Chapter 5 – Getting Started
Now I was getting started with a crew of men slashing out the underbrush of thorn shrubs and gnarled trees. Then they stacked the large pieces of wood for future firewood.
As the three acres were slowly cleared, I could see the shape of the property emerge in the veil of smoke created by the burning twigs and leaves. I had marked the larger trees so that they would remain standing and eventually become components of the final landscape plan. For several days I took time while perched on a stump to map each tree on a sketch of the property. In time I planned the camp buildings to fit that sketch.
While this was taking place, I determined that a spot near the two huge sycamore trees (wild fig) would be a natural location to dig a well. It was an old dry river bed. After all, with so much vegetation on the site, there must be water under there somewhere.
I summoned the men to the spot and explained my plan. To my dismay they laughed! They said they wouldn’t do something like that! Digging a well was unheard of to these men; they had never seen one and I had not yet earned the credibility for them to think such a thing was possible. Moreover, in their thinking, water that was not moving was dangerous water. And to a certain degree they were right. They had experienced stagnant water as a killer.
Well, I had to remind them that I was paying their salary and I was willing to pay them to do something in which they could see no sense. Reluctantly they took up their shovels and began to dig.
I went off to tend to other work. A couple of hours later I heard a loud whoop from the direction of the well digging. The men were creating quite a commotion. I had better investigate.
Sure enough, they had dug easily to about 12 to 15 feet deep in the somewhat sandy soil. The man in the bottom was on his hands and knees pawing in the dirt with great excitement. WATER was slowly oozing up!!
This phenomenon was truly amazing to the men causing them to excitedly dance around the hole whooping up a song with lyrics I did not understand. It was quite exciting just to watch and listen to them!
Later, in the town of Sheshamane, I was able to acquire several one meter concrete culvert rings which Gordon Creighton brought in with his Mazda pickup. I lined the hole with these, carefully lowering them with block and tackle suspended from a timber tripod. It wasn’t long before several feet of water filtered into the concrete chamber.
The little well served us quite nicely. But there were shortcomings. The water didn’t make good tea!
But worse than that was the breaking of the handle on the pump that I had installed on the cement lid of the well. It was a toggle type handle that had to be swung back and forth in an arc-like half circle. That motion that stemmed from the elbow of the operator was a movement not accustomed to by the local men. Instead they would pull it toward themselves with tremendous strength of their hand at the same time as they tried swinging it back and forth. The end result …. broken handles. The wood over the metal shaft would simply split requiring me to fabricate a new one.
But the fun really began when I attached the end of a 100 foot hose to the pump and the other end to a lawn sprinkler. I had planted grass seed at the front of our little house. Now it needed water. One of the workers swung the pump handle back and forth while a small crowd gathered at the sprinkler end. Sprt-sprt-sprt and a spray of water rose into the air in a circular motion. This was a brand new phenomena never seen before! Now they were really amazed with what the white man might do …. produce rain!??
But it didn’t stop there. A few weeks later the seeds sprouted and of course the newly grown grass needed trimming. I had acquired a hand pushed rotary lawn mower in Addis Ababa and now was the time to use it. The men just shook their heads in mild disgust. Why, the goats could do just as good a job … and you don’t have to push them!
But there were other matters that needed my attention … especially that dusty road in from the highway and those four rickety bridges!