It was my idea to clean Indian Spring. For years I’d wanted to see the flagstones on the “floor” of the spring but it was clogged with mud and leaves except just where the clear, cool water issued from the earth. Even when we raked it as kids and shoveled silt out we never saw the flagstones. When I questioned them, my siblings didn’t remember there ever being flagstones. But somehow I knew they were there.
The perfect time to dig out the spring had arrived. Charles and I and our two children, William and Julie, were vacationing at Pinedale. I wanted the children to have some of the woodsy experiences I had enjoyed growing up there. Charles greatly enjoyed pruning shrubbery to my Mom’s specifications. So here we were–and Indian Spring was calling!
One July day four of us set out for the South Woods, armed with a couple of shovels, to dig out the spring. It was our children, William and Julie, their cousin Tami, and Charles and I. How I persuaded them to do this, I can’t remember!
Indian Spring, so named by my father because the Cherokee had dug out the pool in the distant past, was at the foot of a high steep bluff. It was surrounded by tall Lombardy poplar trees, oaks and wonderful laurels big enough we could set up housekeeping under them. Three poplars clustered around another smaller spring just below Indian Spring. The poplars we called “The Three Sisters” and the spring was the “Indian Children’s Spring.”
The spring itself is consistent and faithful. The clevity the Indians dug around the spring is about fifteen feet wide and amazingly neatly circular. Stone steps, flanked by a couple of wild azaleas, descended to where the water entered. There a nice wide mossy stone made it possible to kneel to drink or to dip water. The small area where the water bubbled out was clean and clear, made so by the spring itself.
My Dad had always told us that the trail along nearby Indian Brook had first been used by the Indians and possibly, too, the cart road that wound along the base of the Bluff. There were a few arrowheads still to be found when I was growing up, though most had been discovered and collected by Dad and my older siblings. As I told the children this Indian lore, I could tell they didn’t really believe it. They weren’t sure we’d find flagstones either, especially since none of their aunts and uncles remembered seeing them. But they had gotten into the mystery of this adventure and they weren’t backing out yet.
I showed the children how we had made cups with large tulip leaves folded into a cone shape and fastened with a small needle-like stick. I showed them the twin oaks between the spring and the brook with a gnarled seat between. My Dad had wedged a board in between the trees to make my Mom a seat and the trees had grown together meeting in the middle of the board. All three of the children giggled and squealed as they walked the footlog across Indian Brook and chased crawdads in the clear bubbling brook.
Charles and I started digging and the children took turns too. There were years of leaves, mud and small twigs in the lower side of the pool away from the actual spring. We thought to clear that all out first and work our way back to other side. It wasn’t easy. The water was ice cold which felt good for a few minutes, then became numbing. One by one we climbed out to warm our feet.
The job seemed insurmountable. Whose idea was this anyway? Of course they all looked at me with hopes I’d give up. But I wouldn’t give up. Charles, still humoring me though he was very doubtful, suggested we dig deeper in a smaller area, concentrate our efforts. I loved him for sticking with me!
But was it all to be in vain? Well, at least the spring would be clearer than before. And we’d all had a good time working together and exploring the woods.
After another long hour I was about to cave. Where had I gotten that strong picture in my mind of flagstones on the bottom of this pool?
Suddenly there was a clink of metal on stone. Everyone got excited then as if we’d struck gold. After much labor we could feel wide flagstones beneath our feet. We worked with renewed zeal until we could feel flagstones over almost half the whole spring. We all sat on the bank waiting for the water to clear so we could see. Finally, in amazement, we gazed at a floor of wide flat brown and gray brook stones.
By this time the sun had sunk behind the Bluff, we were exhausted; it was time to head back.
We trudged back to Stone Gables, a tired, muddy, straggly but happy bunch. On our way we passed the schoolhouse cabin where my siblings and I had studied English kings and U.S. states and capitals. We crossed Ramble Brook where we had built dams and caught water lizards. We trekked around Tulip Hill, across Sand Flat and up Sunny Lawn toward the house.
The children ran ahead, suddenly alive with new energy at the thought of the delicious supper Grandmother would be cooking, maybe even a blackberry cobbler with berries we’d picked earlier. I knew my Mom would be excited about our find. She herself hadn’t seemed to know they were there. But she was always very interested in Indian lore and showed great sadness over the fact that the Indians had been driven long ago from this land we loved.
It would have been good and right to return to our digging job the next day, to finish what we started. But we had many other things to do, like going to Lake Russell to swim and picnic. We never uncovered the rest of the flagstones. But I’m sure they are there, just as the Indians laid them 150 years ago or more, and just as we discovered them that hot July day about 1977.
How did I know those flagstones were there? I’m still not sure. I think, though, that my Dad told me about them in such a vivid description that it was if I had actually seen them. He was capable of that.