When they first built the house, there were no modern facilities in the entire country, except for in the big cities. It was only natural for the people to use oil lamps to put the light in their homes, wood for the fires and fountain water for drinking, cooking and washing. The oil came from the sunflowers grown on the land, the wood from the owned piece of forest, the main occupation was agriculture practiced the ancient way, and each family was raising their own livestock. Life was hard in-between wars, but also environmental friendly. People made their clothes from wool and hemp fibers and wore no shoes except on Sundays at church and on winters at school.
When communism entered its “golden age” period, the farms on the hills lost the most of their lands and stocks. People started to move in the biggest villages and the city nearby. Some neglected, some abandoned, the houses broke and disappeared. Very few people remained to work in cooperative associations and resist as well as they could. Our grandparents were one of those few.
Back in the ’70s, when they rebuilt the house, there were only four houses still standing in the area, all of them established along the sloppy road that linked the forest up the hill and the valley below, where a tiny river they called Little Danube used to flow. From the stream up, there was another hill called The Big Hill, once full of vineyards, since then deprived of them.
The house on the top of the wooded hill belonged to our grandfather’s older brother, the house down the road belonged to one of the oldest families in the area, and the house on the stream shore belonged to a distant neighbor, of which importance I’ll write later. The house placed right in the middle, where the sloppy road crossed the main road that came from the bigger village nearby, that was our grandparents’.
Before communism spoiled everything for the people of these places, the parcel our grandparents owned started mid distance from the bigger village and was marked by a sweep fountain provided with a large wooden trough for the sheep and cows to get enough water. Every time we headed to the house, the fountain’s sweep was the first thing we saw on the horizon as we’re passing by the gypsy quarter, the last site in the bigger village. During the ’90s, when we used to spend our summers there, immediately after the Romanian Revolution, the lands were given back to the people, and the fountain regained its landmark status. But to us toddlers, it was a more important symbol of freedom, play, and unfinished delight.
Unfortunately, there is also something unpleasant to it. The fountain was not well drilled, as in-between wars, without the proper instruments, it was pretty hard to beat up the clayey soil and reach the groundwater deep down. Thus, during the rainy seasons, the stream filled the fountain up to the border, so there was no need to actually use the sweep, while during the dry seasons, the fountain only gave us mud. The neighbors right up and down the sloppy road had the same problem with their fountains. Which brings me to the importance of the neighbor in the valley: as drilled right next to Little Danube, his fountain never dried.
I never really knew who was this solitary old man, or if I did, I can’t remember. We used to take our sheep and cows to drink from its fountain’ trough and fill our carriage with barrels of its water. Dried seasons happened more often than the wet ones, which was a delight to our bare feet thrilled by the smooth dusty sand on the road, but also a constant sorrow to our Grannie and for Uncle’s family.
Now the fountain is still there. It has the same tricky nature, as being dried it is also the landmark for something people still call wealth. Right next to it, Uncle drilled a new one it provides enough no matter the season. Gnarled willows grew in a line above it. It also has a sweep, and a covered canal meant to bring up to date facilities, such as taps, to the house. For unknown reasons, this never happened. Just like in the ancient times, the household still uses oil lamps for light, wood for the fire and fountain water carried in buckets, five times a day at least, with the bare hands.
Time changed the things and then changed them back, and it’s like it has no power there.
Just like the old sweep fountain, it surely has a tricky nature.