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November 16, 2016 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Part two: Of dowsers and doubters

1919 couple in film "A man's fight" Motion Picture News Aug.23,1919.United Pictures (USPD, artist's life (

“Don’t go over to the dark side.Call a geologist for goodness sakes.” (USPD/

Dad casually chatted with the old man for a bit once the spot was marked. (I thought they would never stop.)

Discussing the number of paces it took the stick to go quiet and horizontal from the marked spot – with a man’s stride being about X number of feet. Determining how deep the water was below.

“Yes,” the dowser said, “always used the El mmm.”

He handed Dad the forked stick – with a grin.

The dowser’s truck barely disappeared down the red dirt road before Dad took the stick in hand – palms up with thumbs out – and off he strode across the field.

Now Dad, a scientific sort, was quite a known jokester, so when the stick started jumping in his hand, Mom laughed “Stop that! Stop fooling around. The kids will believe you.”

Only he had a funny look on his face.

“I’m not doing it. It’s jumping around all on its’ own. I can’t stop it.”

I knew when he was joking and when he wasn’t. He wasn’t.

“Me! Me!”

But he wouldn’t relinquish it.

Kept walking back and forth struggling to hold the stick still, but unable to.

Totally stunned. Trying to control it. Trying to figure it out.

Mom, always The Practical, The Realist, grabbed the stick. A look of expectation lit up her face.

Nothing. Not a wiggle. Not a jump.

Even when standing right on the anointed spot.

Dead still. A stick stuck.

“Bah. Ok, great joke.”

Disgusted at being fooled, she stomped to the porch.

I intercepted the stick pass off.

Carefully positioned my hands: palms up, thumbs out. With high hopes took a step.

It happened. It was alive.

It jumped. It wiggled.

I could barely hold on to it much less stop it. No matter what.

It lunged forward. Pulling me along like a team of sled dogs.

The straight stem tugged into a curve down seemingly vibrating with pure happiness at the site of water.


As I walked away from the water sites, it calmed once far from the water it wanted.

Eyes as big a saucers, Dad and I.

Mom was stink-eyed.

father and daughter 1919. "Mayor of Filbert". Moving Picture World, May, 1919 (USP /

“Dad, do you think Mother will ever get over it? After all, she was the always the one rumored to be a bit touched…” (USPD/

No mistaking that scowl. Making fun of her? 

We shuffled back and forth. Eyes down.

Dad looked to see if she was looking, then whispered, “Looks like you have the touch”.

For the remainder of the afternoon Dad and I followed the El mmmm around the farm over hill, creek banks, and dry stream bed.

Just to make sure we didn’t dream it.

We didn’t, I assure you.

Dad never dismissed the experience.

Many things can’t be explained. Like finding the well water exactly at the depth the dowser predicted.

I haven’t held an El mmm branch for some time.

Might have been smart to stick with it, though.

Could have become legendary for directing parched shoppers to the closest bottled water source.

Never doubt a dowser

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

Part One is here, in case you missed it.

More to muddle over?

  •  Science for a changing world. Water Dowsing. (What is it. What science says)
  • Skeptic’s Dictionary. Dowsing (a.k.a water witching, radiesthesia) Lots of history, testimonials, the 1980’s German study, Munich physicist Hans-Dieter Betz, types of dowsing including for drugs, guns, and bombs. Quite a reading list too.
  • Live Science. Dowsing: the Pseudoscience of Water Witching. History from 1556, but even with New Age ideas, still no better than chance?
  • WIKI. “Dowsing. Pictures and information. Martin Luther was against it (1518). Jesuits declared dowsing superstitious and perhaps satanic ( but, then again, maybe not, the decided.). Types of dowsing equipment, scientific studies, possible explanations, and famous dowsers.
Woman in costume. Betty Linn.Jan,1922 "The Tatler" USPD:,-artist's life /

Did Lady Luck smile or was it something else? Didn’t matter. My white tennis shoes were no longer pink.(USPD/




  1. Littlesundog / Nov 16 2016 6:47 am

    Of course I want to know, what happened to that El mmm stick? I still say, where we have faith, wonder and maybe just being open to believing, it will come to us. Non and dis- believers will always have exactly that experience.
    I really enjoyed the links you’ve posted too! Just looked at a couple of them so far – fascinating!! Deer chores may have to wait a bit this morning. I am intrigued!


  2. shoreacres / Nov 16 2016 6:52 am

    Dowsers and rainmakers: there’s a pair. Honestly, I think I’d go with the dowsers more than the rainmakers. When I was a kid in Iowa, there was a woman who was said to be able to find water. She did tell some folks on my grandparents’ street where to dig their new well. They did as she said, and never ran out of water. Maybe it’s just a knack for hyper-attention, like people who always can find the fish, but it’s worth paying attention to those folks.


  3. Robin / Nov 16 2016 7:08 am

    Science doesn’t seem to believe (I’m exploring the links), but I do. It might be a good talent to have in the coming years. Great story, well told/written. 🙂


  4. Ally Bean / Nov 16 2016 9:15 am

    I love the term: water witch. Sounds ethereal and like a character in an Irish myth. What a fun story.


  5. Anne Mehrling / Nov 16 2016 12:00 pm

    Most enjoyable post!!!!


  6. heretherebespiders / Nov 16 2016 2:58 pm

    There are more things on heaven and earth and dreamt of in your philosophy…Phil. Hehehe! Couldn’t resist. I’m a skeptic, but three out of four seems a good number. Of course you did already suspect the water was there, and any water-witch worth his (lack of salt) would see the lie of the land, also. But it does make me think!


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