The Dry Well
One especially dry, hot summer, our well water ran dry. It was the 1980s. Our family of four lived in a house on five acres of land in rural eastern Oklahoma. Our only source of running water was from that well, and so we found ourselves without running water.
Our well had run dry a few times before, but it had only lasted a day or so at most. As a young child, I thought the occasional day we went without running water was fun. I did not have to take a bath that day. It was like when the electricity went out and we turned off the television and went swimming at the local lake as a family – a nice break from the usual routine.
This time, because of the lack of rain, our well was dry for several weeks.
The Outdoor “Toilet”
After we had not had running water for several days and no end seemed to be in sight, my father built an outdoor “toilet” platform from extra wood we had on hand. He detached our toilet seat from inside the house and attached it to the toilet platform. Beneath the toilet seat, my father had dug a sizable hole in the ground. That was where our, um, waste would find its home.
The outdoor toilet was strategically located away from our house in a wooded area of our property for privacy and to make sure any smell did not make its way back to our immediate home and yard area.
After using the outdoor toilet facilities, we could shovel some dirt into the hole to cut down on the possible smell. This worked great during the weeks we were without running water.
Perhaps this rustic toilet setup was one of the first unintentional humanure projects. Nature took its course, and our waste turned to compost. I do not remember there ever being an unpleasant smell.
Where We Got Water for Drinking and Other Purposes
We were accustomed to our well running dry during times of inadequate rainfall. We prepared for these occasions by filling a lot of one-gallon milk jugs with tap water during times when we had an abundance of rainfall. We froze these jugs of water in our large chest freezer.
When our well ran dry, we took out several jugs of frozen water and allowed them to melt. Voila! Fresh clean water. Drinking the icy cold water was refreshing in the midst of sweltering summer temperatures.
We did not have enough frozen jugs of water to last the several weeks we lived without running water. A neighbor who had plenty of running water allowed us to fill our water jugs from their outside hose anytime we needed to. Whenever our water jug supply ran low, we lugged them over to the neighbor’s home, refilled them with water, and once again, we had more water on hand.