A shrieking by Jessica woke me at 5:30 a.m. Was the house ablaze? Worse yet, was a mouse in the house?
    As it turned out, neither.
    She had been in the shower, lathered up. Then the flow of water started to slow to a mere trickle. Then the water ceased entirely. That’s when my lovely bride got herself into a lather of a different sort.
    With no water, how could she finish her shower? That’s when she turned to (on) me.
    “Come out to the well,” she said.
    I knew all too well what that meant. Ants.
    Our well – or at least the electrical gizmo that makes it run – had been attacked.
    Jessica ducked into the basement while I pulled clothes on. She reliably located the circuit breaker for the well pump and flipped it off.
    We met at the well, me bleary eyed, she armed with a powerful weapon that would, hopefully, once again save the day against the marauding ants. I unscrewed the lone hex nut that holds a plastic cover over the pump’s outdoor electrical workings in a box atop a pipe that has insulated wires running way down toward the water pump itself.
    The papers that came with our 50-year-old A-frame tell me that it’s all of 380 feet from the surface of the ground to the top of the water table in the limestone rock. From there, it’s another 20 feet down to the pump itself, making the total distance into the dark earth 400 feet.
    I’ll readily admit that the well’s workings are mostly a mystery to me. I can understand the first white residents building a square, concrete shelter over the spring just to the east of our house. The cold, clear, mineral-rich spring water bubbles up out of the sand in that shelter.
    The structure, built long ago by some former resident is in a small patch of trees. Someone fenced the area with barbed wire to keep cattle out.
    I suppose water was at first lugged by buckets to the original farmhouse. Every trace of that building is long gone, but I’ve been told by people who saw it that the house stood some 100 yards southeast of ours. That would’ve been out past our two chicken coops and where my garden lies.
    Later, I guess, they rigged up a pipe so they could pump water to the house. And then came our modern, new-and-improved, ant-susceptible system.
    Here’s what the ants – teensy, weensy, red ones – do to bollix up our well.
    They scurry up from the ground and grass and onto the pipe that has the electrical wires in it and head to an important electrical component. I don’t know its technical name, but it contains circuits.
    Anyway, the tiny red ants get in there and crawl around and get between the calipers, as I’ll call them, for lack of a better term. When the ants do that, they keep the circuit from being completed. That simple act keeps electricity from traveling to the well pump. That shuts off our supply of water.
    We first encountered this weird problem a few years ago. We telephoned the well guy and he found the trouble right away. The kind gentleman in overalls showed us how to clean the ants out of that small box.
    Now, when we encounter this trouble, Jessica shuts off the well’s circuit breaker and hollers to me, “Well off.” So, we know we are on the same page.
    I repeat the message so she knows I heard her.
    Then I remove the cover from that box. Jessica whips out her trusty emery board and scrapes ants, dust, bits of grass and other crud out of the calipers. With the lid back on the box, she switches the circuit breaker back on.
    I wait by the well, hoping and praying to hear the pump kick on. Sometimes I hear it; sometimes I don’t.
    But more important is the needle on the well’s pressure gauge. If all goes well (pun intended) it begins to wiggle and eventually stops at 50, signifying 50 pounds of pressure. That’s usually enough to do the job and bring water up 400 feet to our house.
    I know that having to shoo a few ants out of the well’s circuitry isn’t really much of a hassle. I know it beats pumping water by hand, and it’s easier than lowering a bucket into the spring and lugging the water to the house.
    But those blasted ants still bug me.