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If you've lived around Maine any length of time you've probably heard a few people use the word “dowsing” or the phrase “water witching.” If you haven't heard those words we should probably conclude that you don't hear too well and you should get your ears looked at.
Dowsers claim they can locate underground water, hidden metal deposits, buried treasure, oil and gas - even lost golf balls - using special powers that are manifest through the dowsing rod. When the dowser is above water or any object sought, the diving rod bends downward.
Some dowsers claim they can find people or objects by using maps or pictures but most dowsers say they have to be right there on location to practice the paranormal art of dowsing.
Ask someone in the scientific community about the practice of dowsing and he or she will tell you that dowsing has no basis in science and that the only thing dowsing locates for sure is a kook or two - namely the dowser and the person who hires one.
I would probably think that way, too, except for the fact that my father was a dowser as was his father before him. My father, a dentist, had a dowsing rod made of an apple branch from our own orchard. My grandfather's dowsing rod was made from a hazel branch and is now owned by my Uncle Carroll, also a dowser. Although my father, grandfather and uncle had a few eccentric habits, I don't think anyone would consider them kooks.
My father used to tell stories about his dowsing and how he found lots of good clean water for people all over the state. Someone in Appleton or Yarmouth or Belfast or Windham would need a well and having heard about my dad the dowser, they'd give him a call and off he'd go.
Father didn't think it was right to charge for his dowsing services, but he'd often accept gifts of firewood or fresh fish or lobster. Despite all his stories I never saw my father in action until he did some dowsing right in our yard.
Back when I was about 10 my parents decided to spruce up the old homestead with a new bathroom and laundry room. Mr. Hupper the plumber said we would have to replace our dug well with an artisan well in order to supply the additional water that would be needed.
So, one Saturday morning before the drilling rig arrived my father got out his divining rod - which he kept in a special leather case - and started walking around our place looking for a sign of water. As he walked in front of our porch his trusty dowsing rod started bending to the ground until it was almost vertical.
The next day the well drilling crew arrived. After going back and forth on the lawn with the drilling rig, driver Harold finally parked the monster right there in front of the porch where Dad's divining said the water was. Of course, he didn't know that, but that's where he parked just the same.
I figure we'll start drilling right here, Harold said to my father as he pointed to Dad's spot.
Dad agreed.
The crew began drilling and before they were down 100 feet they were getting 20 gallons of pure clear water a minute.
To this day I don't know if it was Dad's dowsing or Harold's parking skills but I'm convinced that some paranormal skill was being demonstrated for me.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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