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 Beautiful Belmont, Part 06 -- The Old Spring and Spring House.

by John Salisbury Cochran.

See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 05 -- Life In Our Father's House.

The old spring, hewed out of the solid soapstone rock 100 feet from the kitchen door, remained a joy in my memory. What a mystery of unfathomable depth that spring seemed to my childish imagination. I thought it 1000 feet deep. I looked down into it and imagined I could see goblins, monsters of the sea, and whales. We had a fanatically religious book at the farm containing a picture of the great red dragon -- representing a certain church -- and I went out to that spring and looked down into it to find that dragon. I saw nothing but my own frightened face reflected in its clear and calm waters, my hair standing on end and my eyes as large as saucers. A bullfrog, half as frightened as myself, jumped from the bank into the spring with a plunging thud -- and I was vanquished. I ran to the house declaring I had seen the great red dragon jump into the spring, and my teeth chattered with fright so badly that I thought I was freezing.

That spring was so deep to me then, I imagined I could look down into it and see the "bad place." I once even tried to do so, and in the bottom I saw a huge crawfish, which, possibly desiring a closer look at me, struck up toward the top of the spring. I jumped and ran, declaring the devil was in the spring.

In reality that spring was only 20 inches deep and its water always clear and sparkling. It came out of a fissure in the rock and was very cold. It was conducted by a lead pipe, underground, to the stone troughs in the spring house, which was 10 feet away. In these troughs our mother kept the milk in shallow crocks covered with wooden lids. The long earthen cream jar stood in the corner, and the recollections of the rich golden cream -- skimmed from the tops of those crocks of milk and transferred to that tall cream jar for periodic churning -- makes my mouth water, even as I write. The raids upon that milk house by us boys were many and exasperating to the hired girl, and while it greatly disarranged her pie, milk, and butter storage area -- and we never failed to hear about it -- yet there was never any difficulty in arranging a new plan of campaign and successful assault on the ever-refreshing and hospitable old spring house, with its pies, cream, milk curds, and buttermilk.

Over the spring house were the sleeping quarters for the "hired hands." Being detached from the main house, it was here we boys went on a rainy day, or other idle hours, to seek our entertainment; and many a practical joke of dubious merit was contrived and implemented here without the knowledge of our father. We had a hired man, James Henderson, who was in the habit of being out late at night. One of us boys set what is called a "dead fall" trap for him in his room over the spring house. This trap consisted of a large flat stone set on edge in a leaning position, supported by a wooden stick, which functioned as the trigger. When the wooden stick was removed, the stone would fall flat. The stone was set in the middle of the floor near his bed, and on entering late in the night, Henderson inadvertently touched the trigger with his toe and the dead fall caught his foot. He never was able to find out which one of the boys set the trap. He even threatened to tell father, but he saw we all enjoyed the laugh over it so heartily -- and being a good fellow -- he not only relented, but after a while enjoyed telling the story himself. So the worst that came of it was a few painful oaths just after the successful operation of the trap, and a lame foot for a week or so.

From the spring house the water passed with sparkling patter to the big poplar watering trough by the barn, and here the livestock of the farm quenched their thirst. With what satisfaction the milk cows from the heated fields on a July afternoon gulped down the water from that old trough. Long and complacently they would drink, and it seemed to my boyish fancy their capacity for that cold water was boundless. How freely that spring gave! Long years have passed and its generous flow is undiminished. Surely both man and beast can proclaim that spring the benefactor of the farm.

In the cool space under the willow that shaded the watering trough, the cheery fireflies would congregate in greater numbers, it appeared to me, than at any other spot on the farm. Here during the long drawn out summer evenings -- the time for thought and reflection -- they performed their lighting display. The fleecy leaves of the mullein stalks that grew at the foot of the pear tree, near the willow, became, in my boyish facy, gaudy drop curtains of shimmering silver. And the orchard trees in the distance formed a somber contrast to the quivering red flashlight performance "presented" on the intervening stage -- as I looked out from the portico of the old farm house down the road as twilight deepened into night. How often we sat together as silent viewers, thinking, wondering, half dreaming, until the croaking of the tree-frog, or chirping of the cricket, told the lateness of the hour, sending us to bed and pleasant dreams.

See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 07 -- Our Neighbors.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.

This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
CO-AUTHOR: Schultheiss, Tom. (Asst. Editor)

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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