New Life for Old Timber

“Once, however, he had come at a moment’s call and Cousin Myra had brought it about by planned strategy. Her water supply had ceased to flow into her house and Ward was the only one who knew where the underground pipes were concealed, having sunk them originally. She called the store and after repeated ringing by the operator a man’s voice responded. To be certain she asked for Mr. Thomas.

‘Yes,’ came the reply.

‘Ward Thomas himself?’

‘Yes, Miss Myra’ – the voice registered anticipation.

‘Well,’ rang out Myra’s high soprano note of urgency, ‘I’m dead, come at once!’

There was a moment’s pause and an appreciative voice came back with deliberation:

‘All right, I’ll be over right away – shall I bring a cooling board?’

“Cousin Myra never enlarged upon the matter of the ‘cooling board,’ but Ward made his only quick response to a call not connected with his capacity as an undertaker.

“I found that it was not necessary to be too specific as to one’s needs when calling the Thomas hardware store, for when Ward did respond to my appeals he came with a helper and an inexplicable quantity of tools. To be sure tools were one of his specialties, besides pots and pans and coffins, but he seemed to be tool conscious to a degree that made him wish to have a complete shop at each job; and as he agreed to clean the old well at the same time, the equipment included a pumping outfit, buckets and rope. All this gave me a feeling of pending achievement and confidence. What a man! What equipment!

But once his jacks were in place and the floors began to creak upward in two or three locations, the house neither saw nor heard more of Ward Thomas for two sad months, during which the summer passed quietly into fall. The tools, however, remained in neat piles as a mute promise that, like the return of Spring, Ward’s return would be merely a matter of time. Perhaps if I had called for a ‘cooling board’ he might have responded sooner, but nothing I did do succeeded in bringing him back before the first chill breath of autumn.

Then with the cooler weather the jacks began to exert their irresistible pressure, and the house groaned and heaved and cracked with sudden jolts. My nice ‘plaster work’ as Ward called it, shot off the walls and had to be done over again.

“Meantime the pump was working away at the well with a rhythmic chug-chug, and buckets of silt were being hauled up at regular intervals. I knew that the early dug wells were seldom known to fail, abut ours seemed to have too small a supply of water and to be easily exhausted. Elsewhere I had descended a well to clean and scald the interior after a woodchuck had chosen it as ideal for suicide and I found the bottom had been dug down to flat rock.

As our well gave no evidence of a hard bottom, the work of cleaning it out had been decided upon with the result that over four feet of fine silt, as smooth as talcum powder, was brought to the surface. Then followed a collection of hand-made tools: hammers, screw drivers, and meat hooks, all quaintly different from our present machined varieties, were brought to the surface. There were also some tin milk pails which had partially disintegrated instead of rusting away, and augmenting this collection of antiques were a three-pronged fork and a broad-ended knife, undoubtedly handy for scooping up peas, or for balancing a fried egg on its tip.