There’s a scene in Casablanca. I’m paraphrasing because even Google can’t seem to help me with the exact wordage. It goes like this: The mean old Nazi asks Bogart why he came to Casablanca.
Rick (Bogie’s character) answers with a perfectly straight face(we know he’s being sarcastic, but the Gestapo guy doesn’t), “I came for the waters.”
“But there are no “waters” in Casablanca.”
Rick says, “I was misinformed.”
Good line, Rick. You got him good.
I don’t know if we had any healing waters in Lamar Country, although some of that mud washed from the eroded hillsides might have contained some magic when mixed with Yellow Creek water. Some folks up in there lived a long time.
We didn’t have “waters,” but we were blessed with plenty of water. The three main drainage systems were headed by the Buttahatchee to the north. There was some talk, long ago,of making it navigable for a good piece upstream. That would have taken some more digging, like digging the Panama Canal. I know. Brother Jack and I went down a long stretch of it in a row boat. Picture Humphrey Bogart leading his boat through the water lilies and such in “The African Queen.” Lots of digging.
Another main stream is the Luxapalila in the southern part of the county.
Then, right down through the middle, there’s Yellow Creek. Runs into the Luxapalilia just before they go hand in hand together into the Tenn-Tom.
Then there are all the tributaries. There’s Cutbank Creek and Mud Creek and Wilson Creek and Little Yellow Creek and Reedy Creek and Turkey Creek and Bogue Creek and Beaver Creek and … And there were grist mills all around, five within a few miles of town on Yellow Creek, plus some on the tributaries. You didn’t have to go far to get a turn of corn meal.
Also, in almost every dip in the road, there’d be a little branch there, happily working its way down hill to join the big boys.
Then there are the springs. Many country churches were built near springs — Shiloh North has a beautiful spring right by the side of the road. At all-day singings, teenage boys and girls would make regular trips to it, hoping to just accidentally-on-purpose run into a member of the opposite sex. (By the way, the water is now labeled undrinkable, probably because of the dairy farm on the hill just above it.)
And there’s Pine Springs and other churches with “springs” in their name.
There were roadside springs. One in particular came steadily pouring out of a red clay bank at the side of the road on Bickerstaff Hill. A walker could seldom resist the urge to have a drink of the cool, cool water there. Alas, while attempting to do good, no doubt, the county came in and widened the road …just enough to totally mess up the spring.
There was and is the Granny Spring. It’s where Uncle Kelley would water his mules when they came in for dinner. and it’s where a nearby family used to wash their clothes. Never known to go dry.
We had a patch we called the Spring Piece, because there was a lovely little spring just in the trees from the lower side of the field. Water gurgled out of a sandy bottom before running off in the woods in the general direction of Yellow Creek.
Later, after I left the nest, there was a cave-in over the underground stream that supplied the spring. Not real deep, but if a tractor had come along at the time the cave-in occurred, it could have been interesting.
They’re all capped now, I think, but in town, we used to have artesian wells all around. One at the school house, one down the street from it, one near Dr. Black’s house.
The water from those wells must have been very hard. The runoff from the one behind the schoolhouse, near the football field, made its little ditch orange-colored—with iron, I suppose.
That particular well saved many a life. The water came out of holes punched in a horizontal pipe. In those ancient days of yore, football players were not allowed to drink a drop of water or other liquid all during practice. So, when if was finally over, we’d stagger to that well and latch like a leech onto one of those holes and try to suck that sucker dry.
Hmmm. Maybe we did have “waters” after all.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note.