Volume VI, No. 2, Winter 1978
by Melinda Stewart, Photography by Joe Jeffery
In the Fall 1978 Bittersweet, Bill York and Lyn Marble told us how to find underground water with the ancient art of water witching using green sticks and metal rods. They walked over the ground, holding tightly the sticks or rods until the sticks would point to the ground or the rods would cross. Lillian and Harold Humphreys not only have the gift of water witching but they also have the ability to tell how deep the water is underground.
Lillian Humphreys started to water witch by watching her father when he took her along when he witched wells for people. She can first remember knowing she could water witch when she was eight years old.
She has picked wells for several people including, very recently, four different wells in her neighborhood. She witches with a green forked stick, using elm, peach, cherry or oak. Getting a good grip with her fists palms up on the two protruding branches she walks along slowly. The stick pulls down to point to the underground water. Harold said, "We've used smaller sticks than this, and she'd hold them so tight it would break the stick."
Lillian has told the people not only where to dig but also how far down to drill by using a different method with a straight green stick. This stick should be the width of a pencil and three and one-half feet long. "Hold the small end of the stick with your fist against your hip to steady it, and in a few seconds the end of the stick will start bobbing." We stood watching and in a few seconds the end actually started bouncing about four inches up and down, once every second. "One, two, three ..." Silently counting the bobs, we waited for the stick to stop bouncing. "One hundred ninety-seven, one hundred ninety-eight." The stick stopped. "One bob is equal to one foot down. When it stops it will start again after a few seconds and go the same number of times. When the stream is stronger the stick generally goes up and down farther. The number of bobs measures the depth where the stream is the strongest. The drillers usually hit water right before I say but go on a few feet farther. Then the wells fill up with water."
When Lillian moved back to the Ozarks, she found the place to put their home by witching the spot to find the best water supply. The long stick then as now bobbed 198 times. When the well drillers set over the spot they drilled 200 feet and got an average of forty gallons a minute.
When asked what she thought made it work Lillian replied, "I don't know what makes it work. I can't explain it
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