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The Boy Who Fell in the Well
by Frank Shortt
This day started out just like any other prairie day in the 1930’s. Eleven year old Billy whistled merrily
as he strode leisurely over to his Aunt Mary’s new place. As he walked, he wondered why Uncle John and Aunt Mary had bought the farm
in the first place! The tract of land they bought had no water!
As Billy walked in the front gate he noticed
that the wagon was gone. He also noticed that the gate was newly made from mesquite wood that grew profusely around the house. Mesquite
only grows to any usable height if there is deep soil and adequate moisture.
“Good morning, Aunt Mary, Billy
greeted, I hope you and Uncle John are doing well. By the way, where is Uncle John?” Billy felt at ease around Aunt Mary as she was
not too far removed in years from him.
“He’s off to the river to fill the barrels with water since we haven’t
had time to dig a well yet. The man who sold us the house promised us there would be ample water and not too deep!” Uncle John had
the reputation of being a chance-taker.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” Billy inquired. He was always
looking for a way to earn money for the picture show in town.
“Since we had that big wind last night there’s
lots of limbs down from all these mesquite trees around here, I suppose you could help me rake and pile them up for burning when they
are seasoned enough!”
“Sure, I’ll help,” Billy replied.
With that he went to the tool
shed and picked out a rake that would fit his size and walked out the front gate. With two raking the piles began to form and Billy
was growing thirstier by the minute.
“When do you think Uncle John will get back?” He asked.
“Oh, I expect him pretty soon as he left early this morning, providing nothing went wrong with the horses or the wagon.” She replied,
worriedly. She had a penchant for fretting.
Suddenly, the earth gave out under Billy! He felt himself falling
downward as things became darker and darker. He landed in water up to his waist, and the stench of stagnant water was almost overpowering.
Mud at the bottom of the pit broke his fall so he knew no bones were broken.
“Billy, can you hear me?” Cried
“Yes, I hear you,” he weakly replied!
Billy could see her face outlined
in the opening above. All she was able to do was scream at the top of her voice, “He fell in the well, he fell in the well! Can someone
please help?” Her expectations were that someone would suddenly appear who would know what to do. Unbeknownst to her or Billy, Uncle
John had met someone down by the river and had a long conversation with him delaying his return. Their conversation was about water
and the well that Uncle John planned to dig. The neighbor offered to help with the digging.
Aunt Mary was
in such a state of panic that she did not think to go to the harness room and procure a rope to drop to Billy. Even if she had, she
probably would not have had the strength to pull him up. Her only hope was if suddenly a man came along. And that is exactly what
A lone cowboy, searching for stray yearlings, heard Aunt Mary’s plaintive cries. It took him a
while to pinpoint the source of the calls. When he realized that the yells came from the front area of the new house, he rode over
to see the cause of the uproar. As he rode up, Aunt Mary almost fainted! She hurried over to the cowboy and explained the situation
the best she could. She did not know herself yet what had really happened.
“My nephew is down in that hole,
she quickly explained! He was helping me rake these downed limbs and, all of a sudden, he disappeared. I could hear his voice from
below so I am sure he is all right!”
“We’ll see what we can do, ma’am!” The cowboy responded as he unfurled
Walking over to the hole, he began to talk to Billy. “Are you awake?” he asked.
replied in an almost embarrassed tone. It was as if he blamed himself for not being more careful where he placed his feet.
“I’m gonna lower my lasso down, it will have a loop on it. Just place it under your armpits and when you are ready, give a yell!”
The cowboy instructed. Meanwhile, he tied the end of the rope to his saddle horn.
As soon as Billy cried,
“Ready!” the young cowboy asked Aunt Mary to lead the horse forward slowly as he tried to hold the rope away from the side of the
hole to prevent crumbling dirt down on Billy. Soon Billy rose to the surface, none the worse for wear, but in bad need of a bath as
he was covered from head to foot with debris from the well.
That is what it turned out to be. The last person
to homestead the land had left the well abandoned as he had not hit enough water to supply his needs. When he left he had covered
it with slender poles that had rotted away as time went on. Falling leaves and small limbs from the mesquite trees had covered the
surface just awaiting the unwary one to step on the rotted poles.
When Uncle John returned and after thanking
the cowboy properly, inviting him to have a meal with them, he rejoiced openly. “Things don’t always happen for a bad reason, he exulted!
If Billy had not fell in the well, we would not have known there was a drop of water on the place. Now we know that if we dig a few
feet more, we’ll hit the source of the water that has been seeping into the well all this time. God works in strange ways His wonders