The Story of The Welldiggers
The planet Earth is full of hidden waters. For many people, that water is the source of life and community. If you’re lucky, you find it in a bubbling spring. But not everyone is so lucky. Sometimes the water doesn’t just show up on its own. Sometimes it takes a Welldigger to tap into it.
Dan Rhiger and Todd Samusson are The Welldiggers. Back in the day, these two men used to wander the back roads of America hiring themselves out to anyone who needed a well dug. On occasion they dug a few pipeline trenches. In addition, they’ve been known to work on archaeological digs, unearthing pottery shards, arrowheads, prehistoric tools, old foundations, and whatnot. Once, when things were really tough, they even worked in a mine for a few weeks. But they were fired for having an incorrect attitude. Something about humming on the job.
Most of the time, however, The Welldiggers dug artesian wells. They spent long days digging holes deep into the ground in order to bring life-giving water to the surface. It was hard, backbreaking work – not to mention a strain on the psyche. After all, when the progress of your work is measured by a continually diminishing horizon, well – it takes a toll.
In order to combat this impact, Dan and Todd began making music while they were digging. There was something in the sound of a pick striking a patch of gravel or a shovel sliding into soil. The creak of the pulley as it drew a bucket load of dirt toward the surface. There was a beat and rhythm to the work. And the lack of any visual stimulation let the imagination roam far and wide. While they started out humming and moaning, they soon began crafting tunes. Down in the holes, those tunes took root and soon became full-grown songs.
People passing by would often see a pile of dirt next to a hole in the ground and get a little curious. Who wouldn’t? As they approached this intriguing excavation they were greeted by the sound of songs emanating from the earth. These songs sounded new yet familiar at the same time. Folks liked the music and would gather around the hole to give a serious listen.
By and by other folks would come around and soon there would be a crowd sitting in the dirt or standing around the hole. It came to pass that these crowds would follow the men around from job to job, just to hear those songs. When people would ask what all the fuss was about somebody would say, “The Welldiggers are at it again.”
This happened enough times that The Welldiggers figured they might as well come up out of the ground and start playing music on the surface of the Earth. “Best move we ever made,” says Dan. “Damn straight,” says Todd. They exchange a look that could only come from years of digging holes where the only direct daylight happens at high noon and the rest of the day is spent deep in a constant shadow.
They traded in their picks and shovels for guitars and these days The Welldiggers pretty much play all their music above ground. You don’t have to sit in the dirt to give a good listen. But every now and then – maybe once in a blue moon – they’ll wander off and dig a hole just so they can keep in touch with their roots.
Well digging is an existential way to live. It might not be for everybody. But if anyone out there is feeling the need to get in touch with the real fundamentals of life – well, you might want to give it a try for one – maybe two – years. In the meantime, go on and give The Welldiggers a good, hard listen. It’ll do you no harm.
Dan Rhiger was born and raised in Oregon. This upbringing has served him well. He’s dug a lot of wells and he’s written and sung a lot of songs. He figured he might as well play them for you.
Todd Samusson was raised an army brat and moved all over when he was growing up. He can’t leave well enough alone. At some point he started writing and singing songs just like Dan.