A new friend led me down an invisible path into the woods below a hill, below a plateau, to see what, I didn't yet know. In those woods, to the south of here, I'll leave it at that, we pushed through these woods, then brush, then finally this old cistern sprang into view.
"I knew you'd want to see this," he said. I like a friend like that.
His two dogs thankfully scouted for snakes. Rattlesnakes, coral snakes, we don't care.
We hate snakes.
The hand-laid rock work was pristine, the capstone finely hewn, of the kind before the turn of the century, maybe the 1860s or 1870s, based on the craft I saw, based upon where it was found.
Context...Perspective's oh-so-desirable second cousin.
Looking down the hole one finds the expanding bell-shaped cavity below we've found in Eastland County, to lessen evaporation. The man-dug cavern below the small-opened capstone would've held a lot of water. In a year like the last several, one has to wonder what this pioneer family would've done. No rain, no water for the cistern, nothing for the kids to drink. Ground water wasn't here or wasn't shallow enough to hand dig, but in either case, no rain, no water collected into the cistern.
If my dates are close, there would've been no stock tanks. The nearby seasonal creek wouldn't have run. A tough life on the rolling scrubbed-hard hills might have become untenable. These stacked rocks tell us incomplete stories.
Perhaps they are remains.
Perhaps instead, they are ruins.
There's a line of foundation stones running north along the ground, rough and uneven like kicked-in brown-yellow teeth, running away from this cistern. The roof of a now-gone log or box-frame cabin or shed or barn sluiced water into this cistern.
Or that was the plan.
There's a caved in rock-walled cellar, again well-built, a rusting beat-up, bangled-all-to-hell headboard lays puzzlingly fallow against the cellar's north wall. A barrel stave rests quietly under foot. One senses an outburst, a frustration that sent this iron-headboard carrier of procreation and frontier lust high into the air, damn-it-all, coming to rest in this rock-lined hole in the ground, built to store vegetables and protect from storms.
Perhaps that very lack of storms did that man's family in. Or caused 'em to hitch up, and move on.