Monday, July 13, 2009

“What was that? Can we go back?”

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Those words or something very similar are often the beginning of a conversation when Joann and I are out on the backroads. Recently, after completing a volunteer bird survey in Green County, we decided to finally capture some images of a little spring house that we have been passing for years on our way home from this activity.

As I studied the map to figure out approximately where it was, I caught sight of a building out of the corner of my eye. While my brain was processing what I had seen, we continued down the road. And then those words came out of my mouth – “What was that? Can we go back?”

Because Joann had been watching the road, she hadn’t seen the building and had no idea what I was talking about. So the conversation continued like this:

Joann: “It was small, like a squirrel or something.”

Ruth: “What?”

Joann: “The road kill – it was something small, about the size of a squirrel.”

Ruth (looking puzzled): “Huh?”

Joann (starting to giggle): "Well, I know it wasn't an armadillo!"

Ruth (laughing): “No, I saw a building… maybe it’s not worth it, but can we go back?”

It’s a darn good thing Joann’s car loves U-turns, Y-turns, and “asterisk turns” (which is our term for having to maneuver the car in the shape of an asterisk in order to get turned around on a narrow road). A day on the backroads is full of these turns because often my brain takes a while to catch up with my eyes. We have seen many spring houses in our backroads travel, but on this day, our U-turn resulted in our first two-story spring house.

A spring house is a small building that was built over a spring and used to keep food cool and fresh before the age of refrigeration. Milk, butter, eggs, or anything the family wanted to keep cool was placed in the cold water from the spring. Below is a picture of a trough of spring water inside a spring house.

And remember, keep your eyes open along the backroads, and don’t be afraid to turn around and go back for a second look. You might just find yourself a spring house.

Happy Shunpiking!


  1. Ever since we discovered the two-story spring house, I've been wondering what the upper floor was used for. So I did a little research and found a web site about a spring house that had a curing room above it (used for drying, smoking, and salting food for preservation). So that's one possibility.

  2. You two sound like you have a ball out there doing this. I love knowing the story behind why people take certain pictures and what/where they are. Keep it up!