Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Well, it happened. We ran out of water. The night before last, right before bed, John called down from upstairs, "Uh oh." He walked down to the new house and turned on the pump which pulls water from the spring to the holding tank. It ran for about fifteen minutes. That's about 15 gallons. Right before leaving for Columbus at 5:00 a.m. the next morning, he ran it again and we got about 5 more gallons. Then he gave me a hug, grabbed his coffee and said, "Bye."

Our neighbors, Gary and Sharon, haul their own water in a 300 gallon tank in the back of their pick up. They make the fifteen minute drive to Quaker City and buy the water from the fire department. I'm not sure how many times a week they go. They are a family of six, so I think they go a lot. Our holding tank has a 2,500 gallon capacity--which would last John and me a long time. It hasn't rained here in weeks, though. The ground is dry and cracked more than an inch wide where the bare clay is exposed. The grass is brown and brittle. I knew that the neighbors would haul a load of water for me if I needed them to, but I really wanted to fill that tank to the brim. It doesn't look like rain anytime soon.

I spent the morning reading, writing, doing some work for work, and calling the Quaker City Fire Department, the Quaker City Municipal offices, the Quaker City Water Works, and the Old Washington Fire Department. Not one time did anyone answer their phone. Hmm.

So I finally called the neighbors just to ask if they knew whether the fire department would indeed deliver water if someone needed it. I got Wade on the line, who didn't know, but would be happy to drive down there with me to find out after his dad Gary got home from work at 2:00. We could take their truck just in case the answer was no. When Gary got home, he happened to have a local newspaper in it with an ad for water hauling service. "If this guy is too expensive, let me know and we'll find you the number of the lady we used to use."

Jeff Martin answered his phone right away. He could come by that evening after picking his son up from football practice. His truck held 2,700 gallons of water, so I could get a full fill-up. Hallelujah! I gave him directions, which didn't leave me feeling as confident, but I held the faith. He showed up in his big shiny truck around 7:00 p.m. We hit it off famously. Turns out he sells all natural beef from his farm in nearby Cumberland. "Why, I was just reading a book that made me think I needed to find a local source of meat," I said. (see previous post re: The Omnivore's Dilemma.) And he just built a hunting lodge for private lease hunting (lots of turkey there, guys!). He told me I needed some chickens and I replied that, "Yes! I want chickens and goats." He does some consulting on small farming operations and his son 4Hs on goats. (He used 4H as a verb). And of course he would be happy to haul water for me again. I got all this--precious water and valuable information--for $125.

My neighbor Sharon called me later that evening. "I just got home and heard you're one of us now," she said. "Yep," I answered proudly, "I ran out of water!" I'd been baptized, so to speak. But into what? The pains in the butt particular to country life? No. The playfulness in Sharon's voice and my small feeling of triumph indicated something opposite. My water problem had been an opportunity to settle into the ways of this place a little more deeply.

Problem solving out here leads you down weird paths. It is hard to get people on the phone, and not many businesses are listed in the phone book or on the Internet. You have to ask somebody in person and then the chain of events will begin to roll. The people you meet along the way are all wells of knowledge and information and, often, good humor. They are resourceful and entrepreneurial and generous and they really love it out here. Many of the families have lived here for generations and they know the history of the land and buildings and other people who live nearby. I'm not used to that. I'm used to more impersonal dealings with people who know about as much as I do about whatever.

I was happy last night. Happy to have water again, happy to know about a source of local, natural beef, happy to have met someone nice, happy to have kind neighbors across the road. It wasn't a full dunking, maybe, but my toes are definitely wet in the waters. When the next problem (opportunity) comes along, I'll be ready to dive in, head first.

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