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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/290

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278*
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

A NATURAL PAPER MILL.
By VIRGIL G. EATON.

DIGGING out here in my back pasture lot, so I may find water for my cows when next summer's drought comes on, I have discovered one of the oldest paper mills in the world—a mill that was in good working order when Alexander went east for other nations to subdue, and one which had whole quires and reams in stock when men lived in caves and the human families exchanged calls with the monkeys. The land here is drift clay, which, mixed with sand and duly baked, makes fine building brick, and which raises such fine timothy hay that the new tariff does not bother me a mite. It is blue clay clear down for twenty feet, when it strikes an old sea brush of dark gravel plentifully filled in with clam, quahog, and scallop shells. Below this are coarser gravel and bowlders, and then comes the ledge, a heats-corched, flinty clay slate that is almost crystallized in many places. For several miles the land is as level as a house floor, and here the rainfall hesitates so long about choosing a direction in which to run that the larger part stays where it falls until the warm sun licks it up to form more clouds to make more rain. Then such portions of the land as are not covered with sward or some form of vegetation crack open, and the millions of innocent tadpoles perish from thirst before they know what fun it is to wear legs and breathe atmosphere. Draining this land is out of the question, because in order to do it I should have to dig a ditch four miles across my neighbor's property before the water could escape; and while this might be a very praiseworthy act, it would most surely take all the money I have, and my fellow-farmers would reap the reward equally with myself. Wells are also impossible here, because the frost throws out the walls in two years; and as cattle can not drink out of an artesian-well pipe, I am digging a small pond to hold the rainfall.

The place I have selected is a gentle depression in the generally level land. It is about ten rods in diameter and is walled around by a natural clay embankment varying in height from two to five feet. An opening in the wall lets the water in from one side, while a miniature canon allows it to escape in the opposite direction. Rushes, flags, and sedges stand knee deep in the waters close to the shore, and a few lilies, with leaves like arrowheads, dot the pool, which is otherwise given over to frogs, newts, and aquatic insects. Into the bowels of this wizard's caldron I am digging and scraping in hopes I may keep enough of the surface water in store so that the suns of August shall not leave my pasture dry. Working here, daubed with the muck and the clay