Under Again

New well. Pre-pump taste test.
New well. Pre-pump taste test.

On Friday evening I killed the second of our three hogs, and afterwards walked down to the pond to rinse away the piggut smell before bed. It was nearly dark, and the air was cooling fast, and I was goose bumped even before I came to the water’s edge, where I stripped and dove before I could second-guess myself. The water was colder than expected (and I’d expected cold) but I forced myself under again and again and again, scrubbing at my bloodied hands and forearms with a palmful of the sandy clay that forms the banks.

When I emerged it was just light enough that I could see heated water rising off my body. Now I was truly cold, that pinprick feeling of muscles tensed against it, and I started back up the path to home. Moving quickly. But still I smelled that dead pig smell on my skin; it’s one of those smells, like sex or fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, that once known cannot be mistaken. So I walked back to where water meets land. And then I walked a little farther, and then a little farther still, and finally, when I’d walked far enough that turning back no longer seemed preferable to staying the course, I went under again.

23 thoughts on “Under Again”

  1. Whew, that’s something I’m no good at, jumping in cold water. How’s the well taste? Did you hit much rock drilling it, or does it matter about rocks?

    1. The well water is blessedly delicious… that was the big problem with our spring; it turned out to be a sulphur spring, so we’re really really REALLY pleased to have tasty water. They hit bedrock at about forty feet, which is awesome, because it meant we needed only 40-ft of casing. Lots of wells around here with 100-plus ft of casing.

      We got real lucky. If you forget about the spring, that is;)


      1. We had to truck water in with a 275 gal tank when we first moved. Not having easy access to good drinking water puts your whole body on edge. I’m sure the well is a huge load off. 😉

      2. Tell me about it Scott. The first couple weeks during our first summer at The Ranch we had to do the same. No washing anything (laundry, dishes, etc) until the broken well with the crappy water was fixed. Drinking water was bought in town in 6 5 gallon containers. Showering was from a hose attached to the tank on the back of the pick-up (actually that was kind of fun). (squirt me, no, squirt me!) Trucking in water for the livestock. Yah, tell me about being on edge. Thankfully now we can just yarn about it.

  2. We had crappy water at our last place. Heavy mineral and off the charts alkaline. Good for really drying out your skin and making your tomatoes have blossom end rot big time. Now we have sweet water and I am not taking it for granted.

    I am a big cold shower person. Cold water swimming person. I’ve gotten used to cold water. All summer long I am cooling off from over 100 degree heat in cold water. Now I don’t mind it. Even like it. Wish I had a cold pond. I’d be in it!

  3. We grow rama tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) next to the door. I like to walk by and rub it between my palms, like Old Willie says ‘palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss’. It may not do much if you got gut smell stuck in your nostrils, but it can’t hurt.

  4. Let’s not overlook the fact that we read here about a man who cleans himself with sandy pond clay, which to say mud. I highlight this because if there’s one thing the known Western world needs more of it’s more folks cleaning with pond mud.

    I’ve heard, by the way, that pond mud is especially good at cleaning the stench of our souls.

  5. My brother kept pigs and killed ’em for years until his boys left the roost.
    I will be interested to see if you follow that same path and my guess is when you don’t have to kill pigs you won’t. It must be tough because they are so smart and can know what murder is taking place.

  6. Sweet, another naked swim post! My perverse comment doesn’t mean that the important part is lost on me, but it’s much easier to make such comments when you can’t or don’t feel like being deep. Or I just can’t resist being obnoxious….who knows?

  7. These stories do little for some folks. Perhaps put them in your diary. I’d much prefer information; like the accompanying photo of you guys and the well. But the photo seems to have zero relevance to what was written. I get that your Dad was a poet but what exactly are we doing here?

      1. Touché! Ben, when I first read your blog (a year ago,maybe two? Lost track) I was all vegetarian and bothered by your boys hunting and your meat eating. So naturally I kept reading to understand more of why you go the extra mile, take the extra effort to do it.

        I quickly decided I would much rather see a world filled with compassionate,responsible meat eaters or hunters. I couldn’t raise and slaughter my own meat. Grandpa couldn’t either- he used to barter with a neighbor to do his chickens and turkeys. We ate them but somehow he felt unable to do a clean, fast kill so he ( responsibly) gave the task to someone more experienced.

        All this to say I am a softie, I love animals. I appreciate the care that goes into your livestock, and the appreciation your family has for every bit of meat, fat or leather.

        Don’t bother with those detractors. They’ll probably come around….

  8. On a small Estonian island of Muhu in the Baltic sea there is a village of Koguva that has homesteads dating back to 1700s. One of the buildings is a sheep manure sauna. They used the building as a sheep barn most of the time. When they wanted to take a bath, they would take the sheep out, spread straw over manure, heat it up and wash up in there… apparently manure and straw kept it warmer still. It smells good there now, like birch twigs that are used for washing, but I kept wondering of the smells back then.

  9. Reminds me of my grandmother and her sisters going down to the lake early in the morning in their bathrobes each carrying a towel and bar of soap. Pretty soon you’d hear laughter and that unmistakable Norwegian lilt floating up the hill and all the men seemed to find something that needed doing up at the house till they were done. I have made a conscious effort over the years to call out the cold water loving genes that have to be lurking in me somewhere but it has been a struggle, even though I know how amazing it feels once you do it. I have found that I have a tendency to hold my breath when standing at the water’s edge about to go in. If I remember to breathe, it’s all right. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, if I’m smart enough to notice.
    Good water is one of the greatest blessings. We notice a change in the taste of ours during the hottest part of summer. Another reason to look forward to the rest winter promises. The water mellows out and so do we.
    Thank you, Ben, for your words. I’m selfishly getting used to these more regular postings again.

  10. Oh and with the water appreciation- we have lots of rivers streams and wells but a crappy gov’t. Currently renting and no well access so we have a cistern and in the summer we have to pay the old villager to bring it on the tractor. He is a sweet man, Abu Jawad, and always full of stories. Water is precious.

  11. Judging from the photo, and your previous description of the well, and your notorious combination of frugality (cheapness) and ingenuity, I’m guessing you spent half an hour painstakingly tying about 40 lengths of used hay bale twine together just so you could lower that cup down for a drink of water before the pump got hooked up.

  12. We’re all primal in ways we deny, until tested. It dawns on me that I have killed. Mostly to protect my chickens and the garden. Not sure it makes a difference that I didn’t get any blood on my hands.

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