Saturday, April 02, 2011

Woman at the well

If company hadn't developed last night, I'd have scanned some old photos of a small-town mansion not far from here that has been rescued after a near-death experience by folks with very deep pockets. It's a preservation success story --- and a house worthy of admiration. Not at all representative of how folks in southern Iowa actually lived at the turn of the 20th century, of course, but fun to look at and think about anyway.

Then I got to thinking about this old shapshot taken during the late 1930s of my great-aunt, Laura Love, beside her well in Columbia. Until very late in her life, this was the well that she drew water from the  old-fashioned way to drink, cook with and use for other purposes. It served until she was 80 or so when her sons, who lived in Montana and California and sent home money for her to live on, finally demanded that she allow them to replace it with a hand pump. That was quite a step up the technological ladder for Aunt Laura.

Because her husband, Uncle Al, had been good a nearly everything other than making money, Aunt Laura was poor --- although I doubt she'd have considered herself such. And actually very few people in Columbia had indoor plumbing in the 1930s --- or for quite a few years thereafter. But Aunt Laura's water supply system was more antiquated than most.

If the stories I've heard about Laura, who died in 1944 at age 87, are accurate, she was a happy woman who rarely worried and had no aspirations whatsoever toward grandeur. Her sons provided a little income, she had a big garden, good neighbors and my grandparents, who watched out for her during her later years and brought her home with them to live during the winter.

Fancy that. There was a time when you could be content with less rather than more, there were many people who lived like that, a considerable number of them lived in tiny places where everyone took care of everyone else --- and there's little indication that the folks who lived in the mansions of the day were much happier. Hard to believe.

This is Aunt Laura's house in Columbia during slightly more affluent years with Laura, Uncle Al and their daughter, Alma, in the front yard. The old house --- clad in later siding and with a lean-to garage --- stood until just a few years ago as the last house on the north side of the road as you headed west out of Columbia. I'm not sure it ever had running water, however.

No comments: