A trout farm is located in a rushing mountain spring, just where Barney Town’s rain-washed barns fade from the glance of rearview mirrors in cars that travel on this curvy, potholed road towards the little town of Saltillo. A mountainside covered with scattered moss covered boulders seems to caress an icy spring that is ideal for the rearing of little trout. Motorist once drank from this same spring, before Poland Springs made us all dumb about the concept of good drinking water. They pulled their cars into George Wilber’s driveway, and acted like alcoholics having a last round before checking themselves in.
Up the mountainside that the road seems to cut through; along jagged pines and ancient maples, there is a little black house of two floors, adorned with small windows on the upper floors, where George’s two boys once slept in wooden beds filled with hand crocheted blankets.
Looking out the kitchen window at the back of the house, one sees a stone stairway, built from sandstone rocks, pulled from the mountain, as fish from a nearby mountain brook. Some have fossils, others are of a rusty-golden hue. George worked for a long time, building the steps. He carefully selected only the best that nearby nature had to offer. A portion of the spring water headed in the direction of the trout stream runs over the steps. George used common fiberglass tubing, the type of non-biodegradable material commonly found in most Home Depots and septic systems, to channel the water to his waterfall steps. Using his sharp mathematical mind, he carefully calculated the rush of water from an upstream pool he dug for the purpose of collecting water from an often violent stream, to first be filtered, and then sent rushing down pipes he buried under his own property. Laying the plastic white tubing was not easy. Often George had to insert elbow-shaped connectors to avoid huge tree roots and precious fern patches that he wished not to destroy.
A finishing touch to the home and the steps of water, was supposed be is a water wheel, stolen for practically nothing from an old mill that once functioned near Saltillo. Wilber’s plans were to install the water wheel too, next to his fountain steps and manufacture his own electricity. Although he was a college professor, he never installed the waterwheel that he purchased at some auction for around $20 when Reagan was still president. It seemed like a risky venture with so many droughts that do sometimes occur in this neck of the woods, where sand for the world’s largest, glass-lensed telescope, was built. The wooden, round waterwheel collected moss, and rotted over the years, but the steps are still there, and so are the stars that little boys these days rarely ponder upon through the magnification of simple concave lenses.
George looks out a large glass door as white tubes gather water from a stream, the moon has a ring around it, which means something to both the trout in the hatchery and old timers who once worked in the mills, just steps away from this paradise, but the professor, for the life of him, cannot remember what the Old Farmer’s Almanac had to say about rings around the moon, just after a time change.
George Wible drinks a cup of coffee before bed made from a pot of spring water he gathered in a glass carafe just steps from his cottage. He watches water pour from a moon behind a row of pines, and believes for one second it came from the big dipper.
George’s waterfall seemed to vanish under the patio, just outside huge, sliding- glass doors. It did. Sparkling, crisp spring water that could wash away profits from Poland Springs, if ever George was to bottle it, came from high up on the mountain and drained down a larger, off-grey, fiber-glass tube of sorts, and ran through a fruit cellar filled with mostly peaches and apples that George grew down near route 522. Although traffic is minimal there, still, the rare passing motorist at 3 am is enough to awake the high school teacher an hour early or so. Having water run under his home drowned any noise coming from the road.
George dug the cellar beneath his home one handful at a time. It took several summers to complete the task, as the clay beneath his home was packed tightly. George was determined to find a means to bring his waterfall to his back door. The only way to make it possible was to channel water that ran down his stone stairway under the house. He believed the subtle rush of water under the home not only silence late night cars, but bring peace upon the house. It seemed to. His children were highly gifted. The boys both won the John Phillip Susa Band award at Southern Huntingdon High. Although there was no monetary grant associated with the award, their names were engraved upon a wooden plaque, with brass nameplates that listed the best ever to cascade over the seemingly endless names of musical youth in Southern’s marching band. Their musical gifts, George believed, had a lot to do with the un-chlorinated water his sons started drinking soon after they were off the bottle and the sound of peace he managed to create all around and under their home. Using the keys on his piano, he had determined that the percussion caused by cascading water on his stone steps was a perfect G flat.
George’s gingered hair sons brought Southern’s marching band to near college-level status, as trombonists, who, while marching in the front line, just behind a row of short-skirted majorettes during the Huntingdon Halloween parade, brought the sleepy little town of deer hunters awake, intellectually, with solo-like performances in front of at least seventy-six trumpets and various woodwinds that did not stand a chance being heard and appreciated by the masses like the red-headed Wible boys and their trombones. George trained them classically on the piano while he built a waterfall of steps and a fruit cellar. He wanted to guarantee that the Calvary Baptist Church would always have a pianist.
Water witches are as common as edible mushrooms on wooded highlands of Huntingdon County. Men with forked tree branches are capable of detecting highly-pure drinkable spring water, far underground, for the purpose of digging wells for homesteads as well as for those living in trailers. Like users of an Ouija Board, using enchanted sticks of the devil which seem to react to a gravitational pull straight from dry, old Hell, ‘dousers’ as they are called in more modern times, have wetted the tongues of sinful liars for as long as man could write and spread the word of God. “One must simply trust in the spirit and let go of fear and shaking and permit nature—the living God work right through the stick you are carrying.” That’s how George tried to explain the craft to his two red-headed sons and his wife Eva-Dean. Neither of his boys had shaking in their hands like George did as a little boy. They seemed to be molded after Eva-Dean who could crochet a winter scarf while peeling potatoes for dinner.
Although not officially endorsed by local preachers, these modern day “seers” with the gift of finding water as tasty as the Jordan, are not considered to be committing sin by ‘once saved, always saved Baptists as some sort of demon-possessed, thirsty souls of cheap trickery, but rather as essential members of the congregation, who, if alive in Biblical times, would have been able to part small seas simply by waving those magical little sticks.
George built his house not only on rock, but on what he deemed as patch of woodland thoroughly cleansed by the Holy Spirit. Using a v-shaped branch of a birch tree, one he had scrapped the bark from and boiled in water for tea, he walked for miles upon Jack’s Mountain pointing his stick, midriff, and waited to be moved by the clearest signal. The set of steps just outside his back door were built on the exact spot where his birch twig was ripped from his freckled hand and stuck in the dirt among a patch of tall, lettuce-green ferns. Although a crystal clear spring flowed adjacent to his property, it was an underground spring George sought. On Jack’s Mountain, water that has been filtered underground, through massive deposits of sandstone, is most soothing to trembling hands that most water-witches are born with.
George hoped to one day invite members of the Calvary Baptist Church, the second Baptist Church of Saltillo to his steps, where the sacred ceremony of Baptism could be handled just as it had been done to Jesus, and not with some sort of birdbath like the Catholics use, or worse yet, a Dixie cup, which George had seen used for the Baptism of infants by Methodists.
The hidden spring under the stone steps would never touch the skin of anyone repenting in George’s back yard, but the water-witch knew the power of the hidden spring that grabbed a birch twig from his very hands could quite possibly offer healing to anyone with just a little faith and a willingness to be Baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, if anyone being washed on the stone steps with fossils suddenly felt a need to run off into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, Jack’s Mountain was just up the steps.