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The Spring (1973)

The Spring (1973)

©1973, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (1973). The spring. Unpublished essay.


The Spring

By Dallas Denny


It gushed from the base of the mountain, water pure and year-round so cold it might have had ice in it. Long ago, I suppose, the spring fed into the creek that ran nearby, but long before I was born it was walled in with concrete and roofed with green shingles, and the water now flows away in a ditch, temporarily doing man’s bidding. Someday, when the springhouse has moldered away, the concrete burst into so many rocks, the green shingles long gone, the ditch will fill with sediment and the spring will once again send its sweet waters into the creek.

To get to the spring, one leaves the rutted road a quarter of a mile from my grandmother’s house and bears obliquely left, going downhill and into the woods. One crosses the creek by means of the wooden bridge which in different years has been in various states of disrepair. One steps to the springhouse, pulls back the chicken-wire screen which covers the entrance, and picks up the small dented pot from the green tile of the roof, making sure there are no insects or spider nests in it. Kneeling, one scoops water carefully, first for a drink and then to fill the pair of galvanized buckets which hold the water for the house, being careful not to so scrape the pan against the moss-and-mud-covered rocks of the spring for fear of getting the water silty. Once stirred up, the spring won’t clear for hours. With care and sufficient arm strength, however, one can fill the entire bucket at once by dipping it rather than the pan into the water. The spring will be muddied, but by the time it is, the bucket is full.

Granny's, Nov. 1966

My Grandmother’s House Near Asheville
November, 1966


Getting water was usually fun. Sometimes I would turn over rocks in the creek, exposing salamanders and crawdads, and watch them scurry for cover. Or I would lie on a flat rock and watch the water bugs dance on the surface of the spring for a time before I filled my buckets.

A dipper and the buckets sat just inside the kitchen door, but to get them there from the spring was a tedious process, and I would think of many reasons to put off filling the buckets when the water level began to get low.

There were entire schools of thought concerning whether it was easier to carry one or two buckets at a time. I usually carried two because they tended to balance each other.

When the sun set, the spring took on a new and terrifying aspect and a trip for water could be a harrowing experience for a child. When forced to go, I would dip my buckets frantically into the water, making it muddy but not caring, almost too soared to breathe. When I went with my brother, I would fill my bucket with one swoop and want to be off. My brother, too young to fill his bucket in the same manner, would beg me to stay as he dipped frantically with the pot, and I usually would, making sure I was first across the bridge as we started back, walking fast and sloshing water. Years later I found my grandmother, too, felt the spring was eerie by twilight.

Now the house has running water, which is convenient, to be sure, but the water is tasteless My grandmother, who is less than enthusiastic about the quality of the city water, continued to use the spring water for drinking purposes until the spring was destroyed.

It’s sad to see the spring now. The water is muddy and the roof of the spring house has fallen in. Few people stop there, for my younger cousins see no charm in the ruins. But I would gladly re-experience the terror I felt in my twilight visits for a chance for another drink of that cool, sweet water.