Our lives revolve around the waterline during the winter months. When it freezes, we run the water out of the tank by opening our faucets, and as soon as it thaws I put the plugs back in the line and we re-fill the tank. It's a great system for living out here in the wilderness--in the nearby village once their line freezes chances are it will stay frozen until the warm winter months.
After a recent freeze I went over to the dam where the pump sits and went about the business of running it to fill our holding tank so we could wash dishes, flush toilets without having to haul buckets of saltwater, and do laundry again. I noticed when I got there that we'd had a close call. A hemlock tree had been uprooted in one of our many violent storms and crashed down within yards of the dam and pump.
I filled the pump's tank with gas, checked the oil, squirted a little ether into it as a bribe for good behavior, switched on the engine and choke, and pulled on the recoil. I typically have to crank on the stubborn thing for several pulls, pretend to give up so the smug piece of metal thinks it's better than me, then go at it again when it will usually condescend to run. This time it decided to really let me know who was boss. On the third pull the recoil came off in my hand.
I didn't have any tools with me to fix it--besides, this was a job for my dad, who has a strange and loving communion with engines of all kinds. I, on the other hand, have found that engines have a strange and hate-filled dislike of me. I've long since given up trying to reason with them, woo them, or trying to wheedle my way into their good graces.
My dad took the skiff and tools over when the tide came in and went to commune with the pump. For once, an engine decided to play coy with him. He had to bring part of the pump back to the house and work on it for the rest of the day. In the morning he and I trekked through the woods to the dam (I acted as guide, pointing out highlights--like the unreal number of trees that had come down in this winter's storm season).
He put the pump back together, added some stabilizer to the fuel to help it run more smoothly, and even re-built the box lid that protects it from the elements. Hmm, I thought. Maybe it was all this loving kindness he lavished on inanimate hunks of obstinate machinery that made them suck up to him the way they do. Yep. The pump started up immediately and purred along in the most sickeningly demure way, as if it was always that well-behaved. As. If.
All seemed well, until way short of the usual amount of time a tank of water lasts us, our faucets went dry. There had to be a leak in the line somewhere. After searching for a while, I finally found it. Naturally, it was at the worst possible place. I had to climb through a wilderness of slimy, dead branches littering the beach to where the line followed the rocks to our floathouses.
The leak was an old one that I'd repaired last year. It wears against the rocks, so it's no surprising that it needed some more first aid a year later. My dad outfitted me with some patches of adhesive cloth, black electrical tape, and paper towels. I contributed the pocket knife.
Since the waterline is not a machine, it cooperated with a willing spirit that endeared it to me, and in no time at all I had a new patch on the leak and we were back in business. Running water and flush toilets...you really know you're living the good life when you have both of those.
P.S. Check out my column at Capital City Weekly, www.capitalcityweekly.com, tomorrow, Wednesday the 1st, to catch a wilderness kid's view of neighbors. Be advised. It may be frightening to some.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)