It all started with a cup of coffee. Here in the wilds of Brown County, it’s mid-winter, and the weather has been on the colder side of miserable. When it’s below zero with ice and snow shin-deep, it’s that cup of coffee that keeps my wife fueled, thawed and happy. And on this particular day I turned on the kitchen faucet to make a pot, and it said “nothin doin’!” No water.
Now, for city dwellers, no water often means a call to the water company. No such luck for me. No water in winter means only one thing – the well pump is frozen. And that leads to no coffee, which leads to frosty looks from my beloved. It’s a real back woods emergency.
Now, I know from experience I need to get some heat down to the pump, which is about 500 feet from the house, down the hill by the pond. Our pump is down there in a big pipe jutting up from the ground with a concrete cap, right next to our neighbors pump. So, after bundling up in enough winter gear to explore the polar ice cap, I waddled down to see how bad it was. Upon peeling back the lid, sure enough, we had ice bergs.
Now you need to understand, this pump is submerged under six feet of water in a pipe about 3 feet across. There’s no way you can just point a torch or a lighter at it and melt anything. You need big heat. The tool for the job is the Heat-zilla 2000. A 30,000 btu propane blast furnace. It’s a proper piece of heavy equipment and there’s no way I’m carrying it down the hill to the pond through the snow. No sir. I need a tractor and other implements of destruction, and this is where things get interesting.
You see, I pulled the heater out of the shed and found the cold had cracked the propane O-rings, so I had to get over to Bear Hardware before they closed and grab a couple new ones.
But before I did that, I had to plow the driveway so I didn’t skid down the icy hill and end up in the pond… so that means starting up the John Deere. Except the John Deere had a flat tire and a dead battery. So I go went to start the generator in order to fire up the air compressor and the jump box… and it wouldn’t start. That means rummaging for the can of starting fluid, which ended up being exactly where I left it last time. In short order, the generator was generating, air compressor compressing, tires filling, battery box jumping, and tractor tractoring. Whew, Success! Now, to plow the driveway and off to Bear’s for that O-ring.
Of course, this trip includes standing around the cash register for a bit, eating free popcorn and talking with the fellas about how blasted cold it is. Yes, cold enough to freeze up my well pump. Again.
After a successful hardware trip, I was back with an O-ring, and tractored the heater, generator, and propane tank down to the pump. The heater was set up with some homemade duct work fashioned from an old BBQ grill scavenged from the junk pile beside the barn… I’m guessing that city folks may not have a junk pile, or a barn… which may give further proof to either how ill prepared they are for country living, or how smart they are to have a place in town where they get coffee at the touch of a button. Do not even say the word “Starbucks” to me right now, ok?
At any rate, I focused the fury of the blast furnace down into the pipe for a good hour. Things were looking very melty, but a call up to Dear Wife confirmed, no water. No coffee. Nothin’. Fortunately for me I have a secret weapon on speed dial. My neighbor, who is not only an expert plumber, but he’s the guy that installed the pump to begin with. I hesitantly called him and said “Billy, my pump’s frozen again. I may need you”. And being the good guy that he is, he dropped everything to come and help me puzzle it out.
Billy confirmed that, in fact, I had all of the equipment a country guy could hope for in this situation. The John Deere, the generator, propane tank, Heat-Zilla 2000, custom BBQ ductwork… and it was all pointed at my neighbors pump. Yes sir, I’d been thawing the wrong one for nearly two hours. It was so hot in fact, that I’m sure my neighbor could have brewed coffee right from the tap had he tried it. So after redirecting my efforts on the proper target for a time, water was restored. Although my pride was still a little frozen. My beloved finally got her cup of hot coffee, and life in the woods was tranquil once again.
Lesson learned, but to tell you the truth, next time I may leave the heavy equipment in the barn and just take her to town to get a coffee from the Chocolate Moose. Maybe even check in to the Inn for a few days of cable TV and hot running water. I’m still country if I stay in Brown County, right?