A big old slab of concrete. A bunch older than me. Flat, about three feet square. Two slots in the top, parallel, about a foot long and two inches wide. They don’t go all the way through.
I remember when there were chunks of wood in those slots, two bolts stuck up out of each. Obviously used as a base for something heavy that needed to stay solid and immovable.
Now it’s a door step outside the ice house, meat house, gourd house, about thirty feet from Big House/s back kitchen door. I remember when it lay where it was originally poured in a corner of Big House’s summer kitchen. The big old wood cookstove for that kitchen, which in my lifetime was used largely to hide Pap’s liquor jug in the oven, sat atop the slab, but wasn’t fastened to it. No way to match up stove legs and wooden blocks.
Pap said slab was base for a cream separator. Big, heavy, hand cranked stationary centrifuge, like the one set up and working at my Aunt Esther Frye’s house across the river. Cousin Jamie Hilbrink and I used to play with that one. Sucker would really spin, but we never found much to do with it.
When the huge front yard Maple fell on that part of our summer kitchen, we had to move slab in order to pour the floor for Pap’s new office. Rather than dump it somewhere, Pap decided it would make a good threshold for his meat house. We carted it over there and bedded it down.
Still serves well for its new purpose, but now it has a new and perhaps more important role to play in Big House lore. Those two slots, perpetually partially filled with soil, leaves, twigs, gourd seeds and whatever else blows across back yard, topped off with rain water, serve as watering troughs for Scoot, my cat.
Pet Smart store in Winchester had a real nice blue plastic, electrically heated water bowl for sale. I bought one. Three sizes too big for a single cat, it must have been built for Saint Bernard dogs, but it was smallest they had. I brought the thing home, filled it up with good clear clean well water, same water I drink every day, plugged it in, set it out back, out of the wind and away from where it might be tripped over.
Almost everybody who comes to Big House’s back door makes favorable comments about that wonderful shiny bowl. Most tell Scoot how lucky she is to have such a caring owner. Scoot doesn’t say anything humans can understand, but when she wants a drink she heads for the slots in her private door step wet bar.
Maybe twenty, or twenty five years ago, I installed a frost free waterer for cattle down near where the old bank barn stood. No electricity involved, it stayed frost free because it was mounted over a deep hole dug below frost line. Heat from the ground and especially from entrance of ground water flowing through pipes buried below frost line, kept water from freezing in the insulated box.
The more water cattle drank from it, the more warmer well water flowed through it , the better it worked. First winter I had it operating, I loved it. No more worries about water for my cows when open water troughs were frozen solid.
Second year it didn’t work so well. Easy winter, like this year. Cows drank from old surface ditches and water filled gullies in bottom land below Big House. Again, perfectly good clean, clear, well water, same as I drink every day, disdained by animals I was only trying to help. Not enough fresh water flowed through the pipes to maintain higher temperature and waterer froze.
This morning I caught Scoot drinking from her new blue plastic electrically heated bowl. Her preferred concrete, partially dirt filled watering slots were frozen solid.