Volume I, No. 4, Summer 1974

A Homemade Water Jug

By Suzanne Carr Photos by Stephen Hough

After working for hours pitching bundles on the wagons from the stubble of the dusty field, the Ozark farmer could ask for nothing better than a generous drink from the burlap wrapped waiter jug filled with cool spring or well water. The Ozarks has always furnished good water that is a pleasure to drink, but often it is too far from the fields. Accustomed to drinking the fifty-two degree water fresh from the spring or well, the thirsty farmer could not quench his thirst with lukewarm water.

Before thermos bottles and Styrofoam ice chests for keeping water ice cold, farmers had a simple yet satisfactory way of carrying and keeping good drinking water out in the fields without having to return to the house. They did this by making their own insulated water jug. They made it quickly from a jug, tow sack, needle and heavy thread or cord.

The jug was a thick stone crock which itself offered some insulation. The small opening at the top made a handy spout to drink from and the handle was just right for the fore finger and thumb to grasp. The jug supported by the crooked arm raised to shoulder height made a convenient drinking utensil.

The covering could by any thick sturdy material that would soak up waiter, but usually the ever-present tow sack was used. Heavy thread was used to fasten the material around the jug. The cord was as durable as the material and sturdy enough to withstand all weather conditions. The needle had a large enough eye to thread the cord through. Some people used a curved needle to make it easier to sew, but it was not necessary.

Wrap the sack tightly around jug.

Begin sewing the sack around the neck of the jug.

Cut off any excess material.


Most of the time, the man of the family made the covering for the jug. He wrapped the sack around the jug tightly. The more material he put around the more insulated it would be. Next, he sewed the material securely so it would not come apart. The tighter the sack was sewn the longer the water would stay cool. As shown in the picture below, he usually began sewing around the neck of the jug, and sewed down to the bottom. If made properly, the covering would last for about three years. For the finishing touch he often whittled down a fresh, clean corncob for the stopper.

When he put the water in the jug to take to the field, he would wet the covering good and run cool water inside to remove any heat before he put the drinking water in. The water would stay cool all afternoon, according to Julie Massey who showed us how to cover a jug. She said, "When we were young, we would have to go ever so often if they were threshing or anything like that, and would have to go with these water jugs and take water to the men. That was our job. The men would work awhile, then take a big drink, then go back to working.'' If the man took his jug with him, he set it in the shade for even more protection from the sun.

When the farmer finished his day's work, he would head back to the house with his empty water jug in hand.

Sew the material securely.

Applying the last stitches.

A clean corncob was usually used for the stopper.


Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.

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