Sunday, June 26, 2005


It rained last night. Buckets of rain. As I woke up in my new (old) house, I thought, "Oh good, the rain will fill up the cistern." Actually, the old wooden cistern has been gone for 35 years. Prior to the mid 1970's all drinking water on Ocracoke was collected in cisterns from the roofs.

The oldest cisterns were wooden. Later on they were constructed of brick, then concrete block. The latest ones are fiberglass. Folks years ago were very cautious about water usage. During prolonged dry spells they were especially careful. Baths were infrequent, showers unheard of. Dishwater was reused to water the garden and fig trees.

We always had a cast iron pitcher pump on the cistern and in the kitchen. A conch shell rested nearby as well so you could dip water directly through the hatch in the cistern. The water might contain mosquito larvae, or even a tree frog, but it tasted mighty good on a hot summer day.

On your next stroll through the village notice the many old cisterns in people's side and back yards, many still connected to the roof by gutters and downspouts, even though we've had a municipal water system for decades.


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