Julie Gets Dowsed
I am standing on a rocky hilltop under a scrawny alligator juniper tree with two friends, Tim and Mary. We are on their property – one of the highest places you can live close to Ramsey Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains (Sky Islands one and all) The view down into the valley is
spectacular with a harsh, high desert beauty. To anyone watching with binoculars, the three of us look idly on, watching something curious indeed. We are fascinated by Glen, my super analytical, engineer husband who walks back and forth holding a freshly cut, forked, willow branch at waist level, waiting for a profound interaction between himself and the earth. As he passes back and forth over one specific area, the rods splay wildly.”Well, there you have it,” Glen says as he paces off what he believes is a river of underground water running through the mountain at that very spot.
Glen is a dowser, a finder of subterranean water and perhaps things like buried minerals or oil were he to set his mind to it. In the hands of dowsers, metal rods turn and forked sticks pull downward, sometimes twisting skin and defying all understanding of what is driving that energy. How does dowsing work?
Glen likens a dowser to an antenna picking up natural vibrations. Some physicists theorize that infinitesimal vibrating strings are the building blocks of the universe.There are other theories: energy fields, clairvoyance, brain wave frequencies….. Dowsing seems to come naturally to some people like Glen who has achieved a local reputation as a gifted dowser. But as he says, “maybe it’s my price that can’t be beat – homemade chocolate chip cookies as payment.”
Like elsewhere in the West, water is scarce in the Sky Islands. The nearby San Pedro River, a once lush riparian corridor, is drying up and you can spend a lot of money drilling for water – especially at these high elevations over 5,000 ft where you have to find underground rivers instead of aquifers. Water drillers charge $22 – $24 dollars a foot in these parts. Neighbors and friends have drilled too many dry 1,000 foot holes for Tim and Mary to not take a chance on this nonscientific but amazingly reliable technique. As Glen said, “if you need to drill for water somewhere on your property, why not drill where the dowsing rods tell you.
Dowsing or witching as it was called in the old days is nothing new. Paintings on cave walls in the north of Africa dating back 8,000 years show a dowser holding a forked stick. Depictions on pottery and tomb walls show dowsing staffs being used by ancient Egyptians. A 4,000-year-old bas-relief with inscriptions speaks of dowsing by an Emperor of China. Military figures such as Napoleon and Patton traveled with dowsers to find fresh water on the march, and corporations still use it extensively to locate fresh water, oil and minerals.
For those of us like Sky Island Woman, not born with the “gift”, it can be both eerie and fascinating to watch in action. Glen’s success rate for water drilling is 100% and usually at depths much more accessible than non- dowsed wells in the area. Dowsing has its skeptics for sure. But for those who don’t believe, no amount of evidence is enough, and for those who have seen it work, no scientific evidence is necessary.
If Julie can learn to dowse she’ll take her rods and look for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine!