What foul substance is Pablo exposing you to today? Why, it’s medicinal!
On the drive home from our last trip to Roundrock, we diverted (a great distance) from our usual route and stopped in one of the small towns that had once been famous for the healing powers of its mineral springs. (I’m sure Laura knows where I’m talking about.)
Like most states, Missouri had a heyday in the 19th Century and early in the 20th Century when thousands of people would “take the waters” and find real or imagined cures for all sorts of ailments that afflicted them.
Not too far northeast of Kansas City is the town of Excelsior Springs, which has a lovely art deco Hall of Waters (and which is also the home of writer and artist Cathy Johnson, whose books I’ve mentioned here a few times). The curative powers of the waters there were discovered when a young woman with a terrible skin disease first dipped her afflicted legs in the spring pool. Soon after, her skin cleared and, presumably, she was lovely once again. Once word of this spread, everyone came to the town to visit the spa that had sprung up, take mineral baths, get pummeled by masseuse or masseur, and drink from the spring where a woman once lowered her infected flesh. The Hall of Waters is now city hall, though most of the fixtures are still there and you can even sample the varieties of mineral water still taken from the spring. (I’m not sure how that works, but apparently water drawn from different levels in the spring have different mineral content.)
The mineral spring on the (indirect) way home from Roundrock had a similar history. The waters there are filled with iron, and based on the testimonials of several early visitors who drank the nasty stuff and found relief, a similar resort town sprang up. The site of the spring is now a delightful park known for its summer band concerts. The spring water still pours from two pipes set in a stone wall at the lowest point of the park, down a series of steps into a sort of grotto.
Libby and I stopped at a nearby convenience store and bought a bottle of water — for the bottle. We drank the water and then took the empty bottle to the spring and filled it with the cold, cold water. I sampled it. It was like sucking on a piece of iron. A woman who was there with her toddler said that the tap water in the town tastes the same and that, of course, when you grow up with it you get used to it. I would imagine the restaurant business would suffer, at least from the tourist trade. You might be able to get a soda pop from a bottle, but when you poured it over the local ice in your glass, wouldn’t it suddenly taste foul? I don’t even want to think what iced tea there must be like. In this case, it might not remain unsweetened.
The water from the spring, though, was crystal clear. We took it home and put it in our refrigerator where it sat for a week, precipitating. By the end of the week, swirls of rusty orange stuff had accumulated in the bottom of the bottle, as you see above.
Now it so happens that pin oaks don’t grow well in Kansas City soil. (That doesn’t stop the local nurseries from selling them to new homeowners in all of the housing developments going up.) I’m told there isn’t enuf iron in the soil for them to thrive. We have a volunteer pin oak growing in our back yard. The first time we had collected a bottle of water from the spring, I eventually poured it around the base of our pin oak. I expected to wake the next morning to find it had grown a hundred feet tall. (It hadn’t!) But the tree has had good color to its leaves while our neighbors’ trees often look sickly. Did my one application of iron-rich water make the difference? I doubt it. More likely the type of pin oak that would sprout as a volunteer in this soil is one more genetically suited to the site than the store-bought varieties.
But I boasted of this success to my good friend Duff when he commented about two of his pin oaks looking poorly. And so it came to pass that when we were headed home from Roundrock, we took a detour to fetch a small bottle of mineral water straight from the source. I expect a full report.
- Look for spiders ballooning on clear, windy days.