Everything you do has some effect, some impact. –Dalai Lama
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Often, when something breaks down, it’s either on a weekend, a holiday, or in the dead of winter. But, when Big Blue went out, we caught a break. It wasn’t a weekend; the New Year was still several days away, and the weather, despite a dusting of snow, was mild.
Inside the well house, inside our outbuilding, is Big Blue. Big Blue is a 60-gallon pressure tank that’s made of steel, and gives our water its steady flow as it’s drawn from the well 58-feet beneath the soil. For several weeks, we’d noticed a change in the system. The water wasn’t flowing steady, and was pulsing from the taps. Every time we’d run the water, we heard whoosh-woooosh, whoosh-woooosh! The sound was as annoying as a dripping faucet. We thought air might be trapped in the line because of a swarm of power spikes, but that was only a coincidence.
It was the morning of December 29 that Chris and I went to the outbuilding to put some things away. The snow came and went. The sky cleared, and the air was a crisp twenty-nine degrees. Our footsteps across the snow sounded as if we were walking on Corn Flakes. As soon as we opened the door to the outbuilding, we heard the click-shh, click-shh. It didn’t sound good. The system was clicking off and on, and starving for water. In the well house, we checked the pressure gauge. It climbed to forty, and then fell to twenty. It should have read sixty. Big Blue was giving out. We shut down the system, and made the necessary call.
When we bought our home in 1997, we were skeptical of its well and septic system. Our realtor assured us that the builder spared no expense. A couple of phone calls confirmed this. Still, I couldn’t help recalling the horror stories told to me of wells running dry, and septic backups. Even my mother said, “Don’t buy a home with a well or septic system.” She considered them primitive. To my mother, they were a poor reminder of her bucolic childhood.
Our love of the place, however, overcame our skepticism. No longer would our water be chemically treated. No longer would it flow through lead pipes. No longer would the toilets flush sewage into rivers. We would lessen our imprint on this planet, if only slightly, but it was a start. Now seventeen years later, we look back with no regrets, and look to the future with hope.
With the system shut off, there would be no water. We talked to Steve. He and his wife, Betty, owned and operated a well business. Having been told our situation they knew what needed to be done. Steve arrived at our place at 3:00 p.m., and got right to work. Before he could remove Big Blue, it first had to be drained. Steve installed a faucet to the PVC pipe, and attached a garden hose to let it drain. It wasn’t pretty. Years of buildup had settled in the belly of Big Blue, minerals such as calcium and magnesium that cause hard water, but mostly it was iron and rust. This is typical of wells, and is usually harmless. Some wells are worse than others for the sediments they collect. Fortunately, ours, we were told, isn’t one of them. Yet, we never would have guessed from the disgusting orange-brown sludge (that stunk to high Heaven) that drained from the hose. When empty, a few turns of a wrench, and Big Blue was lifted and carried out with a hand truck.
Steve wheeled from his van a new metal tank, but it was too tall for the housing. He called Betty who said she’d bring another one right away. Meanwhile, the three of us chatted. We talked about well systems, rural living, and weather. Steve said that he and Betty, whom we had yet to meet, preferred the conveniences of suburbia living to that of a rural one.
Betty (Bless her heart) arrived forty-five minutes later with the new tank, a 90-gallon fiberglass tank. It was forty gallons larger than Big Blue, and its beige color inspired the name Blondie. Blondie fit inside the housing, but barely, with only a few inches to spare at the top. The hookup was a success. With a flip of a switch, water drew from the well. The sound was music to our ears; a steady consistent sound as it should be. It would be good to have cold, clear, sweet water flowing from the taps again.
It had been a long day. Not the kind of day we expected. And while we didn’t get out on the trails as we‘d planned, it wasn’t a complete loss. As the sun was going down, the skies over Huckleberry Mountain ignited like a flame. The sunset was so beautiful that it caused us to pause. No one said a word. We just stared at the sky, immersed in its brilliance. Colors I didn’t think possible transpired. And all I could think is how marvelous it was.
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