Back in the…Saddle?

Winter laughs at me. Out at the woodshed, I reach for my first log of the winter and am handed back a quarter inch splinter, driven deep into the tip of my pointer finger where it will live for the next 48 hours. I try to pee, only to discover that I forgot to empty the pee bucket in my hurry to leave. It has frozen solid and expanded to the top. Oops. I crouch in the yard to pee instead. Wanting, of course, to wash my hands, I attempt to turn the water on at the neighbor’s house.

The neighbors, remember, are in Florida for two more months and we are on the same well. Their water is off, therefore my water is off. I need my water on, therefore their house must be heated and the pump turned on, then the main line leading to my house opened, then my house heated in turn. All to wash my hands, which is particularly important seeing as how I didn’t even get to pee into the pee bucket and instead had to squat into the freezing rain (I’m not exaggerating).

But no, the water won’t move. I close the hot water heater tank at it’s base, check it, check it twice. No drainage there – good. I open the main line to my house and the main line to the neighbor’s house, check them twice too. All systems go. I relieve pressure at the faucets indoors. I open the stop line to the toilet. I check and double check that all the handles run parallel to the pipes in the crawl space. I flip the switch on the breaker for the pump, crawl back beneath their house, and try the small lever on the pressure tank once again.

A gush of water, then nothing. Flip the switch. Tinker around. Flip the switch back on, then the small lever again. Another gush. The tank goes up to 20 pounds of pressure, then drops. No water moves after that. Repeat process, still another gush, then nothing.

Call dad. He unscrews the water filter to check that it isn’t too clogged or frozen. It’s fine, but it never hurts to flush it out like we have. Dad can fix everything.

But Dad can’t fix the water. Even after an entire afternoon spent heating the crawl space with a space heater, then checking the main line (which we think is frozen), and trying and trying again. We cannot get it.

Call GG, the community member who knows about all things related to water systems in houses. “Try holding the small lever on the pressure tank at halfway to let the tank fill, then flip it all the way on.”

He says this as if in passing, as if it were as simple as “Good day Ms. Schlutz, how can I help you.” He says it that way and he is right…

At least at first. The tank fills. Water moves in the pipes above my head at rapid speed. Alas! The main water line is NOT frozen. I can taste victory. The pressure reaches 40, then stops. I check the spigots, the toilet, the shower; everything is running. I close most things, flush the toilet to get rid of the antifreeze, which creeps me out, then open the hot water spigot in the bathroom. Yes, there is movement – which means the hot water tank is filling as well.

Then…drip, drip, nothing.

All movement stops. I crawl back under the house and see that the tank is at 0 pressure. I repeat GG’s trick three more times, getting a little more each time. I run next door to my place, and get water running there as well. But again, the tank can’t hold pressure and the water is out within minutes.

I close all the spigots. Shut everything down. I am going to turn the water on with nothing open above groundd, no way for it to escape, hoping that the tank will be forced to fill and the pressure will build enough to hold.

Flip the small lever. A gush, then hold it halfway, then – no luck.

Email the neighbors. It has been two days. No water. No response. Finally, they write back with a phone number.

Call Florida, check, check, check, “Tried that, tried, that, and that too,” I say.

“Oh, you can get water over at the neighbor’s house. They’re gone for the winter too, but they leave an outside spigot running. You can haul the water in five gallon buckets up to the property. I’ll check it out when we return.”

I don’t press it, but ask my Mom instead, “If someone said that to you, would you get the impression that the water was not going to be fixed until, um, APRIL?”

Mom bites her lower lip, looks down at the quilt she is making. “I sure would,” she confesses.


I can do this. No water until April 1st. I can haul water. Shit in the woods. Pee in the bucket (once I can defrost it). Shower at my parent’s house. Rig up a rinsing system for the dishes that utilizes the grey water system in my house (water can get out, even though I can’t get any in).

I can do this. It’s been done before. Thoreau – remember that guy? Oh, and that quiet guy who lives up White Oak, yeah, the one that never gets out, he doesn’t even have electricity. I’ll be completely and totally focused on my writing. Screw it, I’ll work by candle light and fountain pen. Destroy the computer. Burn the phone when I run out of wood. Sell the car for emergency cash, which I’ll bury in a time capsule beneath the now useless water pressure tank. Barricade the driveway. Compose my own will. Communicate only with editors in New York who will be chomping at the bit for my story. Right, right, right.

Better get to work.



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