I have worked around livestock all my life. When I was a kid, my chores were all at the barn and included keeping our milk goats, horses, mules, and donkeys fed and watered. There was some complaining from all my sisters over my assignment being all outdoors while theirs all involved housework. As we got older, my mom started teaching me housework too, so I was prepared for live on my own. Despite that, I kept the barn chores (with help from all my sisters and my little brother) all the way through high school.
One of my biggest and most challenging jobs was keeping everything watered. We lived in Flagstaff, Arizona where the winters are really cold (with below zero not unusual), so waterlines have to be buried really deep. Our property had lots of rock all the way to the surface, so we used about 250 feet of hose on top of the ground to deliver the water. In the summer we used float valves, but in much of the year it was cold enough so that I had to lay out the hoses, fill the tanks and then drain and roll up the hoses. This was always a big job, not to mention managing the floating water heaters to keep the water open.
One of my most common failures in all this was leaving the water running. It seemed that no matter what I did, if I started the water running I would get distracted and forget about it. The barn is located downhill from the house, in a flat area that had little drainage. Needless to say, when I left the water on we had weeks (or more in winter) of muddy conditions. I tried all kinds of things to make me remember, and eventually came up with a little song “The water is on, the water is on, don’t forget the water is on, because if you forget that the water is on then the well will run dry!” This helped but was not foolproof as I tend to go from one song right into another!
This was a constant point of contention between my dad and me. I remember clearly being at a party in High School and remembering “oh no, the water is on”! When I got home and looked down at the barn I could see the growing lake sparkling in the moonlight. Dad was none too happy that time, and I was just glad I was about to move out and start college, leaving the water duty behind.
Later, once I was farming after college (and before graduate school) I once again suffered from a short attention span and the frequent problem of leaving the water on. Jeannette (my spouse) was reading Drover’s Journal one day, and she called out to me “hey, here is an idea you really need, the Water Buddy”. The idea was that you keep an unusual object on a string near the water hydrant that you can put around your neck when the water is running. I think my original one was a little troll doll, but today I use big nuts.
Now I have a “Water Buddy” on each hydrant, and make myself use it. If I get in a hurry and leave it off, I eventually pay the price, so I try be good about putting it on. Several times visitors have asked me what in the world was that necklace of mine! With that big nut bouncing around my neck I have a lot better time keeping the water in my mind. So, if you take care of livestock and run water into open tanks, and occasionally leave it running, get yourself a water buddy. I have read and tried many good ideas in Drover’s, Progressive Farmer, and other magazines, but the ”Water Buddy” is one that has really lasted.
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