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The speaker is a 74-year-old White man with a college education from Portage, Wisconsin; he was recorded in 1968.
1:45-6:23


County: Columbia
State: WI

Commentary:
In an agricultural area like Portage, Wisconsin, in the south-central part of the state, water is crucial to the success of the community. That is true not only for the farmers, but also for other agricultural concerns. The speaker in this recording was the owner of a pickle-making factory, which relied heavily on having good and accessible water. In this segment he describes having problems with his well running dry and deciding to turn to a water witcher to locate a new well. Initially a skeptic about the efficacy of the practice of witching, he was ultimately convinced that it works.
Inf: So, we decided we had to put in a new well, and somebody asked me why I didn't get it witched. And I didn't know what he was talking about, so they said, "There's an old fella out here that witches wells. And he'll get you water every time." So, I said, "OK, uh how much does he want?" "He wants ten bucks." I said, "Bring him on!" So, we brought this fella out and he went through his maneuvers with his peach stick, or I don't remember now it was a peach stick or a willow.
FW: Mm-hmm. You use both, though.
Inf: Yeah, either one. One works as good as the other. And uh he he uh s-strikes a point where uh um uh where he has uh where he hits water. Then he puts a stone down. Then he goes down uh in that same line and where he hits water again, put another stone down. Then he goes at right angles with this and gets a stone over here and a stone over here and where these two lines cross, that's the point.
FW: It'd kinda be uh the kind of a-
Inf: The veins the the he he said these water veins always run on an angle -- never due north and south or east and west. They're northwest/southeast.
FW: Mm-hmm.
Inf: Or the other way. But where they cross, he'll get a, he'll take a point over here and one over here in this line, and then over here and where wherever they cross, that's the point. Well he he got a point that was 8 feet from w- from an abandoned well we had in the back of the building. And 21 feet from the well we were pumping dry every night. And I asked this man how far down we have to go, and he said you'll get water inside of 75 feet. Now the first 8 feet was dirt. We had to (case that), but the rest of it was granite.
FW: Mm-hmm.
Inf: And I can't remember what he charged us that time, but it was around 9 or 10 dollars a foot, so it was a little expensive.
FW: Mm-hmm.
Inf: But we had to have water. So we drilled the well. And we went down 72 feet, and we hit water. And, at w- at the spot where we had determined that is the place, he determined it -- we had a 6-inch casing. We put an elec- we- the- we- could look in the top of this casing and see the water.
FW: Mm-hmm.
Inf: And we put an electric pump on there and we pumped that for 24 hours and never got the water out of sight from the top. You could always see the water in here. And we were pumping before that, within 21 feet of that, and we were pumping the well dry in 20 minutes, and waiting an hour before we could pump it again for 20 minutes. So, it only goes to show you what it'll do. (Well he) took samples of that stuff all the way down. I hadda- every once in a while he'd pull up a sample from uh- and we put those in saltcellars and I had 'em for a long time 'til we closed the office there and I threw 'em away, but uh uh this thing actually uh w-worked beautifully. And I asked this man: I said well, will this work for me? Well, he said, I don't know, but, he said, if it don't work for you, he said I can make it work for you by walking, coming up behind you and putting my arms around you and grabbing your wrists. And you can hold the stick and I'll hold your wrists, and then it'll work for ya. But, he said, maybe you don't need that. So, I took the stick myself and tried to do just what he did. By-
FW: And how- how do you hold- how do you hold the stick?
Inf: You hold you're your forearms parallel with the ground.
FW: Mm-hmm.
Inf: And the the this is the end of the fork.
FW: Alright. It goes out-
Inf: It comes up like-
FW: 'Cause you hold your your you're holding your palms face-up. And as the the end of the stick goes out to the outside-
Inf: The end of the stick-
FW: Through your thumb, right?
Inf: And out here on on this side. Well, there's nothing particular- I mean it just it just you just grab the end of it.
FW: Uh-huh.
Inf: And you hold it with your with your forearms parallel to the ground. And you walk very slowly. And your- the stick is (balanced up) you know. Stands up about this high. And you walk just like this. Not any faster. And when you get over water, that stick will go down. 'n' you can't stop it. It'll come down so hard that it'll twist the bark off in your hand.
FW: You can hold it as tight as-
Inf: If you hold it just as tight as you can.
FW: Yep.
Inf: And just move very slowly, and when that comes down. So, I thought, well, there's no use in me going out and trying to go through the maneuvers he went. I wanted to go over this spot that he said there's the spot. And I went over that spot from every direction and I'd get right to that spot and that stick'd go down like that and you couldn't hold (it) up to save your soul. So, I said, well, this darn thing works.

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