"In 1889, my granddad was in the Oklahoma Land Rush for his farm near Covington, Okla. ..."
1889, my granddad was in the Oklahoma Land Rush for his farm near Covington,
Okla., in Garfield County, Okla. First, he built a dugout in the ground they
shared with their horses. They obtained their water from a shallow spring near
the dugout. This was their home and water source for several years. Eventually,
they built their home, large barn, chicken houses, shop building, granary,
storm cellar and dug well.
I can remember my Granddad Braithwaite telling me many stories about his farm
living. I think my favorite was digging the dug well. The well was about 7 feet
in diameter and 25-feet or 30-feet deep. The lower 20 feet of the well was dug
in a semi-hard red sandstone.
When they could no longer hand the soil out of the well with a rope and bucket,
they installed a tripod with a pulley over the well, and used a rope, a small
barrel and a mule to pull the barrel to the top. Then my uncle would dump the
When they reached the sand rock, my granddad would use a long bar and jab it in
the same spot, while applying small amounts of water. This was a basic form of
cable-tool drilling. Once the hole was deep enough, he would place some
dynamite and fuse in the hole and pack the top of the drilled hole with rocks.
Granddad would light the fuse and climb in the barrel, then holler for my uncle
to pull him to the top with the mule. Once the dynamite exploded, using the
mule, my uncle would lower granddad back into the well to continue cleaning out
the broken rocks, and then repeat it all again until they reached sufficient
Once when granddad lit the dynamite fuse and hollered for my uncle to pull him
up, the mule balked. As timing was of the utmost urgency, my uncle hit the mule
on the rear with a 2-by-4. The mule took off, pulling granddad and the barrel
out of the well and off across the field just before the dynamite went off.
Needless to say, that 2-by-4 was kept handy from then on until the well was
Another time, my mom was playing with a basketball, and it fell in the well
just as granddad was swinging the pickax into the rock. The pickax punctured
the ball, and it exploded. Granddad just about had a heart attack because he
thought he had hit some unexploded dynamite.
The last time I was at the old home place, the old dug well still was
Well drilling can be dangerous, but it can be funny – even way back then.
Porky's Hole Thoughts: Granddad's Dug Well
October 1, 2009