I’ve made the trek three times today already, once for a fire bucket to keep by the fire for safety, and twice for washwater. So, all tallied, I’ll have walked a mile for water when I return.
The bucket is light as I set out, just scarred metal hanging from a thin metal handle, but full it pulls at my arms. They’ll be sore tonight and screaming tomorrow, because I’m not used to this.
“Ha, don’t you have enough boys in camp to make those water runs for you?” a friend in a blue Continental uniform calls, teasing.
“They’re drilling,” I answer, smiling patiently. Perhaps I should make the guys do the heavy lifting—but I need the water now, and I can manage.
I fill the bucket at the pump—a modern pump that only asks you to lift its handle and it willingly produces clean, potable water—and try not to splash my shoes. I mostly succeed. I hoist the bucket and begin to walk back to our camp. It takes a few paces to find my balance with the sloshing bucket and I leave a sodden spot on my petticoats.
The handle digs into my hand. If I didn’t know better, I would think it was grinding directly into the bones of my fingers. Water is heavy for something you can see through–I’ve estimated that, full, the bucket weighs over thirty pounds. I try wrapping the handle in my apron, and this helps. The spot where the handle meet my skin, however, is still indented and angrily red by the time I set the bucket down next to the fire and fill a kettle to heat water to wash dishes.
And let’s keep in mind—I’m doing this for fun. Revolutionary War reenactment is my hobby, a weekend pastime, not my day-to-day life. In the end, I’m choosing to make the trek and haul that water—and it’s still a more convenient way to get water than many of my forebears enjoyed. Of course, we expect that from the world two hundred years ago—but when I return to the 21st century, I fill a glass of water from the tap and draw a piping hot bath from safe water sources. Not everyone living in this century can claim that.
I’m reminded every time I roll my sore shoulders and flex my bruised fingers.
Rowenna writes, sews, and sometimes finds herself in other centuries. Mostly she lives in the Midwest with her husband and incredibly persistent cat. They are expecting their first child this fall (though they haven’t broken the news to the cat yet). Find out more about Rowenna by following her on twitter (@rowennam), or check out her blog!
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