Monday, November 16, 2009

From a Pig Tail to Hot Water

Someone had given us a subscription to the Pennsylvania Farmer magazine and whenever it came we immediately flipped to the page titled Country Air where people shared humorous incidents that happened to  them while living in the country.

At the end of the page they used to ask to keep the stories coming and offered to pay for any that they published. So one evening Mom sat down and wrote about the time she had to help chase a stray pig soon after she was married. She sent it the next morning and it wasn't long before she received a check in the mail. The magazine editors had loved it and planned to publish it in the next issue.

Mom was thrilled to have been able to earn a little extra money and when Daddy said she could use it to buy anything she wanted to it didn't take her long to know just what that would be. A coal fired water heater so that we could finally have hot running water.

Up until then we heated all our water on the cookstove to do most of our everyday things, but on Saturdays we would start a fire in the huge kettle in the basement to heat water for bathing which then had to be carried up two flights of stairs to the tub. And every Monday we would have to fill it up again to heat water to do the laundry. With a growing family it took an ever increasing amount of hot water and Mom was getting tired of lugging pails of water when ever we needed it.

Daddy went to an Amish hardware store that very evening and purchased everything he needed to hook up Moms water heater. When he came home he went right to work cutting pipes and fitting them to the cute little coal heater to the big tank that would soon be filled with hot water. John and I got to stay up late to watch him until he was done. I was hoping we could start a fire in the heater right away but Daddy told us to go to bed that he'll wake us in the morning once he is ready to start the fire.

He didn't have to wake us. By the time the first glow of sunrise had tinted the eastern sky we were up and ready to start the fire. We all went down to the basement and watch as Daddy scooped several hands full of coal into the heater and then laid some wood scraps on top. After studying it for a moment he sent John and I to gather some shaving from the shop. We hurriedly ran to do as he asked and then put our hands full of shavings on top of the wood and coal. Daddy lit a match and we all stood there watching as the shavings started smoldering slowly and then burst into flame Before long the wood scraps were burning and so was the coal. We stood there admiring the flames for a little while and then Daddy announced. "Why don't we go have breakfast now and by the time we're done there should be hot water to do the dishes."

I was suddenly filled with the uncommon desire to do the dishes on my own. I was sure it would be much more fun washing dishes with hot water from the faucet. Somehow it didn't dawn on me until too late that dirty dishes are dirty dishes no matter how the water was heated.

After breakfast we children ran through the house and tried all the hot water faucets and they all produced beautiful hot water. We were so excited.

A few weeks later when the magazine came we once again paged to the Country Air section and sure enough. There was Moms story titled "A Pig Tale About a Pig Tail" We all read it and chuckled about it. What we didn't know at the time was that almost every person in Somerset County subscribed to that magazine and Mom had to endure a lot of ribbing about the pig tail to which she always answered with a smile. "That tail gave us hot running water."


  1. Now I see where your wonderful writing talent comes from.
    Your stories are always so enjoyable.
    Sunny :)

  2. I sure do take hot water for granted I think! That's so cute that your mom's a writer and you're a writer - the apple didn't fall far from that tree did it?? That pig gave you hot water AND dinner for a few nights too probably! HA HA GREAT story ~ ♥

  3. the talent of writing has been passed on to you. thanks for sharing them with us!

  4. Yes, I agree the talant you show in writing is fantastic. Keep up the good work!

  5. I am a new follower and look forward to reading your post and getting to know you a little better!

  6. Your mom must have been so proud, no matter the ribbing. Perhaps that's where you got your inspiration for writing all of your family tales.
    Heating hot water in the kettles must have been quite a job. We do take hot water for granted in our modern homes.
    Another great story!

  7. Would you mind sharing the story your Mom submitted? It must be a good one!

  8. I thought we were very modern when we bought and moved into our house that had just such a coal burning water heater! We had it made!

  9. As a re-enactor, I understand the pains of having to haul, heat and haul again water for washing. With 2 children, I often have laundry to do at events and baths to prepare. We do most of our re-enacting in the summer time, so I set out the copper tub full of water in the sun and let the sun warm it. By evening bath time, it's nice and warm for the kiddos to splash away in.

    I also have a copper tea kettle that hangs on a stand with a candle holder on the bottom. If I leave a small candle burning beneathe it, I'll have warm water for washing hands and faces throughout the day.

    For cold water/drinking water, we bring a cistern with a spigot. So, even in the middle of a field, we have "running" hot and cold water.

    I love your stories. :)

  10. You inherited your writing talent from you mom for certain :-)

    I really enjoyed this story.

  11. How very clever of your mother to earn the money for the heater through her wits! Mothers are amazing that way...

    I cannot get enough of your stories. Perhaps one day they will be compliled into a book!

  12. I'd love to hear the pig tale too!

  13. I have just spent the evening reading several pages of your blog and must say you have a beautiful way of writing.
    I can't wait to read more but am getting so tired that my eyes won't stay open.
    I also want to mention that I have an old photo of my second great grandparents in which grandmother is wearing a bonnet much like the one you wore in the picture with the baby wrapped in pink. Grandfather wore a tall wide brimmed black hat.
    I have suspected they were Amish but have not been able to verify that. They were born in the early 1800's and lived in Clarion County, PA.
    Thank you very much for a wonderful evening.
    I have added you to my blog.

  14. Back in 1966 I lived in Germany for a year. For several months I lived in a basement apt that had a coal heated hot water tank. It took all day for the water to heat for a bath. We are spoiled in this country!


Thank you so much for taking time to comment. I love hearing your thoughts.