Most Saturday mornings during the past seven months you could find me in the plumbing aisle at Lowe’s. It wasn’t a ritual. It was a necessity…for I am the proud owner of a pet water leak. It’s high maintenance and very demanding…preferring to play in the scorching sun or the freezing rain. My leak is really good at tag, but its’ best game is hide and seek.
I have over a mile and a half of water line. I’ve managed to find all of my leak’s hiding places…so far. I’d like to think it’s a gift, but it’s really dumb luck. I try to keep a supply of pvc pipe and fittings and blue mystery glue and if I can’t fix it myself, I have a short list of friends that I turn to for reinforcements. It used to be a long list.
My leak played long and hard this summer. The lower field of my farm looked like the green in Caddyshack, holes from one end to the other. I marked them with colored flags and the pasture took on a jaunty festive feel.
I finally found the last leak and thought I’d caught a break…until yesterday. I have a water meter at my front gate. I can turn the water on and off for the entire farm at that meter. Once in a while I check it just to make sure the little arrow showing water consumption isn’t moving. I was driving out of the gate when the hair stood up on the back of my neck like a divining rod and I decided to check the meter. The little arrow was spinning merrily along and I wasn’t in my house using any water. Great…just great.
After a summer of hide and seek with my darling little leak, I had “consulted” with one of my plumbing pals and he decided to install a series of shut-off valves to make it easier to pinpoint any leaks. I could just shut off the lines, field by field, and by process of elimination, determine the likely area of the leak. He put the valves in and put pipes over them with lids so I could reach down to turn the valves on or off. We buried in the holes. The system was foolproof.
Enter the fool.
Yesterday I stood watching the little arrow spinning on the meter and smugly shook my head…gotcha! I strode confidently across the field to the pipe that covers the first shut-off valve. Piece of cake. Ahahahahahahaha…right.
I took the lid off of the pipe covering the valve and reached down inside to shut it off. My arm was about six inches too short. I couldn’t reach it. What??? I pulled that arm out and tried the other arm…like that would make a difference. Nope. O M G. If I wanted to get to the valve I was going to have to dig up the pipe…again. I trudged up the hill to the barn where I keep my shovel collection. About half way through the field I passed Dill…one of my pot-bellied pig rescues. Her sister Boo was right behind her. They had tunneled out of their enclosure again and they were on a mission. They were the last of a family of four I had named after characters in To Kill A Mockingbird. Atticus and Scout had both been on the losing end of a run in with some coyotes a couple of years before.
The pigs came to me after someone let them loose outside the Parthenon in downtown Nashville. Baby pot-bellied pigs are adorable. We built them an enclosure with a lovely little cottage, complete with a tin roof and a front porch. They grew into very large pigs with an unexplained hostility toward men. I had nothing to do with that. It was an instinct.
Shortly after I took them in I got a call about another piglet named Hermie. None of the other pigs at the rescue farm liked him. “Of course I’ll take him…what’s one more?”
Turned out my Mockingpiglets were particular about other pigs too. They hated Hermie and wouldn’t let him into their enclave. He had to have his own hut. He chose to sleep on my porch with the dogs most of the time.
Hermie ate everything in sight…dog food, pig food, cat food, horse feed, shoes, plants, matchbox cars…there wasn’t anything off limits for his palate. He grew truly as fat as a pig.
One really hot summer day I looked out and saw Hermie’s feet sticking out of his little hut. I banged the screen door a few times because that usually brought him waddling. He didn’t budge. Uh oh. Hermie had eaten his last shoe.
I went over to the hut. He had blown up in the heat and was wedged inside. I pulled on his legs. There was no way I could pull him out. He was stuck in it and to it. Ugh.
I called my daughter outside to help me. “What if I get the Bobcat and shake him out?” She thought it sounded like a plan…she was twelve. What happened next is one of the reasons she eventually ended up in therapy.
When I moved to my farm I had to learn how to handle a lot of heavy equipment, including a skidloader called a Bobcat. They are very powerful machines and kind of difficult to maneuver. If you swing the bucket wrong you can knock down a shed with it…don’t ask me how I know.
A graduate of the School of Hard Knockdowns, I pride myself on my Bobcat handling skills. I started it up and drove over to Hermie’s shed. My plan was to pick the edge of it up with the front bucket and “bounce” it up and down with the controls until Hermie popped out.
Three tries later…nothing. He was stuck like he had been glued to the floor.
I pushed the hut out into the field where I thought I could get a better angle. Did I mention that we live on a hill?
I lifted the hut up a little too much and it started to roll down the hill, gaining speed as it went…hut pig, hut pig, hut pig, hut pig…and then, eureka…Hermie popped out. The hut rolled to a stop against a tree.
I triumphantly instructed my daughter to use the handle of a rake to help guide poor Hermie’s body into the bucket of the Bobcat. He was about half way in and I started to lift him up. He was…gooey. He slipped off the edge of the bucket and fell on top of my child. She was knocked to the ground by this very squishy, very dead pig.
“Get him off me! Get him off me!” She was hollering so I knew she was okay. I jumped out of the Bobcat, laughing…hey, you would have too…and managed to drag him off of her. She stormed off into the house. She says it took a week to get the smell out of her hair. I think she was exaggerating.
Yesterday as the two surviving pigs and I passed each other on the hill I thought about how resourceful I’d become since moving from New York City to this farm in the middle of nowhere. My farm and I came to an agreement a long time ago…I don’t own the land…it owns me.
I knew I’d get the pipe glitch sorted out and I figured I’d operate better if fueled by some gingerbread marshmallows so I headed to the house before going to get the shovel to start digging.
I went into the house, and there, leaning against the kitchen wall, was the answer to my problem. One time when my kids and I were in line at the register in Lowe’s my son pointed out a display of those grabber reachers…you know the ones I mean…with a picture of an old lady trying to reach something in the cupboard. He put his hand on my shoulder, assuring me that if I didn’t need it now, it wouldn’t be long before I did. He got me one for Christmas that year. Very funny. I caught him using it himself a few times…reaching for his soda when he was playing video games.
Well, ha ha…what started out as an aid for my antiquity turned out to fit perfectly down the valve shut-off pipe. I turned the water off and determined that the leak is somewhere past my house. It can stay there for the rest of the winter until the ground gets softer and I find some new plumbing interns.
The water leak is benched for now. Day three hundred and fifty…ovah.
I took Sunday off…had breakfast with my daughter…watched The Parent Trap…the good one with Hayley Mills playing the twins…talked to my son in Los Angeles…uneventful but so…nice…
I did have to jiggle the handle on my toilet all day…uh oh….
Day three hundred and fifty and three hundred and forty nine…done…insert big smile here.