Witching for water
Jorgenson remembers searching for water with well-known dowser known as Uncle Ed.
An historical photograph of homesteaders dowsing for water in The Times prompted a Gothenburg resident to remember “Uncle Ed” who was famous for using the method to find water.
Lisa (Zarek) Jorgenson was 15 years old when, in the summer of 1989, Ed Ostermeyer of rural Crawford allowed her to hold onto a willow branch with him while he dowsed, or witched, for water in the yard near his ranch house.
“We started walking and the branch started shaking and pointed down,” Zarek said about the experience with her dad’s great uncle. “It was such a powerful force, I couldn’t move it.”
Jorgensen said she was shocked and couldn’t believe how the end of the stick bent toward the ground at a 90-degree angle.
“It stopped where the water was.”
Jorgenson, now a Gothenburg attorney, said Uncle Ed had a gift he shared with others.
Writer Moni Hourt authored an article about the Crawford water witcher that appeared in the Omaha World-Herald’s Magazine of the Midlands in 1984.
Ostermeyer has since died.
In the article, Ostermeyer said he had no idea why he was able to find water with small, forked green willow or chokecherry branches.
“When he arrives at a location, armed with sticks of several sizes, he starts crisscrossing an area where the landowner hopes to have a well,” Hourt writes.
With a smaller stick, he holds one end of the fork in each hand, the point pressed flat against his forehead.
“Within 25 feet of water, he says he can feel the stick begin to vibrate” and the closer he gets to the vein “the harder the point pulls toward the ground.”
At the exact location of underground water, Hourt describes the stick being pulled to the ground as if by a gigantic magnet.
In the article, Ostermeyer said he thought running water may create a type of magnetism that affected a positive or negative pole in his body. He said the sticks he holds don’t react to still water.
Jorgenson said Uncle Ed’s success rate in finding water was 95%.
“He was in such demand because water is so scarce in northwest Nebraska into Wyoming,” she said, noting that drilling for wells is expensive which made Uncle Ed’s services so valuable.
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