Recently I noticed that an area of our yard about ten feet from the house appeared to be caving in. Some poking around revealed an entrance to a concrete-lined cavern that goes down several feet and extends at least several feet back. Our neighbor Jim, homeowner extraordinaire, took a look and said he thought it was an old cistern, used to collect rainwater for use in the house in the days before running water. Then he noticed some garlic mustard in our yard and advised pulling it.
Sure enough, I looked in our basement nearest the cistern and there was a (now sealed) drainpipe sticking out of the basement wall. So a hundred years ago, the people who lived in our house went downstairs and got their water out of that tap in the wall.
Jim recommended filling the cistern with "debris." I'm not sure we're advanced enough homeowners to generate much debris, so in the meantime we have this gaping hole. All I knew about cisterns previously was that they were a convenient place to stash a dead body if you were a rural murderer, and children fell into them. Probably what makes me more worried is the more realistic possibility that it would make a nice home for our giant groundhog or other slightly menacing beast. For now I've covered it with a board from someone's roof that landed in our yard after the tornado of '06.
Covering an old cistern with a tornado-generated door? This is all so pastoral!
Thoroughly modern Mr. Flossie asked: "If they didn't have running water, why didn't they just order their water from Culligan?" Har, har.