Monday, April 4, 2011



Over the winter we had two well diggers in the house —
Good guys. Gerry & Sam.
They arrived on a cold afternoon, no higher than 20 degrees.
They came because we had about reached the finish line
With any plumber who could untangle our
Plight with air in the water pipes
And it's a very simple plumbing system
We'd been living with this for a half year —
Air that clouds a drawn glass of water like smog.
So when in doubt, go to the ones who dig for water for
A living, they seem to have a sixth sense.

Out of their truck I watched both guys head
In different directions since we shovel a pathway
To two different doors. We always leave from one door
With an outside lock but like to come back in through
The other door without an exterior lock, because the door
With the lock is under a roof edge of ice that makes a slippery path.
We leave from that door and button up the place and
When we return one of us goes through that
Way to unlock the door we prefer. The preferred way
Has a wide and cleaner shoveled path.
The other way is a cowtrail punched down by snowshoes that
Ducks under a watch your head!

Gerry's a country boy, it's no surprise he was going the cowtrail way.
I don't know where Sam's from, he was coming on the wider path.
For a moment there both had stopped to negotiate with
One another which way to arrive. Maybe Sam won or
Gerry listened to his idea because they ended up
Coming on the wider path. All I know is when they
Left Sam went out the ice path way and Gerry almost
Insisted with his body he must go out the way he arrived.
Maybe he's superstitious?
I greeted them with a joke about two paths.
Our first meeting.

No, that's not true —
I met Gerry almost forty years ago
When he was a youngster and I was about 20
With a crew of his brother and cousins we worked together
For a fellow who liked sugaring and who seemed to like kids.
Think of us as a bunch of elves as we sprang off the tractor
With its pulled wagon holding the big sap tub and flew
To the trees with our gathering pails, snow past our knees
To fetch an overnight catch of maple sap from
Hundreds and hundreds of tapped buckets.
Squeals and shouts and always laughter we spent
Hours this way. Sometimes days in a row.
On a big red tractor plowing down a narrow back road of snow.
This was before tubing was used to collect maple sap.
Before tubing (and cellphones) people seemed to be
Outdoors more often, and they liked to work together,
And there was much more laughter.

So this was how we worked with Gerry & Sam at our house
And things got communicated one to the other
And the water problem was solved.
It was solved by listening carefully to our stories
While standing in the kitchen and getting warm
For a moment by the woodstove, before moving
(yes all of us) down into the bowels of our stone cellar.
By crawling over an obstacle course I won't even go into,
Just trust me. Into the cellar and listening to us and
Watching the water and how it was operating (or not)
In the pipes, and shouting up to someone
Through the floor boards in the kitchen to
Turn on or off the pump, while another went out
To the truck to grab additional tools since gaining
On a problem always calls for another tool or two.

From the stone cellar we all then headed
Outdoors to the well and its submersible pump.
Long ago I had built a stone cairn around the well casing,
Always kept it shoveled free of snow just for a problem like this —
Having to go down into the well in the middle of winter and
Yank everything up. That means about 100 feet of
Black pipe up and over all the snow banks,
See to the old pump (okay), now carefully look over
The pitless adapter and check valve.

The latter is the troublemaker —
Probably has been since the day
Or week it was installed, brand new and brass.
But brass now comes weaker without lead added to
Its mold and can crack in the handwork of even the best
Plumber or well digger and this is what this one had done.

It took two guys with a sixth sense for water to
Track it down. Searching from the kitchen to the
Cellar to inside the well 100 feet pitched into the earth.
And one guy is newly recovering from shoulder surgery
So the other guy came to help him lift.

photo © bob arnold