Friday, July 06, 2007

Plumb out of luck

By Kevin Duling

I know many city dwellers who marvel at my 1917 farmhouse and tell me their ideas on how they would restore and add to it. My house has a water tower next to it. Thirty-five feet above the ground encased in a large wood structure sits a redwood tub capable of holding 3,000 gallons of water.

Before the well went in, a one mile stretch of pipe with a gas pump was used to fill this giant tub, giving the entire house pressurized running water — no doubt the cat’s meow back in the day. Today, the spoiled brat now occupying the house is having a little trouble with the plumbing.
In the world of plumbing there are three countries: the country of drainage, the country of water supply, and lastly, the country of “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Most of the plumbing in my house falls into the latter.

Plumbing needs a prerequisite of only a second grade education. Bring water in through one pipe, take water out through another. I’m not sure what they taught second graders in 1917, but they were much more advanced than today.

For example, I was under the house a while ago trying to determine which pipe was hot water and which one was cold in order to stop a leak in the shower. I discovered there were no pipes at all in the area underneath the bathroom. I suppose the rattlesnake and the black widow may have impacted my rate of travel while on my belly under the house, but I had many minutes of surveillance time while I was stuck under the furnace duct.

I did finally find one pipe under the house in the area I hoped was under the bathroom. It was routed through a concrete wall, and then angled down into the ground with the end of it unknown to mankind. I decided I would leave it alone.

You are probably asking, “Why were you under the house trying to fix a leak in the shower?” Keep in mind most of my house falls into the “You’ve got to be kidding me” country of plumbing. Like I said, those weren’t your average second-graders back in 1917.

I am amazed how a five-minute shower leak can take two full weeks of time, plus $400. I’m a little mad about the $400 because the total necessary for the repair was 25 cents. The most discouraging thing was the plumbing store salesman noting, “That’s interesting, I’ve never seen one like this. Did you purchase this overseas?”

Having graduated from a four-year college, I figured I could outdo a second-grader and make this shower leak project easy if it happens again. Access shouldn’t be a problem next time, considering all I have to do is go into the closet and remove the 4x8 sheet of plywood. I’ve also included an escape hatch I can open from under the house in case I’m pursued by a rattlesnake or a big black spider.

I sometimes day dream of having all my plumbing updated with plastic pipes and modern faucets, but my city-dweller friends all tell me to leave this house in its rustic state. They say modern improvements would only dampen their enthusiasm of visiting the ranch. For some reason these friends never seem to call back when I ask for help on these rustic projects.
Apparently, when I was underneath my house stuck under the furnace duct, I must have damaged it, as cold air is flooding through my vent. I can’t imagine furnace projects being any tougher then plumbing. I’m sure it’s at the second grade level too. The air just goes in one hole and out another, right?

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. Any comments would be greatly appreciated at

© Copyright 2007 by Kevin Duling

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree!!! You need to live the life style of having a old house before saying "Keep it's natural state." Once you've lived in a older house... you'll realized new is the only way to go. This needs to be in the paper! All the farmers would agree on this one! Good work.

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