Don’t Forget To Prime The Pump

I was again digging through old pictures and I found one of myself as a toddler with a daredevil streak. I was posing for the photo while precariously balanced on the spout of a water pump located near my maternal grandparents’ house. They lived on the outskirts of a country village, and the pump was in a spot between their house and a neighbor’s. It had probably been dug as a joint project and for years was the main source of fresh water for drinking and cooking. (There was a rainwater barrel located at the rear of the house to take care of other needs.)pump

The hand-pump in the yard had a tin cup hanging nearby for use by anyone who needed an occasional drink of water. However, I don’t think it had something that I remember sometimes seeing at less-busy rigs — a way to “prime the pump”.

When that phrase is heard these days it’s usually part of a discussion on supply-side economics or some other undertaking, but the original meaning had to do with how it was customary when using a less-busy pump to leave a small container of water for later users. They could then pour it down the shaft to help get the pump action working quicker and easier. I also remember that there was nothing more annoying than finding that the previous user didn’t leave the container filled, because then you’d have to expend a lot more pumping energy to get the water started.

Years later, I read about how unsanitary those old-style pumps were, and I suppose that’s true. After all, a lot of waste water and various other questionable things filtered down into that water. But on a hot Summer day, you couldn’t beat the thirst-quenching qualities of a cup of cold well water.

Riders In The Sky – “Cool Water”


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