Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…
Yesterday Helen said that since I had drunk juice out of a particular glass, it had to be washed before I could drink water from it because there would be… I’m not sure what… organisms… yech… wiggletails!
That’s what we called them back in the days of water buckets—wiggletails, because you could actually see them swimming in the water in the bucket we drank from, their little tails propelling them forward to… get into our gullets and… yech….
Except we didn’t worry about them over much. Wiggletails were part of life. You did know, though, that when you could actually see them, the water had been standing in the bucket too long. It was time to dump the water onto the bean plants in the garden and pump another bucket of drinking water from the well. Not that we washed that bucket, but we did fill it with clean water.
It reminds me of one of the earliest preacher stories I picked up. A man got up in worship to give his testimony. People did that back then, sort of like “Joys and Concerns” time now. He said, “Forty years ago, the Lord filled my cup to the brim, and He hasn’t taken anything out or put anything in since.”
A kid sitting nearby said, “It must have wiggletails in by now.”
It was a story I told several times, in different congregations in my early years. I expected people to understand, and they did. They were rural people who had drunk out of communal water buckets and seen wiggletails because the bucket was never poured out and refilled.
When I grew up on the farm, we had no plumbing in the house. We had two buckets, one enamel and one zinc, that we kept on the kitchen counter. The enamel bucket we filled from the well. It had a dipper. If you needed water for drinking or cooking, you dipped into that bucket. The zinc bucket was filled from the cistern. It contained water drained from the roof gutters. If we needed water for washing or cleaning, we used that less palatable roof water.
Because churches and some other public buildings, including schools, did not have indoor plumbing, they had water buckets, too. After WWII, when we moved to the farm, folks had become more germ conscious, and so communal dippers were rarely used. Before that, though, and all the folks I preached to remembered this, families and school children and lodge members and church members, when they got thirsty, they went to the bucket, dipped the dipper, drank from the dipper, and put it back in the bucket. Kind of like Episcopal communion, everybody drinking out of the same cup.
So many images that I used when I started preaching at the age of 19... anyone hearing them today would have no idea what they’re about. Wiggletails? Water buckets? Water dippers? Now the preacher stories are about accidentally dropping cell phones into the toilet, and getting hacked or ghosted on Facebook, and forgetting to turn off the cordless microphone at inappropriate times, and… It’s best that we have young preachers now, who grew up with current technology, but I do miss the old stories.
“All we ask [in old age] is to be allowed to remain the authors of our own story.” Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, p. 140.
Speaking of more current stories, my novel, VETS, about four handicapped and homeless veterans accused of murdering a VA doctor, is now only 99 cents from the publisher Black Opal Books. It’s available from Amazon, B&N, etc, too, but they may still be charging the original prices.