By Sam Ervin
On a cold, foggy day in the winter of 1976, Agnes Baron asked Bobby Hazard, Rusty Bostwick, Charles Christian and me to help her pull the pump out of the Meher Mount well so it could be repaired or replaced.
Apparently it had stopped working, and no water was available at Meher Mount.
DOWN THE CANYON TO THE WELL HEAD
Agnes assigned us our respective duties. She drove the tractor. That ancient little caterpillar rumbled and bumped on its steel treads as Agnes drove it down the quarter-mile road to the well-head in the canyon now muddy from recent rains.
Beside the well-head was a tall pipe anchored at the top by a suspect rope tied to a tree. Attached to the pipe was a pulley about 30 feet above the well-head.
A thin cable attached to the well-head ran up through the pulley, and Agnes attached that cable to the back of the small tractor she was driving.
The objective was to use the cable attached to the tractor to pull up the pump which was about 260 feet down in the well and take it to be repaired.
To pull up the pump, Agnes had to move the tractor forward so that the attached cable could pull up the well-pipe.
PULLING UP PIPE IN 20-FOOT INCREMENTS
On top of the well-head was a cap that could be screwed on-and-off at the end of each 20-foot length of pipe.
Every time 20 feet of well pipe was pulled above ground, my job was to slam a grooved steel sheet under the collar of the next length of pipe so my colleagues could unscrew the newly exposed length, coil the three electrical cables and place the cap attached to the cable on the next length to be pulled up.
Bob Hazard remembers having to skinny up the tall pipe by the well-head (that kept each length of pipe centered and stabilized as it emerged from the shaft) to release the cable and pull it to the ground so it could be fastened to the next pipe length.
He also was in charge of coiling the emerging electrical cables that ran down the well to power the pump.
THE LITTLE TRACTOR STRUGGLES
Through the mist I could see the little caterpillar with Agnes at the controls struggling to pull the weight of all that pipe with a pump on the end of it.
The mud gave little traction, and the front end of the tractor bucked up into the air like a very slow motorcycle doing a wheelie. The little cable looked far too frail to support the weight.
Still, Agnes managed to coax the complaining machine to bring up several lengths of pipe which were dutifully uncoupled by her accomplices.
As Agnes pulled up yet another length of pipe, my hands were on the steel plate, ready to shove it tight around the next collar. I could see the tractor rearing up again with the strain.
THE ROPE BREAKS, AND WE SCATTER
Suddenly, a loud crack rang out through the glen. The rope anchoring the hoisting pipe collapsed, which knocked the emerging well pipe off center causing it to break at the joint and dropping nearly 200 feet of pipe and a pump to the bottom of the well.
At the same time, the three electrical cables attached to the pump began snapping and thrashing about like a cat o’ nine tails as they were pulled down the shaft.
We four young men scampered into the trees around the well as fast as we could to escape the snapping cables.
And I was counting my fingers, which had been quite close to that breaking pipe. I’m not certain, but I hope I remembered to take Meher Baba’s name.
“If either of us had gotten a limb caught in the electrical cable as it splayed around, it would have killed us,” remembers Bob Hazard. “That was one of the scariest experiences I have ever had.”
SHAKEN, WE CALL IT A DAY
Agnes was jolted as the caterpillar’s steel treads thudded to earth, along with the plan to rescue the pump.
Our adventure with the well was over for that day. Chilled and shaken, we all returned to the little screen porch where Agnes pretty much lived for a warming cup of tea.
I believe Agnes’ next step was to hire a company to install a new pump, using professional equipment. At least she never again asked me to assist in pulling the pump.