contraption one could lower an
empty water bucket where it came to rest under the end of a two-inch pipe from
which a good stream of water was usually available. After the water bucket
filled with water, it could be pulled up to the house by turning the crank
handle that was fastened to the reel.
One of my frequent chores as a youngster was to retrieve water from the spring
with the water boy. This was quite a task on washdays when my
mother, Elizabeth Lawrence Evans (1906 1980), did the family laundry.
If you gave the rope attached to the hanger and bucket too much slack, the
bucket would go too fast down the wire and fall off the cable. I had triplet
cousins, Willard, Wilbert and Willie Bill Chasteen, who lived in
Louisville and visited me fairly often on the farm. They were city
boys and mean as rattlesnakes. They would do almost anything for a laugh.
They always wanted to play with the water boy. They would
essentially turn the rope loose and let the hanger and bucket go racing down
the hill. Consequently, we ended up with a lot of bent and dented water
One time, John Lair of Renfro Valley fame, staged a foxhunt near our house.
Horseback riders on the finest saddle horses that I had ever seen came from far
and wide. Needless to say, our water boy attracted a lot of
attention from the foxhunters. My Uncle Hayse Clark had a similar arrangement
for getting water at a house where he lived in the Hummel area. You could see
our water bucket all the way to the spring, but his disappeared quickly over
the edge of the hill.