The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Springs and Spouts

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1986

Issue: August, 1986

Have you ever thought of the difference in the spring and the spout? I had never really thought about it until some friends and I got into a conversation while hiking at Rocky Knob Park.

We had stopped along a shaded trail at a spring. Sarah Bee always has to have a drink of water at all the mountain streams. The water was crystal clear and ice cold. Sarah Bee drank her fill and then said, "Hey, you know there's a difference in the spring and spout, don't you?" Thus began the conversation on these subjects.

A spring is water flowing up from the ground, a source or beginning. Our drinking water came from the spring, never the spout. Water used for cooking came from there also. The path to our spring was shaded by beautiful trees and very cool on a summer's day.

My very favorite thing about our spring was a tin Karo Syrup bucket of milk and bread setting there in cold water. By noon, that tickled one's taste buds. I still love milk and bread, but somehow the taste isn't quite the same as from the Karo Syrup bucket.

Once in a while, we would cool a watermelon in the spring. Mom Gracie even put cucumbers there to cool. You might say the spring was our refrigerator in those days and a good one.

To make a spout, you had to have a pipe or a long narrow wooden trough so there would be a force from the running water. Thus, at the end was a "spout." Water for washing came from there. The spout at my home was on the roadside, and became a stopping place for travelers.

In the old days, before it was relocated, the Appalachian Trail came on a route by our house and hikers refreshed themselves at our spout.

One of my fondest memories is the "flutter-mills" my dad used to make. He made a miniature mill wheel and put it at the spout. People stopped by to watch the flutter mills. Yep! There was a lot going on at our spout.

Dad used to tell me about a gentleman who always went to the spout first thing upon awakening and wash his face. In winter, he broke ice to do this. This man lived to be in his 90's. Now that shows that washing up outside at the spout will probably do no harm.

Springs and spouts are still found on farms and along paths here in the Blue Ridge. Guess what? Just today I went across the road to the "spout" and got some water for my flowers.