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Water hunting

by Margaret Sullivan and Nelcia Marshall

Water hunting
Illustrated by Curtis Robinson


As children, we loved the rain, even when it came thundering over the mountains. Rain meant the water pouring from the galvanized roof into the guttering and through the spout into the drums of wall tanks. Rain meant the river ‘coming down’, and with it many curious sights like whole trees, old furniture, and even animals.

Our innocence did not see the destruction caused by heavy rains and floods, we reveled in the wonder of these waters pouring from the skies, like an answer to prayer. Collecting water, a basic need, was for us a hard task. You see, we did not have pipe borne water in our homes. The galvanise bucket, basin and chamber pot, ‘tensil ‘ or ‘posie’ were important then. So was the ‘basin stand’, some with a well moulded hole for the basin, and room for the tall ‘Ewer’ filled with water, There was a bar at the side to hold the towel.

Women and children would gather at the standpipe to collect water, and bear the buckets on their heads to their homes. Otherwise we would go to the springs or rivers.

The river was of course the public bath and wash tub. Women would journey to the river on Mondays, with a large bundle of items for washing. If favoured by a sunny day, they would return in the evening with dried, sweet smelling laundry.

In the dry season, collection of water was both a frustrating and pleasurable exercise. We used to travel to the mountain sources to look for water. We put a green leafy branch in our full buckets to prevent spillage of the precious drops, as we picked our way carefully over paths that were stony, slippery and precarious. How painful it was when someone slipped and had to return to the source.

At nights we would ‘set up’ waiting for the stand pipe to gurgle, passing the time telling Anancy Stories, jokes and riddles. It was particularly pleasurable when these vigils were held on a moonlight night. You see, there was no street lighting in our rural village.

What a shout went up from patient hunters when a voice shouted ‘WATER!!”, as the pipe line gurgled, and water began to flow. The rows of buckets were quickly filled, and were not heavy as villagers happily hurried home.