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November 14, 2016 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Epic clash: dowsers and doubters.

He was an old man – which wasn’t unusual considering – nor did he seem to find it unusual I was tagging along and filing every single word. It seemed to amuse him.

The three of us, the old man, my dad, and I struggled through the brush to locate it: a fine energetic El mmm tree (that’s how he said it: “El mmmm”) with roots deep into the soil by a stream.

Our old well had become unreliable with too much red mud in the bucket too often. Dad wanted a deeper one.

So of course we needed an expert: the local dowser.

Man in overalls leaning against by old storefront. 1935 Dorothea Lange1(1895-1965)FDR Pres.Lib./ USPD:, by Fed employee (

Don’t judge a dowser by his overalls. He looked the part.(USPD/

Now Dad was scientific in thought. Mom, too.

Kids loved to visit our house to mess with the chemistry sets, real microscopes, and sometimes cow eyeballs in the freezer next to the ice cream (depending if what unit was being taught that week).

Dad had already figured that the new well would be along a hidden underground river’s path – most likely between our current shallow one and the dip in the ground where the old, old one that had been dug shortly after the civil war beside the giant oak tree, also of that era.

But he was always curious about the old ways.

All the old farmers said this dowser never failed to find good water and to tell exactly how far down it was.

The leaves had fallen, but ground not yet frozen when his schedule had time for us.

A quick examination of the tree’s branches, then the dowser selected 2 forks and quickly, cleanly, cut them with a sharp knife.

“‘precciate you lettin’ us have these branches” he thanked the tree. (Who seemed OK with it all. )

Back up by the house, we watched him pace back and forth among the existing wells with the fork’s branches in his hands: palms up, thumbs out.

farm children in a field. 1940 (USPD: Dept of Ag./

“Do you think he’ll find it? Druther get my iron from vitamin pills than that well water.(USPD/

As predicted, he stopped halfway between the two old well sites and announced there was the spot.

What was not predicted was how that El mmm branch, held at the start straight out parallel to the ground, started bucking and jerked like a unbroke horse fighting a halter as he walked.

Then the stem of the branch lunged forward, slowly curved down pointing to a spot on the ground.

The dowser walked off and came back across at 3 different angles.

The El mmm would not be fooled. Always the same spot.

Then he would walk away, counting the steps until the branch rose back up horizontal to the ground and became still.

Mother chuckled and went inside. Brother smirked.

Dad and I were mesmerized.

The quivering stick seemed to have a mind of its’ own – a strong one.

To be continued Wednesday….(It’s just too long)

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

Little Girl sitting with fox on a kitchen table. (1959 National Lib of Wales. Geoff Charles/Universal PD/

Can we keep him? We can tell the neighbors it’s a cat or a science project.(1959Nat. Lib of Wales. Geoff Charles/PD/







  1. Kate Crimmins / Nov 14 2016 7:23 am

    Interesting. Way back in the 70s, first house I built, the ex and I tried that method. It didn’t work for us but that’s probably because we didn’t get an expert. You can’t just cut a branch and expect results. It takes something more than that. They had to go twice as deep as any of our neighbors to find water. My ex resigned as a dowser and went back to his day job.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 14 2016 7:47 am

      Maybe he cut a branch from a board tree?
      There are time when an experience blows hole in all rational conventional thought. Started out as a joke, but…
      You know how there are people to pray to multiple devine beings – just in case – to cover all bases? Finding well water may be a bit like that. Thanks for digging up a comment to leave

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kate Crimmins / Nov 14 2016 8:02 am

        Most likely he picked up a stray twig. He did work at it for a few days but to no avail. Old timers have an wisdom combined with experience that can’t be explained.


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 15 2016 7:30 pm

          They have classes – who knew?
          Sounds like he picked up a slacker stick. (but part of the skill is finding the right one?)

          Liked by 1 person

  2. easyweimaraner / Nov 14 2016 7:40 am

    the old ways are mostly the best… there is a good walking :o) and the elmmmmms sometimes know it the best … their roots are like this magic sticks :o)


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 14 2016 7:52 am

      Apparently it’s important to find the right tree: one that’s robust and doing well – and has deep roots into a stream. He was quite particular. Being small, I only vaguely remember the dowser’s face. I was short.He was dressed sort of like that man and that build – but I do remember his kind voice and what he said. And that he was well respected in the community. Wonder does survive. Thanks for barking along – running by shortly( after errands and dog walk…can we skip the first? HA HA)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. D. Wallace Peach / Nov 14 2016 8:01 am

    Darn. I wanted the rest of the story! I just love this stuff – the magic in the world or the science that we are just not evolved enough to understand. I’m looking forward to part 2.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 15 2016 7:34 pm

      It seems that the farther we get from the natural world (spending more and more time indoors in boxes without windows or fresh air) the more we get away from understanding that there’s stuff waiting to be understood. (Does that make sense?) Glad you are intrigued – wasn’t sure such an odd old fashioned/ancient wisdom experience could be put into words that anyone now would be interested in. Thanks for the kind words (and more tomorrow)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. roughseasinthemed / Nov 14 2016 8:27 am

    Always some things that seem illogical or inexplicable. Must write about my partner’s second sight experience one day.

    Looking forward to the next droplet in the saga.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 15 2016 7:36 pm

      Ah now that does sound intriguing. (Interesting things seem to happen to interesting people…wonder if it’s drawn to them or they just recognize it?) Spilling more tomorrow. Thanks for floating along until then.


  5. Littlesundog / Nov 14 2016 10:01 am

    Oooh, a continuing story! Love it! Grandma told me when they bought the farm, Grandpa wanted a certain dowser to place an additional well spot. The dowser was legendary in the area. But the problem was if you were on his “bad” list, he refused the job. Grandpa contacted him a couple of times and finally was told by the fellow’s wife that one of Grandpa’s cousins had gotten into a quarrel with him, thus, he wanted nothing to do with the family. I guess if you are a legend and in demand, you can refuse anyone for any reason! Ha ha!
    The old timer’s ways and logic have always fascinated me. I wish now I had asked my grandparents more about how things were back then. I did hear a lot of stories from Grandma about how life was for them in the old days. It was a very interesting accounting from a farm woman’s point of view. I also have a copy of the journal that my Danish great-grandfather (my other grandmother’s father) wrote about life in the small town where he owned a general store. It was mostly about the people of the town and the conditions they lived in. What a gift to his heirs!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Nov 15 2016 8:03 pm

      Once you get off the paved roads and travel down the narrow dirt lanes with overhanging limbs, life is different – and you better be nice to people ’cause word spreads. That does sound so typical of that dowser. (or any one of any special skills in rural areas) Family networks are quite complex. And you knew/know who would have the answer you needed. We had a man down the road who gentled horse – long before the Horse Whisperer movie. He used to let me help even though I was little – I was quiet and very light so I could sit still on very young horses. He was very cool. Rich people in Dallas paid big moeny for his horses – had them lined up – but only a couple of foals a year. To do it right takes time and attention….farmers knew that long before Hollywood.
      You are so lucky to have known your Grandma and to have that journal. Primary source material! (and really fascinating stories – living history.) Thanks for sitting down for a spell

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ally Bean / Nov 16 2016 5:41 am

    Once upon a time I met a dowser courtesy of a nun who I knew. The dowser, a woman with calm energy, was a professional one I was told. Considering it was a social meeting, I never had the opportunity to hire her so I have no idea if her gift was real or contrived. But my nun friend believed in her, so…?


  7. Robin / Nov 16 2016 6:57 am

    Looking forward to the rest of this story. 🙂


  8. Fny / Feb 21 2017 1:48 pm

    As a kid I got taught by my grandfather to do it, and he in turn had learned from his mother who apparently was unusually strong with the dowsing rod – it was said to almost get wrenched out of her hands when she hit the spot. A feeling I can recognize too, it’s quite amazing how the rod can twist so violently on its own that you can barely keep hold of it.

    I really can not explain how it works, I honestly have no clue. But given the amount of blind tests I’ve done myself I can only conclude that yes, it really works. I have no fuckin idea how, but it does.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Feb 22 2017 7:06 am

      Easy to dismiss unless actually experienced. A power that only leads to more wondering. Thanks for stopping by and sticking in a comment

      Liked by 1 person


  1. Part two: Of dowsers and doubters | Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

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