Our Cistern

Paul Sanford and Dwight with our goat

The cistern was an important part of our household. The well water we drank was too orange for washing clothes, so we used the rainwater from the house roof.  We loved to play on the cistern, climbing all over it and sitting on top.  The plastered finish did not hold up and flaked off in big chunks. You don’t see them much any more. Everything is now piped in for drinking and household use. For me it is a very good memory of my childhood.

Rain Water Cistern     (Childhood Details Collection)

Rising from the earth sitting next to our porch

A concrete bowl capped our cistern

Provided water for our house hold use

And water to wash clothes in


An acned finish flaking with age

Made it easy to climb on when we played

A brick wall inside divided the pool

Semi-filtered seepage let water pass through

From rushing intake to calm output pool


Slate roof rain water fed angled downspouts

Transporting water and soot from our coal furnace

Dust from farmer’s fields and smoke from coke ovens


Dirt settled to the bottom and re-stirred with every rain

After the downpour it settled back again

Water for washing not for drinking

When dry weather came we  hauled water in

Keeping clothes washed and our bodies clean


A great place to play with our little pet goat

Agile as a rock-climber he was no joke

Butting my head with concussion blows

Running wherever his little chain let him go


Two lids on top let us look down inside

Dark brackish water with mysteries to hide

Small round hooks embedded in the top

Made it easy to grab when set aside with a plop


Cisterns are long a thing of the past

With piped in water that fills every glass

But it’s an interesting invention as old as time

Preserved precious water we used all the time


Photos: from Family Album






9 thoughts on “Our Cistern

  1. My mom grew up on a farm. There was a “creepy” cistern in the basement. She and her sisters were given strict warning not to climb into it. They also had a well. The well has to be “shocked” or the water would get contaminated. My grandparents later moved to a ranch house which still had well water. They had some orange bed sheets. I think orange may be copper.

    Liked by 1 person

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