Don’t take anything for granted

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

Running water and electricity are now so taken for granted that if either isn’t working the modern world comes to a halt.

Some years back we experienced a power outage during a summer electrical storm and were told it would probably be the next day before electricity was restored. I was startled to get a phone call from a neighbor who was in a panic because she was in the dark.

“What should I do?” she asked.

We advised her to light some candles, keep the refrigerator closed and raise the windows. She decided to pack some essentials and drive into town to stay with her mother.

We were surprised. But we were taking for granted that she’d take the inconvenience in stride. What we considered an inconvenience was to her a disaster. Our perspectives were just different.

Back in the day when our oldest child was an infant and we barely had two pennies to rub together, we were living in a trailer out in the boonies. We had a baby, a horse, a clothes line and a well with a well pump. We did have electricity, so if the pump was in repair we had running water. However, the pump was often in disrepair.

When it was finally decided the pump wasn’t repairable we had to wait for a new one to come in so it could be installed.

Without running water the washing machine couldn’t operate, so it was challenging to come up with a solution during our two-week wait.

Oddly enough, although we didn’t have a rope, we did have a hose. I disinfected the diaper pail with Clorox, tied the hose around the handle and lowered it down into the well to draw water. Although not a perfect solution, it did work.

I’d heat about two thirds of a pail of water on the gas range, pour some into the kitchen sink, add enough cold water to cool it down and wash the baby in it. He fit right into the sink.

After the baby was dried, diapered and put into his drawstring gown, his bath water would be used to wash the supper dishes. Next, I’d carry a partial pail of water out to the stable and pour it into the horse’s watering tub. Finally, I’d dip the water from the sink and pour it into a pot to be reheated.

I’d pour this water into a wash tub, use a bar of Ivory soap and a wash board and scrub enough diapers to take us through the next day. It would take another pail of water to use for rinse water and bird baths.

A bird bath is taken in the lavoratory instead of the bathtub with a minimal amount of warm water, a bar of soap and a washcloth. The waste water from this was dipped out and used to flush with. We’d drive to Fowler’s aunt’s house to get drinking and cooking water in plastic jugs.

This went on for a two-week period. Admittedly it wasn’t the easiest two weeks of our lives, but we did survive. The only afteraffect of the experience was the ground-in dirt in my fingertips. No matter how much I scrubbed, nothing removed the dirt stains. Finally, as new skin cells replaced the old the dirt stains finally grew off.

And that may be why when there is any interruption in the luxurious supply of electricity and running water we now enjoy, one of us will remind the other of our past experiences.

“Remember,” we’ll say, “it could be worse.” And looking back, I think, “It often was.”