Transcript/Biography

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"This was a model made by Elbert, his son. And it depicts the way they dug that hole by hand. This is the hole here, and they had a bucket which would probably hold five, six gallons. This is the bucket. And then they had a tractor with a transmission in order to speed up the winch to let the thing down rapidly or to bring it up rapidly. And so he made this model here to represent this. They had this tripod here to bring it up and then somebody would, of course, have to dump it… This hole was like 40-inches in diameter. And you can imagine what it was like to work in a hole with a bucket going up and down. If something should happen with that rope or with that bucket there wasn't much room to escape the falling bucket. But I guess that didn't happen, at least not as far as I know… They had dry dirt for the first 30 or 32 feet because the creeping jennies was the only thing that would grow and the roots went down that far. But after that they hit some moisture…
   "They dug down to 84 foot at which point they hit sand, or hit dry sand 10 foot earlier. But then they hit water. So, that's as far as they could go. So, what do they do then? Dad-in-law [John J. Thieszen] went to York and hired Ludwig. I forget what his first name is. He was a well driller, he used a sand bucket. And he came out and they sand bucketed it and they put blind casing down that was, I think, 32 inches. As he took out the sand that blind casing settled. After it was settled they went to work and put in a smaller casing. And so they worked until they got to, I think, 140 feet more or less. But at least 140 feet. At which time they pulled out that casing and cased the whole well so they could hang the pump in there. And that was the first well [in the county]…
   "John Thieszen built the machine then. After he was done digging the second hole by hand. He owed the third party, his cousin, another cousin, a hole because they had worked together digging these first two holes. So, he didn't want to do that by hand anymore. So, he built a machine. He had seen other machines, and he built a machine to go out there and dig that hole. That was, of course, no pay because he owed it [the well] to him. But I'm sure he was tickled to death to try to find out what he was doing 'cause they were finishing it on the job, the machine. But after that, the machine was used for commercial ventures and they dug holes for people who wanted to have an irrigation well."

Gordon Schmidt – Digging Wells by Hand

   

Other Excerpts from Gordon Schmidt & John Steingard's Interview:

Pearl Harbor
Conscientiouis Objectors
Postwar Fertilizer Use
Building Grain Bins
Miracle of Irrigation
Homemade Drilling Rigs
Leveling the Land
Plaster Lathe Boxes
Water Pollution