August 7, 2020
A big thing as we were growing up in and around Ekalaka was the water supply. People out in the country or on the edges of Ekalaka had wells. You usually could find ground water at 10 or 15 feet but they would go on through that and go to another vein of water at 60 or even 100 or more feet. The deeper the well the harder pumping it was and I know that because I did a lot of pumping for the livestock.
At our second house in Ekalaka, we had a windmill which, of course, pumped water when the wind was blowing. This was very nice for me as we had cows and usually had horses also. They drank out of a stock trough. At first, I had to bring in a bucket of water for the house. Then, my Dad did a wonderful thing. He ran a pipe up over a small house next to the well, then overhead to our upstairs where it ran into a stock trough that he had put in there. He covered the trough so nothing could get in it. Then he ran pipes to the kitchen and other places so we had pressurized running water just like the city folks.
Ekalaka water and the well water around Ekalaka was pretty good, at least we thought so. When my Grandma Lavell came to visit she wouldn’t drink it. She got Coca Cola and such. Bottled water was not so readily available then. The town had a big tank up on the hill which was supplied from a well, I suppose that they still do.
My favorite place that we lived in Carter County was what we called the Opeechee Park place. Jesse LaBree called it the Kinsey place. It had a pump on the back porch. Being in the forest the water was very good. We still had to take our horse to a spring every day to get water. That was in 1942.
The people in other areas of the area of the county were not so fortunate. A lot of the water was very alkaline. Sherry Farwell once told me that his grandfather located his place on purpose where the water was good, coming out of the hills behind them. That was a very smart thing to do. Usually the water was good in the hills but not out on the plains. We used to go up to a place called Lantis Springs for picnics in the summer. The water was very good there. There was a forest service fire tower there and if there was a nice guy manning it he would let us go up in the tower and see the forest all around. Off the subject, I know.
My grandparents had a cistern at their place to supply drinking water. Rain water ran off the shingles of the roof into the cistern. My mother and all her siblings loved that water but we kids would drink it but didn't like it. They had a well in their yard but the water was too alkaline for people to drink. Cows and horses would drink it. There was a hill on the Briggs place which my grandparents owned that had water seeping out of it. They called it Palmer Hill. Sheep would drink it but people or cows could not. I don’t know what other people around the county did for drinking water.
Some cities in Eastern Montana had a real problem with water. Because of all the oil and gas in the ground the water often would taste really bad. We thought that Baker water was terrible. I once had Circle water and it was the worst I had ever tasted. I wonder what all these towns have done with their water now?
I will tell you about frozen water. My grandparents had an ice house as many other people did. In the winter they would harvest ice from Boxelder Creek or reservoirs in blocks and store it in the ice house. It would be in layers with sawdust and tarps between.
A block was taken out periodically to supply an ice box used for keeping things cold. It was so much fun for kids to get in that ice house on a hot day and get down to the next layer of ice and chip off a little piece to suck on.
There was an old concrete slaughter house on the road out toward Tookes. It was not being used but once in a while my Dad would get permission to kill some beef there. It must have been a very deep well because it was very hard to pump and it takes a lot of water to clean up after a slaughter job. I know, I had to pump it. I wonder if that old slaughter house is still there.
My grandparents bought a place just south of the Briggs place and Catamount creek that they called the Fred Haight place. They constructed a great big dam and reservoir there. I actually drank water directly out of that reservoir. I thought that it was good. My uncle Harvey Coons and his wife Ita built their house on that place fairly close to the reservoir. They must have drilled a well, I wonder if the water was good. I don’t remember what we used for water at the Briggs place just north of there or at the Anderson place just south of there. My cousin Lennet Cantwell can probably tell me.
I have got kind of long but I will tell you one more thing. Uncle Harvey Coons told me that a traveling geologist once showed him the spot just north of Catamount Creek and told him that if they drilled there they would get a very big artesian well. He didn't have the money to drill but always wondered about it.
I hope that the towns of Eastern Montana have got better water now.