Utah is having a long, dry, and warm fall. The region is under a massive atmospheric high pressure which is typical in the Intermountain West in the fall but this one is lasting longer than usual. The big high pressure is the same that makes for down slope winds out of the Sierra Nevada mountains and fans California’s big fires. If those guys would only rake their forests.
It has been warm but I knew there was a reason I was procrastinating turning off the sprinklers. Two or three years ago I had to replace the sprinkler system’s stop and waste valve. It is four feet or so underground and is a miserable job. I was a little worried about dirt getting into the access tube. Sure enough, when I finally got to the chore this past Monday there seemed to be too much dirt in the tube and the valve wouldn’t turn. I tried to think of ways to get dirt out of the bottom of a four foot tube but was coming up short. I finally decided I would have to dig and try to clear things out. Just as narrow a hole as possible.
As I dug I realized my watch had fallen off. Probably while I was raking leaves and stuffing and stamping them as tight as possible into the trash bin. Daylight was fading. I contemplated dumping the trash bin back out and searching for my watch. But there is a reason I wear a very functional but inexpensive Timex Expedition. And it needed a new watchband soon. I could get a new band for $15 or a new watch with band for only about twice that. The trash would be picked up soon and I let the watch go.
When I got down to the valve after a couple hours of laboring with pry bar and shovel, there was no handle/stem to turn. Now it was dusk and I gave up for the night. Later that evening my neighbor Larry Harmon stopped by. I whined about my travails and he reminded me of England’s Do-It-Yourself plumbing store and said he thought they might have a replacement stem. The next day I took a cell phone picture of the hole over to England’s. They didn’t carry such a part and suggested I sift through my dirt pile to search for the original missing one. I did, twice. No luck. So I went over to the local Ace Hardware where I had purchased the defective replacement valve a couple of years ago. Maybe they would have the same valve and I could pirate a part off of a new one. The Ace had moved across the shopping mall and explained that since it was fall they had decided not to move their sprinkler inventory. Nada.
I went back to my small hole and started digging out a big one, one large enough to climb down into and take out the only two year old valve and replace it with a better one, this time from England’s. Enlarging the hole was taking the rest of short fall daylight, now closing out day two of turning off the sprinklers. Larry and another neighbor Dave came over while I dug. Dave and I compared notes on our abhorrence of loathsome Trump and of our disgust of the Republicans who enable him. It seemed to add needed energy and vigor to my digging. Then, Larry, just shy of 79 years old, grabbed a shovel and hopped down in the hole and cleared out enough more dirt to see the valve better. He doesn’t like Trump either. By flashlight he examined the errant, detestable piece of hardware and, like me, scratched his head over a way to make it work. Valves and Trump, alike.
I took Wednesday off. I was impressively, unbelievably sore and tired. Larry later said he wasn’t sore at all.
Thursday I dug for another hour to get around and under the valve enough to get it out and replace it. England’s had a much better valve and redesigned the access tube for me so that it screwed onto the valve in such a manner as to be almost water tight and certainly dirt tight. I let them gather up the rest of the parts I needed to replace based on the dug up parts I brought to show them in my plastic grocery bag. I was glad for their help. Parts came to nearly $180 but that, I told myself, was maybe a quarter of what a plumber would charge for the whole job. When I got home I realized they had replaced a threaded elbow with an un-threaded one. Trust, but verify. One advantage to being a homeowner for a long time is that you have spare parts laying about and I was able to adapt my existing threaded elbow to work again. I climbed down into the muddy hole yet again, replaced everything, and decided to let the system sit overnight so the primer, glue, Teflon tape and pipe dope could all do their thing.
Friday it all held. Ha.
I filled up the hole, repented to the gods my failure in righteous living and acknowledged the merit of their smack-down, as my sympathetic wife called it.
And then I wrote this blog. See gods? I’m writing already.