The Best Drink Of Water

March 16, 2022
Tom Poland

By Tom Poland

Seems to me, as the old folks would say, an aluminum dipper delivered the best drink of water. You’d sink that dipper into a wooden bucket. And that wooden bucket had just been winched up from a hand-dug well. And when you drank well water it chilled the body and soul.

I rarely see dippers like the one pictured here. Oh, I’ve seen a few in kettles of simmering hash, and I’ve seen some hanging on the wall of an old smokehouse. They’re out of use. Who drinks straight from a well? It’d be a tad awkward using an aluminum dipper with the kitchen faucet. Probably spill half the water on the way up. Just use a glass.

You can call it a ladle or a dipper and you can call it out of fashion. Times were many a kid and adult used a dipper to drink water so cold it made their teeth ache. My Maytag refrigerator’s water dispenser isn’t that cold. I seldom use it, but when I do, I just push the glass into place and out comes water. Not much effort in that, not like winching up a heavy bucket of water.

My dipper belonged to my parents. I found it several years after Mom passed. I brought it home. It’s a relic but not just any relic. If I could trace its history, its provenance, might I find that it was the dipper in Granddad Walker’s wooden bucket? I like to think so, but I’m sure it isn’t.

Reach way back with me now. Remember when gourds served as dippers? A drinking gourd, they called it. You’d take a long-stemmed gourd and cut and hollow it to make it into a ladle. I see gourds on poles offering mosquito-eating purple martins homes. I read, too, that you can buy plastic gourds and use them instead of the real deal. No thanks. That’s sad. Give me vintage goods, like old aluminum dippers.

I never hear anyone mention dippers. Vintage dippers are a good example of out of sight, out of mind. Show folks a photo of one, however, and the memories well up like water from a well. An old friend from back home saw the photo and had this to say. “I remember looking at the water and the shiny inside of the dipper while I was gulping it down.”

A lady over near the coast saw my photo and it stirred loose a memory. “My paternal grandfather kept his by the kitchen sink when he no longer had to use it at the well. It was all he ever used. No cup or glass unless he was sitting at the table or visiting someones else’s home. All the grandkids considered ourselves ‘special’ if we ever got to drink out of it.”

A lady who once lived back home made an observation. “Everybody drank out of the same dipper.” That’s a fact. They thought nothing about it.

Do you miss the taste of well water? Can you? You can’t miss what you never had but you can find new uses for old things. Come summer my dipper’s perfect for adding water to the ant traps in my hummingbird feeders. Each time I use it my mind goes back to Lincoln County, Georgia, and an old well with a wooden housing supporting a winch and stout rope the color of dried cornshucks. I’d work the handle and the coldest, best drink of water was on the way. It didn’t require electricity or a pump. All that was needed was thirst, a strong arm, a bucket and dipper.

And a deep cold well.


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