New Year's Day and I am in Kansas City. There wasn't much traffic, and the weather, though cold, was dry and clear. It was a good day for a drive.
The trip here, not too far shy of three hundred miles, requires several bouts of radio surfing as stations fade in and out with the miles. Somewhere around Clinton I stumbled onto an interesting station where a man was discussing things of concern to rural residents. Today's topic was "sulphur water," a subject which brought a flood of memories from my youth.
Sulphur water used to be fairly common, but I had not even heard the term in years. Even so, as soon as the fellow on the radio said it, I smelled it! Sulphur water has a unique odor that is a result of having too much "sulphur," of course, in the drinking water supply - and once you have smelled it, it stays smelled!
When I was very young, living in Goodman, Missouri, I remember a time that we started having gas in our drinking water, though I don't remember what caused it or how we eventually solved the problem, I do remember forgetting that the water was bad one time and taking a drink from the tap. It was horrible, and it took a long time to get that awful taste out of my mouth. My parents had to carry water from a local spring until the situation was resolved.
We moved to a place just south of Lanagan, Missouri, called Ginger Blue Village when I was ten-years-old - and quickly learned that the village water supply was sulfurous. Gas water was undrinkable, but sulphur water was not only drinkable, many people believed that it was actually good for one's health.
But lord did it stink!
Chock Macy, my grandfather, used to bring empty gallon jugs with him when he came to visit us so that he could take home plenty of our fine sulphur water - and I, for one, was happy to see him carry away as much as he could!
The "cure" for sulphur water back then was to keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator. After a day or two the sulphur smell would disappear. The fellow on the radio today also suggested that as a remedy to the taste. The odor permeated the laundry, and the smell would stubbornly cling to a body after a shower or bath. Kids at school could always tell who heated their homes with a wood stove and who had sulphur water!
The fellow on the radio today also talked about special filters that would take the smell away. We didn't have special filters back in the day - and we didn't have bottled water either.
Several years ago I knew a guy who owned a quick-stop in that area, and his water supply had sulphur in it. Tourists coming to his establishment would complain about the taste of the coffee and fountain drinks and ask him what was wrong with the water. The merchant found a filter that was guaranteed to remove the odor from the water - and it worked. But modern technology did not make the guy happy. He said that his regular coffee drinkers became upset when he started using the filter because the taste changed and they decided that something was wrong with the coffee!
And we did get used to having sulphur water, so used to it in fact that eventually we didn't notice the smell or taste. However, when company arrived it would quickly become the topic of conversation.
Sulphur water is a rarity today, but fear not, nostalgia fans - fracking may well take us back to the good old days when our water smelled! If that happens, corporate America will most likely bottle it as a health or diet product and sell it to the rest of the world.