By PETTUS READ
Did you know that 95 percent of all available fresh water is in the ground? With the recent winter rains and snows, water has been flowing in areas across this state to a degree where too much of this valuable substance has caused problems. Hopefully, the weather will change from the pattern of ice to more of an opportunity where flowing water becomes something we enjoy looking at rather than fear.
I have always been fascinated with flowing water. I've seen it going over Niagara Falls, Burgess Falls and Fall Creek Falls, as well as even stood and watched it flow down a roadway ditch to parts unknown. As a child, I played in all of the little wet-weather springs on our farm and almost got killed one time trying to build a dam.
My almost-demise happened while trying to stop a spring's flow for the fun of it. It was a warm spring afternoon following a morning's rain and my cousins Hal and Bubba were visiting our farm. We had spent most of the day playing in the woods and fields enjoying the sunshine and freshness that a spring rain can bring.
The rainstorm had brought all of the wet-weather springs to life and their crystal clear waters were irresistible to three little boys enjoying the day. After floating leaves and sticks down a bubbling branch near one of our cornfields, we came up with the engineering idea of building a dam to see if we could make a miniature lake. This was in the days before water quality permits, but when three boys get together, it would not have mattered anyway. There was going to be a dam built in that stream regardless of what the law said or if there were endangered critters nearby. Three boys and a bunch of rocks and water just totaled up to something going to happen.
We began gathering rocks and sticks to construct our dam with me being the chief engineer, since I was the oldest. It wasn't long before the small stream's flow was slowed and water was backing up behind the makeshift dam. The backwater was filling up the branch's banks and spilling over into erosion cuts coming from the field nearby.
Once the dam was completed and we saw our successful miniature lake being formed, we immediately did a happy dance and then pondered what to do next. The IQ factor and the creation of ideas in the brains of three small boys kicked in and we decided to turn from engineers into Air Force bomber pilots and bomb the dam we had just completed. No need to leave a perfectly good dam intact when you can destroy it with boulders.
Having used most of the good rocks for constructing the dam, we had to venture out away from the construction site to find good bombing rocks. As we each returned with our missiles, the mayhem began. Rocks were flying everywhere, with water splashing, mud landing on the bombers and laughter breaking the silence of hushed woods on a spring afternoon.
Having run out of rocks, I went to the stream's edge to retrieve more ammunition. As I bent over to pick up a really good round one, cousin Bubba sent a large limestone boulder hurling my way. It caught me on the right side of my head just above my ear with a sound that resembled a coconut being broke open to make a Christmas coconut cake during the holidays.
A gash had been opened on my head and now my blonde hair was the color of crimson along with my white tee shirt. We were some distance from the house and immediately began walking in that direction with each step bringing on renewed flows of blood from my head. We soon arrived at our backdoor with cousin Hal hollering for my mother. As she opened the door and saw a scene that resembled a chain saw murder, she did what any mother would do. She almost fainted.
After my wound was washed and I was cleaned up, we resumed our afternoon of play with me having somewhat of a headache. There was no going to the emergency room or getting stitches. That just wasn't done back then. Instead, I was left to heal on my own, and to this day I still have that scar under my hair, which is one reason you will never see me with a shaved head.
That stream we played in that day was a source of ground water around that farm. It was important then and is even more so today. However, today I don't build any dams and avoid rock battles when possible. And when it comes to places where I stick my head, I most certainly pay attention to who is throwing the next rock.
-Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org