Why A Farmer Should Never Say Never

Hoosier Perspectives

As always, I speak from the humble voice of experience!

Published on: December 16, 2013

I am a big man. The entrance to my crawlspace where the pressure tank for my submersible water pump is located is not a big opening.

And, I'm 60 years old. I'm not as nimble as I once was. So I had decided that I never intended to go under the house myself again. I would get someone else to do it.

Well, as luck would have it, a recent Tuesday was one of those days I should have stayed in bed. The Internet that I depend on for work quit working, I dropped a chain to the dog pen in the snow and couldn't find it and I fed the wrong sheep the wrong feed, all before 9 a.m. It would only get worse.

About 9:30 my wife announces that we had no water pressure.

I called my friend and construction guru that I keep on retainer – I give him all the pork his family can eat – but the one thing he doesn't know about (or even know anybody who does) is wells. So after checking breaker boxes, changing the water filter, all to no avail, I called the number of the last people we had used some 20 years ago for a minor problem.

Turns out the company was under new management, but still functioning. "George" would call me back, but I ought to know what the pressure gauge said first.

That meant going under the house, through that tiny crawl space. I didn't see a way out of it, so I did it – I slinked my way under, got over to the pump, and read the gauge: 40 pounds.

George calls. George couldn't get there until tomorrow, but if I unscrewed four screws, after turning the power off, of course, and stuck a pencil in the points on the switch, I might get water until tomorrow, George says.

I informed him I was a mechanical klutz, but he insisted I try. So under I went a second time. Sure enough, I couldn't get the screws off. I beat on the box but nothing happened. So I belly-crawled back up and out, picking up that musty smell.

At feeding time at the barn I noticed water where water shouldn't be, and it wasn't frozen. It was an old line that we didn't use, but that we couldn't shut off, either.

Looking at it just right, I saw where water bubbling up around the standpipe. No, surely this wasn't enough to pull the water volume to a trickle.

There was only one way to find out. Under the house a third time.

By now it was dark. I thought the shut-off to the barn was at the far end, where there is barely enough room to crawl, but plenty of old insulation and dust to give me a coughing fit. After squeezing down there, I realized the shut-off was at the pump. So I had to work my way back.

Finally, I shut off the water to the barn and presto, the pressure went up.

I came into the garage and vowed, "I'm never, ever, going under there again!"

My wife said softly, "Never say never."

"No, I never intended to do it again, and I did it three times today. I'm never doing it again," I insisted.

Fast forward to noon the next day. I'm in a rush to get to a meeting, heading out the door, when I realize my car keys aren't in my pocket. They're not on my dresser, my coat pocket, the car – they're not anywhere.

"Maybe they fell out when you were crawling under the house," my wife said.

Oh, surely not. Oh, please not!

So I went under a fourth time, coughing and choking. Sure enough, at the farthest possible distance from the opening, there they were!

"I told you never to say never, and by the way, I was right on where they were," my wife said.

Yes, dear. Never say never? I wouldn't advise it!