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Life springs eternal

Agriculture.com Staff 04/13/2006 @ 1:12pm

My wife is fussy about the water she drinks.

We have a perfectly good well at our house which, in my humble opinion, produces perfectly good water. Sure there are a few minerals in it. But iron is good for you, isn't it? And a little manganese never hurt anyone, as far as I know.

Even after installing a water softener my wife continues to refuse to drink our water. The problem, she says, is that it still tastes "ucky."

I can't taste the difference between the bottled H2O my wife buys and the stuff that comes out of our tap. But then again, my wife has always said that I can't taste anything -- or that I'm tasteless, I can't remember which.

I have never spent a single penny for a drink of plain, old water. Not that I'm cheap or anything, but why should one pay for something that literally falls out of the sky?

Ruminating about all this the other day caused me to recall the Astoria spring. I was in that general area, so I headed east of Toronto on Highway 28 until I found it.

There is nothing to mark the site of the spring except for a clump of trees and a faint path in the road ditch. But there it was: an ancient galvanized pipe with clear, cool water gushing out of it. The gallon jug I happened to have with me overflowed in about ten seconds.

Someone was working at a nearby farmstead, so I moseyed on up and chatted with David Olson, the owner of the spring.

Has the spring ever dried up? "It's never quit running as far as I know," said David. "The old guy who owned it before me said that it has run continuously, even during the Dustbowl years. If anything, it runs better when it's dry."

As we continued to chat I listened closely and learned as much as I could about the spring and its owner.

"All sorts of wildlife come to drink from it," said Dave. "Deer, pheasants, wild turkeys. But even the deer know better than to go out into the bog. There's water-filled hole out there that's 20 feet deep and never freezes. In the old days, people would lose horses out there.

"I like watching the wildlife. I don't hunt anymore; I put down my gun for good when I came home from the war. After Korea I got so I'd rather see things alive than dead.

"There are old buffalo wallows out in the bog, and nearby you can see circles where Indians pitched their teepees. I bet you could find a lot of buffalo bones and such if you knew where to look.

"About 40 acres of my pasture is virgin prairie, never been touched by a plow. A guy from the college was out to look at it and came back with over 30 different kinds of native wildflowers. I keep my cows off that patch until late fall and when they come home, they're so slick and fat you'd think they'd been eating grain.

"Young folks think I'm a cheap old guy, but I'm really just a child of the Great Depression. As kids, we never even had store-bought cereal; we usually had oatmeal and cream-and-bread for breakfast.

"My folks had a battery radio, and I loved listening to 'The Lone Ranger.' The show once ran an offer where you got a secret decoder ring if you sent in a dime and a box top from Kix cereal. The next time we were in town I asked Dad if we could buy a box of Kix, but he said no, it cost too much.

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