Out On The Mudline

Dowsing For Water Proved Successful

By W. P. Sissell

The World We Live In

Not many afternoons ago I watched a program of the series “Gunsmoke.” I like and enjoy the program because my grandfather, Will, and his brother, George, proved claims in Gove County, Kan., (on a map of Kansas look a few miles above Dodge City to find Gove County).  

It is noted in the history of Republic County Kansas that George’s wife, Ida Harris, was the first white child born in Republic County—all previous had been Native American. If you have a detailed map you may find Goodwater—more or less just a community. That’s where my father, Reuel, and his brother, Ray, were born in a sod house, The water part of the name is what interests me today. The segment of Gunsmoke that day told about a drought and an old man who found water on his future son-in-law’s farm by witching for water. He was successful although sometimes the search is unsuccessful.

That lack of success can be laid to the lack of water or to that water witching or divining is a fallacy but listen to my experiences. I have no idea where I first heard about water witching although I do believe in the practice—it serves as a great saver of time in locating wells in desirable places.

 When we bought the Taylor farm we soon found out that the well at the main house on the place was terrible. At the lone tenant house the water from the pitcher pump was great while the water at the main house turned everything exposed to it a golden brown. During a slack season we decided to see if we could  find a suitable place for a good stream of water.

At a point about fifty feet from the old well the willow branch I was holding turned almost directly to the ground. We drilled (a hand drill probably procured from Mr. Harvey) to sand and then put a well pipe down into the sand layer (about 27 feet deep). We determined that we were in water sand by using a “Chugging stick” (a stick whittled down to exactly fit the pipe). Before putting the sand point into the well the screen was coated with Octagon soap (P and G would not dissolve fast enough).  

After placing the pipe in the well we usually placed a driving cap on the pipe and used our driver to force the pipe deeper until it suddenly stopped moving downward.  Our next step was to attempt to fill the pipe with water.  If this could not be done the point was clear and most likely you had a good stream of water.  If the pipe could be filled the chugging stick was used to clear the point (inserting the chugging stick into the filled pipe and striking it with a hammer).

Everything worked almost perfectly on our new well except the pump was about two feet above the ground. The pump was very easy to prime. We sent a gallon of water in to Joe Stribling’s wife, Lovie, for boiling. In a few minutes she came to the door with the boiling water to show us that there was no scum like the water from the old pump—we had good water!   

Now we had to elbow to a line to the house but my dad said “You’ve got the driver in place so just put that cap back on and drive the pipe down a little further.” We, who were fixing to have to dig the hole big enough and deep enough to let us cut and thread the pipe for the elbow, agreed—when we did we lost the stream of water.

Another Day—Another Well

Early the next morning I found the same results with my forked willow limb almost due south of the old well rather than the easterly direction. The results with the pipe were almost exactly the same and this time Dad said, “Dig the hole deep enough to cut and thread that pipe boys.” That well served three different families before the water system took over.

What Is It?

When I looked on the internet (with the help of my daughter, Susan) I found that water divining, also known as water witching and water dowsing has been practiced all over the world. In the Middle Ages, it was associated with the power of Satan but what about God and Moses and the rod and the rock?  The forked twig, for finding minerals, apparently did not come until the fifteenth century when it was used by Germans in the Hartz Mining region. Some of these miners were imported to England in the following century and they brought the practice with them.  It was in England that the use of the twig was shifted to the search for water rather than minerals.

Even before man began recording history there are evidences that this substance, water, (not recognized as a compound yet) was valuable to food plants and thus to humans (Sumerian irrigation works existed in about 3500 B.C.).  

I taught Soil Science for several years at Northwest—man has always searched for water.  There are about 16 essential elements but one compound, water.

You may have noticed above that I can use the forked twig successfully. As I have said previously, I have no idea where I found that I had the gift—it may have been Floyd McCain for he removed a wart for me one time or it may have been Uncle Nase or Grandpa Stribling. They are all in my “upbringing.” Nannette’s mother, Miss Nettie Lou, could successfully douse for water.  Have you ever tried?  

Lee Rowsey told me this morning about the old fellow witching for water at Sardis Reservoir. None of the engineers equipment could locate some water pipes. In a very few minutes this old fellow told them where to dig.  The found the water pipes.

Looks like it’s going to rain all week but that’s alright although we will need some dry weather during the harvest.

Do have a good week.  You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606 or 662-563-9879.

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