Cool, clear water

Western edge of pond, Flying Hat Ranchito, north Erath County, Texas, July 2011.

Proust had his tea cake that extended memories to prosy heights that we all have started to climb, but failed to reach — my ascent stopped at Swann’s Way, but I’m not going to stay long on the ledge for I have hammered the next piton to assail the final page of Mt. Swann.  “Cool Water,” a country and western classic by the Sons of the Pioneers, a tea cake of sorts, takes me back to old Camp Bowie, near Brownwood, Texas, as I complained the lack of water on a hot summer day, touring with my parents in a old, non-air conditioned Ford sedan.  Why they weren’t thirsty, I’ll never know, but I campaigned persistently for halting somewhere, anywhere, for water.

I must have been persuasive for my step-father stopped the car along the highway and I crossed over a fence and ran to a pond of fresh, cool water in a green pasture.  I drank, cupping the water in my hands, not muddling the water as I scooped.  Even today, I still see that pond when I drive in the region, although it has been dug out and deepened countless times.  Both my step-father and mother laughed in sympathy and I was dubbed, “Chief Water Bucket,” a name I did not like nor wanted.

The drought in the Southwest descends brutally upon the landscape, in the news and by the mails; the only shade at times is under lovely junipers.  I look out upon brittle, brown grasses; the trees in the grove are turning golden.  The newspapers boldface the headlines that cattle are being sold through the night at local auctions as cattlemen line up two-miles long with moaning cows in their trailers.  In the mail, Barton Water Cooperative states that I can only water the yard twice a week and if the water usage exceeds tolerable levels, I will be assessed a fine, a surcharge.  I fill one water trough for my horse, Star, allowing an overflow into a pan on the ground for wildlife.  I dare a surcharge for that.

This summer I have thought often about “Cool Water,” and sung and hummed the melody and lyrics.  Each time I reflect on the music, I am back with my parents alongside the road, running for the cool, clear water in that pasture.  “Cool Water,” is my tea cake, my madeleine.

Here are the lyrics to “Cool Water,” followed by a current photograph of the ranchito’s only pond.

All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water,
Cool water.
Old Dan and I with throats burned dry and souls that cry for water,
Cool water.

The night are cool and I’m a fool each stars a pool of water,
Cool water.
But with the dawn I’ll wake and yawn and carry on to water,
Cool water.

Keep a movin’ Dan, don’t you listen to him Dan, he’s a devil not a man
and he spreads the burnin’ sand with water.
Dan can’t you see that big green tree where the waters runnin’ free
and it’s waiting there for me and you.
Water, cool water.

The shadows sway and seem to say tonight we pray for water,
Cool water.
And way up there He’ll hear our prayer and show us where there’s water,
Cool Water.

Dan’s feet are sore he’s yearning for just one thing more than water,
Cool water.
Like me, I guess, he’d like to rest where there’s no quest for water,
Cool water.

(“Cool Water,” Sons of the Pioneer, RCA Country Legends.)

Flying Hat Ranchito pond, north Erath County, July 2011.


Filed under Juniper, Recollections 1942-1966, Weather

19 responses to “Cool, clear water

  1. Oh Jack, this is so…cool. 🙂 I love that song. What a perfect accompaniment to your thoughts around the drought. My sister from Boerne was here for a week or so, then headed for home so they could catch watering day, one day where they’re at – between Boerne and Comfort.

    Proust and his teacakes are a great touch. Memories called forth through smell and taste add sweetness to our lives.

    Very nice post. Very.

  2. I remember that song and the lyrics. It was one of those songs which stayed in your head for days. I was humming “Cool clear water” and “Keep a moving Dan don’t you listen to him dan, he’s a devil not a man…………..”I loved the countryn and western songs. I remember another one now
    Streets of Laredo. “As I walked out in the streets of Laredo………” .It was a catching melody and a sad, sad song, but it had nothing to do with water.

    I’m sorry that you are walking around in such a heat and missing water……..
    Do you drink coffee around the fire, singing cowboy songs? `)

    from a city-cowboy

    Are you humming one of the mentioned tunes now?

    • Oh, yes, I know the “Streets of Laredo.” Very good ballad. I do drink coffee around the campfire and I have sung around the campfire too. It’s been a long time since I sang about the campfire, but these last few months I have been inspired to do it again. I have taken the guitar back up again this summer for a diversion and am enjoying it immensely. An acoustic guitar is needed in the bush country. I have only an electric now, but I am relearning some old ballads and songs that I can sing acapella about the fire.

  3. OH, should I have said cow-girl? *_*

    • I understood what you meant, Grethe. Cowgirl is gender correct, but when the herd moves or the remuda comes home, the guys and girls that manage the livestock are referred to as cowboys.

  4. Did your reference to that song ever bring back memories! I’ve always loved it and when I was a kid I sang it a lot. One of my uncles would tease me about it by singing his version using “hot, muddy, water”.

  5. In this last picture I can feel the soft warm morning air as it skims across the pond with its grassy edges and rippling surface. It’s clouds scattered about hinting at the possibility of change. It is the perfect image for “Cool, clear water”. To me it evokes the word, hope.

  6. Yes, Annie, hope. I also had much the same thought when I saw the clouds in the picture. Strange, when I was photographing, I did not notice them.

  7. Pingback: Clouds with Mourning Dove | Sage to Meadow

  8. I can’t hear the name Boerne without thinking: Bumdoodlers! Have you had their pie? It’s a little place on North Main, Business 87. I highly recommend the coconut cream and Dutch cherry.

    Sons of the Pioneers – they were such an integral part of my growing-up years. Every noon we listened to Herb Plambeck on the farm report, and the soybean and corn futures were interspersed with “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds” and “Cool Water”. I first practiced singing harmony with that group – but always in the privacy of my bedroom!

    • Yes, those noon farm reports were a part of my growing up and I am nearly sure I herd Herb Plambeck on the Mutual News Network or the Texas State Network, old networks that may not be around anymore. I have done the same thing: practice harmony with the Sons of the Pioneers. “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” you probably remember that one too.

  9. Anonymous

    That was my dad’s favorite song. It’s definitely a madeleine. Thanks for the memory.
    (I found out about your blog via Rebecca in the Woods.)

    • That song brings back a lot. I like to bring music and nature together. Thanks for making a comment. Rebecca in the Woods is really, really good! She is studying ecology and I envy her studies.

  10. Jan Kennedy

    Didn’t mean to be Anonymous!

  11. What a really incredible post

  12. jessedziedzic

    I couldn’t agree with you more!!

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