By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
“Grandpa, you’re supposed to boil that before you drink it!” the child warned.
Grandpa paused, holding the pint Mason jar of water arm’s length away, in case something was going to jump out and attach itself to his face. “Why?” he asked.
“Mom heard on the radio that they didn’t put enough chlorine in the water. It’s not safe to drink until they fix it.”
Being LeFlore County residents, we had heard that, too. Grandpa reassured his grandchild. “That’s true, honey. But that’s just for the people who use county water. We don’t use county water here at Briar Circle.”
“But we live in the county, don’t we?”
“Yes, Lisa, we do. But the county has a water plant that filters and processes water for public use, and sends it through county pipes and waterlines. They filter it and add chemicals like chlorine to make it safe, and then sell it to the public. But around here, some of us have wells, some collect rainwater, and in our case, we get our water from a spring. Do you know what a spring is?”
“Where water comes up from the ground?”
“That’s right. You’re a smart little girl, Lisa! Well, your Grandma and I have spring water.”
The child accepted the praise and pursued the matter. “Is there chlorine in the spring water?” she asked.
“Oh, no, none at all. There’s no chlorine in spring water, well water or rain water. But that’s a good thing. It’s all natural.”
Natural–the word seemed to register positively with the child. “Where is the spring?” she asked.
“It’s only 40 or so yards from here. Would you like to see it?”
She would, of course. So I found myself going on a short walk with the two, and I was drawn into the conversation. Grandpa asked me, “Now, have you ever before seen a time when had to worry about every thing you eat or drink like we do now? I don’t know how people even survive anymore, with all the alleged hazards in everything we eat or drink!”
“I don’t worry about it very much. But I have worried about one thing,” I said. I addressed his granddaughter. “Lisa, I remember when I was younger than you, a boy named Doug–I can still see his goofy face–said in kindergarten, ‘Dad says peanut butter sticks to your ribs!’ I took it literally. I envisioned my innards, and particularly my ribs, coated with peanut butter! For years, I wouldn’t dare eat peanut butter! The phrase, ‘stick to your ribs,’ was finally explained to me. It means a thing is nourishing. I started eating peanut butter sandwiches again. Then ol’ man Anderson, a cook at the elementary school, mentioned to my father, within my hearing: ‘The government allows up to 14 rodent hairs per tablespoons of peanut butter!’ Fourteen! Just when I’d started liking the stuff! Do you think I’ve eaten any since then? I’ll eat deviled ham, and calamari, and oysters on the half shell. But I won’t eat peanut butter!”
Lisa swore off peanut butter herself, then. She asked, “What’s cally-mary?”
“Eeewww! You eat squid?”
“Only if it’s fried.”
“What are oysters?”
“Oysters are gobby shellfish that you eat without removing the entrails. You have to get them out of their shells, and you can eat them raw, if they’re in season, or cook them.”
“Raw? Aren’t they alive?”
“Alive!? Lisa, that’s a cruel and savage way to eat an oyster! You don’t eat them live. You kill them. You bite their heads off.”
Lisa swore off shellfish.
Grandpa said, “I don’t trust eating out. Ever. I was once told by a fellow who worked in the restaurant business, ‘Never make your food server mad at you.’ He said they’d spit in your drink, they’d drop your food and put it back on the plate, or any other sort of thing that you wouldn’t know about. After that little chat some 20 years ago, I just don’t care to eat out.”
“Well, I’ll eat at some restaurants. But these days, you can’t be too careful. That same fellow told me he hardly ever washed his hands. At least at work.”
Lisa swore off restaurants.
We were at the spring, by now. The water was clear, but leaves were in it, which made it look dark. On our approach, little frogs leapt into it, from the edges, and few water bugs swam in their erratic fashion on the surface of the small pool. We could see the water boiling up gently at the bottom. The weathered pipe that supplied the house had given years of service, and Lisa’s Grandpa explained that when they used water, this little pool was where it came from. And Grandpa added proudly, the spring provided water for wildlife, and, a long time ago, for Indians. But granddaughter was not impressed.
“We’ve been drinking this?” the child asked.
“Drinking it, cooking with it, washing with it–that’s it, honey. That’s where our water comes from.”
Lisa swore off water. But the next time the county experiences a water crisis, come over to Briar Circle, and bring your jugs and buckets. We can help you out.
Please click HERE to support the Journal.