Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Cistern From Hell

Few things terrified me as a kid like the thought of the cistern out at the farm.  We used to love to go out there with Grandpa and search around the concrete foundation where the house once stood, before it was burnt to a cinder by a fateful bolt of lightning.  We'd look for remnants of Uncle Don's melted marble collection or whatever other treasures might have been thrown from the burning house in an effort to save what they could.  But every step around that concrete foundation was made cautiously, after an over-abundance of careful looking, lest we fall in the dreaded cistern.

Grandma, besides being small in stature, was outnumbered by us so she'd frequently tell us "little white lies" to help enforce the rules - except with the cistern - besides being true to a certain degree, she went out of her way to tell us what would happen if we didn't heed her stern warnings.  "Don't get too close, or you'll fall in!"  "The ground around the cistern is soft and it'll suck you right in!"  "You'll be stuck in a small little dark space with nothing but water!" and the worst - "We might not be able to get you out!"  It's still hard to even think of all the things she told us about the cistern without a little panic setting in.  I didn't even know what a cistern was, but I didn't care.  I wanted no part of it.  It was a hole right down to hell itself, as far as I was concerned.

A few years ago, I was looking at an old photo album with my mother and we ran across this photo - and she said, "There's my grandma holding my sister, there's Dorothy, there's me, there's Teddy the dog, and the cistern..."  My blood ran cold and my heart rate skyrocketed.  I had not thought about the cistern since I was about 10 years old.  I was horrified at how close they were all standing to it!  And how near it was to the house!  And the dirt - the soft dirt around it!  And no one seems to be terrified!

Once I settled down, I fully understood why Grandma said what she said.  My first thought was, "I wonder what it looks like under that board!?"  Which is probably why someone put a heavy rock on it and started telling tall tales.  Love ya, Grandma, and I miss you every single day.