If Your Well Freezes Over

If you wake up one morning to discover that the water supply from your well is frozen, the best thing to do is to clamber down the well, using the rope to which your bucket is tied, and to hack at the ice with an axe. You should wrap up warm, with a balaclava and a muffler and mittens, all of the finest wool, although you may find that your exertions, swinging that axe as best you can in the confined space at the bottom of the well, make you pant and perspire, and half way through your hacking you will want to climb back up the rope and take off some of your woollens before heading back down to continue the job. You can rest your axe in your bucket betimes, so long as the bucket is not given to tilting. If that is the case, the axe may fall out of the bucket into the freezing water you have just partly exposed by hacking sufficiently at its icy carapace, and your axe will sink like a stone. You would then need either to don skindiving gear to fetch it from flooded subterranean caverns, or to buy a new axe. In either case, the interval between your costume-change and dive or your purchase and your beginning once again to hack and hack and hack would probably result in the water at the bottom of your well being frozen again, if it was one of those mornings when the sky was overcast and a milky sun gleamed in vain.

It may be that you have a neighbour close by from whom you can borrow an axe. But bear in mind that your neighbour’s well is likely to be frozen if yours is, and they will be hacking away themselves and thus unwilling to relinquish their axe just because you stupidly rested yours in a tilting bucket from which it fell.

If you manage successfully to smash enough ice with your axe to uncover the water, climb back up to the top of the well and put your woollens back on. Now lower the bucket on the end of the rope until it is fully submerged and fills with water, winch it back up, untie the knot or knots with which it is attached to the rope, and carry the bucket to your delightful rustic haven, trying for as little spillage as possible. Remember that the water will be extremely cold, and will probably have shards of ice in it, so you will need to heat it up, even unto boiling point, before putting it to use, for example to make a cup of tea.

Depending on the size of your bucket, you may want to return to the well to fetch more water before it freezes over again. You will need to pour the water out of the bucket into some other receptacle or receptacles, perhaps a series of pans. Then stride jauntily back to the well swinging the empty bucket, and greeting your neighbour, in a hearty countryside way. He may be approaching your fence because he wishes to borrow your axe, of course, and as you have finished your hacking it would be polite to lend it to him. If he has lost his own axe because he has a tilting bucket in his well, you might think it wise to give him some tips on how to tie his bucket to its rope so that it remains upright. Try not to give this advice in a pompous, shouty way, for your neighbour may have a short fuse and lose his temper and run amok with the borrowed axe across the fields, frightening cows and such other barnyard beasts as are congregated there in the bone-chilling cold of this misty winter morn.

One thought on “If Your Well Freezes Over

  1. Wise council as your advice is (as always). On a health and safety note…
    Should anyone consider wearing mittens whilst enthusiastically belaboring ice in a well please, please make sure that the string between your mittens allows a reasonably practicable amount of arm swing and that the string is threaded though the sleeves of your jacket…


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