Chapter – 2

Translator : Casualtranslator

~ Enjoy ~

Digging a well


Even though the mountains were cold in the afternoon, Zhang Xiaohua enthusiasm was only growing hotter. Nevertheless, the progress he made was still less compared to the morning’s worth of work. There were a lot of rocks on the wasteland, many of them were buried deep in the ground and were not easy to pry. By the time the sun set and twilight arrived, Zhang Xiaohua has only shifted away a few larger rocks, even hurting his hand in the process, especially at his purlicue, which hurt even more whenever it came into contact with the cold wind.

He was still a child after all.

Raising his head to look at the plot of wasteland that he had worked on for the entire day, despite feeling reluctant, Zhang Xiaohua knew it was time to return home. He then picked up his hoe and water container and started to head towards home. The sky has turned dark, and if he had chosen to stay, his father and brothers would come over to look for him, and his grandmother would worry.

There was some distance between the plot of wasteland and his home. Otherwise, his mother would not have needed to bring over his lunch. As he walked along the hilly path, despite being tired, Zhang Xiaohua mood was exceptionally good. His father had already forewarned him that reclaiming the land would require much significant time, and today was only going to be the beginning. Later on, he would still need to loosen the rockbed into soil, plant the seedlings, water the growing crops… Watering the crops! The land was so high in altitude, and was so far from the river, how could he water his crops if there was no water source nearby? Why had he not thought of this earlier? When this problem came into his mind, Zhang Xiaohua could not help but increase his pace.

When he entered the village boundaries, the sky had already turned pitch-black, but there were still many youths playing around. Seeing Xiaohua carry his hoe, a few of the more familiar youth could not help but inquire about his work, thus, Xiaohua had no choice but to answer each and every question. It seems that reclaiming land in the knolls was a significant event in a village which faced scarcity in grains. However, Xiaohua appeared absent-minded, which the other youths attributed to tiredness, and they did not continue to pester him, letting Xiaohua return home.

Zhang Xiaohua’s house was in the southern part of the village, and according to fengshui, it was not a very good place. Nevertheless, the area was quite large, and after Zhang Cai’s blood and sweat, he built a small courtyard. The fence around the courtyard was not high, and was made of inexpensive yellow mud, so outsiders would look over the barrier easily. From afar, Zhang Xiaohua could see his grandmother holding on to her walking stick while waiting at the gate entrance. Due to her poor vision, his grandmother could not leave the house as and when she likes, and the reason for her waiting at the fence door was to welcome her youngest grandson. Hearing the sound of footsteps that gradually grew louder, a smile grew on her face as she asked, “Xiaohua, you finally returned. Was today tiring?” Zhang Xiaohua hastened his pace to complete the last few steps, put down the hoe and water container, and supported his grandmother’s arm as he replied, “Not tired at all, Grandmother. It is not as if I have never done farmwork before anyway.” Grandmother held Xiaohua’s hands in relief. “Our Xiaohua has grown into an adult, grandmother is a muddlehead has forgotten.” His grandmother just so happened to brush against his purlicue, which caused Xiaohua to suck his breath involuntarily. Despite not making any noise, his grandmother was astute enough to tell, and said loudly, “Xiaocai, come and look at your son.” Zhang Xiaohua’s father actually returned not much earlier, and was currently at the courtyard washing up. Hearing his mother-in-law, he walked over and looked carefully.

“It is no big deal, mother. Xiaohua was so hardworking that his hands cracked from overwork. It will be fine in a few days.”

“Should we go to the Old Chen in the village for some ointment?”

As she was asking, Guo Sufei walked out from the house carrying some stuff, and said, “There is no need, mother. Didn’t we get some for Xiaohu to use recently? There is still a bit left from then. When Xiaohua sleeps tonight, I shall apply some on him, and it would be better the very next day. The weather has turned cold, and the wind has picked up. I will bring the rice over soon. Xiaohua, help me support your grandmother home.”

Zhang Xiaohua carefully supported his grandmother back into the house, leaving the water scarcity problem right at the back of his head.

After dinner, his parents were carefully weaving baskets under a small light, while the three siblings were at another side helping out. Zhang Cai then asked Zhang Xiaohua about his progress in the fields.

“Working alone is indeed slow, after Xiaohu finish helping out Xiaolong with the field beside the river, I will ask him to go over to give a hand.”

Zhang Xiaolong also said, “Do not rush, Xiaohua. Once we are done, father and I will go over to help as well, so the land should be done before winter.”

Zhang Xiaohua replied, “Why would I worry? Didn’t father already say, reclaiming the land must be done carefully and slowly if need be. If done well, the crops that grow from the land will be healthier and hence yield a better harvest.” At this point, Xiaohua remembered the water source issue, and asked, “But father, how can I water the crops in the future?”

Zhang Cai stopped what he was doing, and said, “To raise this up, have you thought of a solution yet?” Looking at his brothers with pleading eyes, Zhang Xiaohua asked, “Your lands are close to the river, so you can fetch water easily. The hill is so far and tall, surely you do not expect me to fetch water from the river as well?”

Zhang Cai laughed, “Xiaohua, what is behind the hill?”

Xiaohua pondered, “Isn’t there a pit behind?”

“That is right, over there is the intersection of three knolls, and we should be able to build a well at that place.”

“Seems like you have already planned ahead,” Guo Sufei smiled while praising her husband.

“In that case, father, when do we start building the well?” Zhang Xiaohua asked with some impatience.

“Once you finished evening out the land. Before winter arrives, we will take the opportunity when the ground is not frozen yet and invite some of our neighbors over to help, and then we will all build the well together.” After finishing his sentence, Zhang Cai continued to weave the basket in his hand. Hearing his father’s answer, Zhang Xiaohua’s mind finally calmed down, and the whole family continued on with the work in their hands. After a while, Zhang Xiaohua’s fatigue grew heavier and more noticeable, his eyes turned unfocused. Feeling heartbroken, Guo Sufei ordered him to bed, and Zhang Xiaohua agreed, walking woodenly towards the sleeping platform which the three brothers shared, threw himself onto the old and tattered quilt, before falling into a deep sleep, without noticing that his mother has personally applied some ointment onto his hands.

Several days were spent busily like that.

For the next few days, Zhang Xiaohua continued to be patient, and worked wholeheartedly on his land to make it smoother, without sparing a thought on the problem of the scarcity of water. On this evening, Zhang Xiaohua had finally cleared the rest of the weeds, patted the large rocks into finer soil, and was preparing to pack up and head home. Looking at the field of land that he had poured his effort into being almost ready for crop cultivation, and having only the step of loosening the soil left, Zhang Xiaohua finally lost his patience and turned around towards the back of the field where the would-be well was located.

After he turned around, he noticed that there were a few wooden planks already in place at the pit. Zhang Xiaohua hurriedly ran over to take a clearer look. Indeed, there was already a round platform at the bottom of the pit, with some wooden boards affixed in a circle and six long wooden poles inserted into the bottom. Zhang was so happy that he almost jumped, and he trotted down the slope to take and even closer look. When he reached, Zhang Xiaohua could not keep his hands to himself and started feeling out the wooden fixtures, wondering in his heart how they could help to deepen the pit. Just as he was thinking about the problem, someone from above called out

“Xiaohua, where are you?” Hearing his second brother Xiaohu’s voice, Xiaohua hurriedly replied, “I am here, come quick second brother, we are opening the well soon.”

Zhang Xiaohu also slid down and pulled Zhang Xiaohua’s arm “Its okay, I already knew that. It was me and eldest brother who helped to transport the wooden boards over after morning. Eldest brother said that he wanted to give you a surprise, so we did not tell you in advance. Right now, our parents are waiting for you to get back, so let hurry home now.”

The two brothers then jogged home.

Dinner was already prepared at home on the dining table, and both father and eldest brother were seated around it. However, no one else was around, so Zhang Xiaohua asked “Father, where are the people who will be helping out with the well construction?” Zhang Cai laughed, “They have already gone back. We do not have much money, so I have only agreed to provide lunch for them, dinner would be self-provided. Furthermore, everyone has their own land to farm, and we can also save some money this way.” Zhang Xiaohua grunted in understanding, and went to help his mother with the rest of the dinner’s preparation.

After the meal, Zhang Cai handed out tasks to all members of the family. The three Zhang brothers naturally have to help out with the well construction directly, while Xiaohua’s mother will be in charge of preparing and delivering the meals. Zhang Cai will be buying the required materials, as well as to find more manpower. In short, everyone in the family apart from Xiaohua’s grandmother had a part to play in the construction project. Naturally, grandmother will be looking after the house during this time, and feeding the chickens itself can be considered a chore.

In the first morning hour, Zhang Xiaohua has already gotten out of bed and was rushing his other two brothers who were still sleeping on the shared platform to wake up. Zhang Xiaohua’s mother insisted that they grab a bite before leaving, saying that although their father has already left earlier, there was no point leaving earlier if there would be no one else at the well. Zhang Xiaohua had no choice but to eat his breakfast patiently before heading towards the knoll when the sun was high up in the sky.

When they reached, there were already several people who were busy at work. Zhang Cai motioned them to come over and help dig up some of the larger rocks, and to move them aside. As such, everyone enthusiastically performed their duties.

Just as the well construction continued over the next few days, Zhang Xiaohua realized that digging a well was not a very complex project. It was the simple matter of finding a spot and using the wooden structure to go down the hole dig deeper. The only difficulty lies in finding the right spot which would not cause any ground instability, and this was something that could only be learnt through experience. The wooden structure was also necessary, otherwise, as the hole gets deeper, how would they be able to transport the earth away, and how could the people digging at the bottom of the well come back up again. Fortunately, about the position of the well, Zhang Cai was quite lucky because the expert he consulted said that a water vein was likely to be located near the would-be farm. He added that if they were successful in digging up a functional well, then the water would be as sweet as the mountain springs, and using it to water the crops would even be too wasteful for it could be used for their own consumption instead. Hearing those words, Zhang Cai snorted because it was infeasible to carry the water all the way home just to cook rice.

The days of well-digging just passed like that. Just that as the well grew deeper, the difficulty increased and the progress slowed down. This is due to several hard rocks in the deeper parts of the earth. Fortunately, there was no vast space of bedrock, otherwise, there would be no way to go around it and the well project would have to be discontinued. As more days past, perhaps Zhang Cai’s lucky streak has ended, because he finally met with a large obstacle.

On this afternoon, Zhang Xiaohua was striking the earth heavily with his hoe, before realizing that he has struck onto something exceptionally hard, causing his hands to become numb. From his experience, Xiaohua automatically moved to another spot to try and dig up the rock, but “Dang~” it was obvious that he was still within the circumference of that hard rock. Zhang Xiaohua could not help but worry, and he went around to different spots to try his luck. However, without any exception, all spots that he struck his hoe onto were part of the same rock. Tugging on the rope around his waist, he signaled to the people above to pull him up, and with a downcast face informed his father on his recent discovery. Zhang Cai and the other workers also took turns to go down, and came up soon after without much words. Everyone started to discuss seriously, while taking turns to have their lunch, to debate on whether the rock they struck was bedrock or a large piece of rock.

Soon after, everyone scattered leaving Zhang Xiaohua who was looking at the unfinished well, his heart filled with unease. If it was truly a layer of bedrock, then there would be no way to dig around it, meaning that the several days of hard effort would be for naught. Zhang Xiaohua asked Zhang Xiaolong to lower him down to the bottom of the well again, and this time, his heart was full of resolve.

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