The Saga of Sal

there's something in the water

For over 30 years, I've been drinking and cooking with spring water from a little community well. The reason for this is that the Town of Winsted's water isn't very good - at least here downtown where I live. Maybe it's the aging pipes and such. Maybe it's over-chlorination. Regardless, if one wants to ruin a brew of quality ground coffee beans, just use city water.

Here's the "wellhead" of sorts. It runs 24/7 year-round, is always cold, crystal clear, and tasty. I use it for my daily coffee, occasional tea, general drinking, and cooking. My spider plants also drink and thrive on it.


Formally known as Cannavo Spring, it's in commemoration of Anthony Cannavo - local businessman, former mayor, and longtime community volunteer.


And as the sign warns, although untested...

springwater3.jpg the 30 years I've been drinking it, I've never gotten ill from it. Not. Even. Once.

There was one incident, though, where a foreign object somehow managed to find its way into the water I had collected! And that's where this otherwise innocuous story takes an interesting and humorous turn.

First, the procedure:

I use one gallon capacity, clear plastic jugs to collect the water. Three of 'em per run, to be exact. Pretty simple task: spin off the cap, fill the jugs, screw the cap back on. Easy peasy. I see folks at the wellhead rinsing their vessels first, but I consider that rather silly. It's just water, after all.


Upon returning home, I empty each gallon jug into two 64 ounce jugs. Yeah, I know, I know. It's just the way I do things. It frees up the gallon jugs to replenish things before running out entirely. There is a method to my madness. At least that's what I tell myself.

Anyway, back home from a water run one day and doing the transfer, I noticed what appeared to be a small stick or twig floating in the water in one of the gallon jugs. I thought this was rather odd, considering in all the years prior this had never happened. "No problem" I thought. "I'll just fish the twig out and carry on. It's only a twig, after all."

However, upon closer examination, that "twig" appeared to have four legs, a head, and a tail!

At first I thought my new friend was deceased, but with a gentle nudge from a finger, "Sal" - short for salamander, Sally, or Salvadore - wiggled a bit! So I carefully transferred the little critter to a temporary home. Here's Sal in that plastic dish:


I poked some air holes in the lid, dripped a bit of water into the dish, and covered it. "I'll deal with this later." Then it was back to water transfer mode.

To be honest with you, I don't recall whether I dumped the water from the jug in which I found Sal - or just used the water as normal. In retrospect, it's doubtful one, small salamander could profane the quality of the water - I mean, just how much can a salamander poo or pee? heh.

I wanted to return Sal to the wild. Sadly, some folks would have just dumped him down the sink drain or into a toilet for a quick flush, but that's not who I am. The little guy (or girl) innocently ended up in my spring water jug and deserved getting back "home" - wherever that might be.

Across the highway from the apartment is the Mad River and I thought that would be convenient - for me. However, "home" for Sal was up off Hurlbut Street - well away from downtown Winsted - and certainly more appropriate for The Homecoming.

Ultimately, I chose a location a bit more appropriate than the wellhead. I drove up to Carey Avenue and found a nice, small, secluded vernal pool away from the road that looked perfect - at least to this silly human. I put him on a leaf that was floating on the water. Then he squiggled off the leaf into the water and swam away to do whatever it is salamanders do.

Here's Sal immediately after the grand ceremonial release and return to the wild:


I bid Sal farewell, hiked back to the car, and drove off. And smiled.


While writing this website entry up and posting Sal's pictures, I was quite surprised to note the date/time stamps on the photo files: October 16, 2011! I've been sitting on these photos and this storyline for over 10 years, for goodness sake! Talk about procrastination. Better late than never, eh?

For the curious, check out this Massachusetts Audubon Society website page: About Salamanders.