Before anyone questions why I’d do another post about the waterline, just imagine yourself for a moment living your entire life, except for brief interruptions, without indoor plumbing from the age of nine until you were in your thirties.
Imagine growing up washing dishes in an ice cold, snow-fed creek, or hauling bucket after bucket of water from that same creek to wash clothes and bodies. Or simply washing in the creek while your extremities and your brain goes numb. Or how about using an outhouse, a hole in the ground, or a bucket to do your business–in the dead of winter with a minus thirty degree windchill blowing?
Have you imagined it? Now perhaps you are ready to take the trip with me to put the plugs back in the waterline while my dad goes to start the finicky pump. Perhaps you can now feel our concern about the pump quitting and facing the old spectre of NO INDOOR RUNNING WATER.
Believe me, it’s bad enough running out of daylight and seeing sunset color beginning to show at 1:30 pm (see opening image) without worrying about running out of water, too.
With the colder days, Katya, my cat, doesn’t care to go for walks with me as much as she does in the summer. I called her, saying the alluring words: “You want to go for a walk, Katya?” but she refused to budge from her warm spot upstairs near the chimney.
Of course, when I got halfway along the trail she had second thoughts and I heard her meowing at mega-decibels, telling me to wait up. She couldn’t stand the thought of being left out of a walk, after all.
From the trail I could see her clamber over the back of my floathouse and then tightrope walk across a thick mooring line to get to the beach. She was too quick for me to get a picture–and once she gets in the woods, her brindle-calico coloring gives her perfect camouflage. (See the above picture–can you pick her out?)
My dad’s sudden arrival made her jump–apparently she thought he was a bear in his all black attire, but once he called to her she settled down. He’s been known to hand out cat treats. I let him get ahead of me on the trail while Katya and I screwed the plugs back in. Well, I screwed them in, but she provided good moral support, headbutting me and rubbing against my legs.
I caught up with my dad again just before the dam as he passed the towering rootwad of a massive, fallen cedar tree.
My dad took the plugs out of the gallon-sized ketchup jug (duct taped to patch a hole in it) we keep stored in the root hollow of a hemlock tree, with the gas jug and ax (for chopping holes in the iced over dam when it freezes).
Once the plugs were in the line and in the pump, he primed the pump by filling its reservoir with water, using the ketchup jug as a pitcher. Once it was filled he tried starting it, but again it balked, even with a shot of ether.
I grew up hearing my dad, Gary, saying: “Where there’s a Gary, there’s a way.” Interestingly enough, it almost always turned out to be true, as it did in this instance, and by working the choke, he finally got it to run.
We would have another week’s worth of indoor running water!
Katya doesn’t like the noise of the pump so, while my dad waits near the dam, she and I head down to the beach and gaze across at where the sun is shining. Already, near the forest, the day is dark with long shadows.
I love to watch how alert Katya is, quivering at the cries of eagles, her ears flickering in all directions. She suddenly sits up very straight on a log, her eyes pinpointing a mink scurrying far across the beach. She refuses to go out in the middle of the beach to chase it, too wise in the ways of hungry eagles to be as blithely reckless as the mink.
Instead she stays close to me, rolling luxuriously on the gravel beach, in between more headbutting and rubbing. High praise for taking her on a walk.
After the pump has run its allotted time, we pull the plugs and drain the line. I have to level it in all the usual places where the vibration of the water rushing through the line always knocks it down.
On the way home I took a detour over to the picnic beach, where for many years we’ve had family get togethers in the summer, before my mom’s arthritis made it too hard for her to get there. It’s a bit sad and a bit abandoned now, the table and benches, and step-rounds set in the hillside, all rotting in the damp climate.
There’s a rare, sandy beach below the picnic table area that Katya loves to roll on, but she suddenly abandons me when I approach it.
I realize why when I get there. Right in front of me is a fresh wolf print.
I don’t blame Katya for taking off. I only hope that our deer neighbor has likewise found some place to hide.
I head back for home, calling Katya, since I don’t like the idea of her in the woods when a wolf is around, though I’m sure she has sense enough to climb a tree if she gets stalked. She follows me discreetly, peering out from behind trees and darting to the next one–and probably wondering why I’m not doing the same thing.
When we get safely home I luxuriate in turning on the faucet and watching the water run, after a few gurgles and spurts as the air gets pushed out of the line. What luxury! I never get over the thrill of the very idea of indoor running water. Of course, I still heat my water on the stove for dishes and showers–in fact, I don’t have running water to my shower. I still have the old bush standby from my childhood–the bucket shower.
I remember being on a school fieldtrip on the ferry one time when we met a young man from Los Angeles. He wanted to hear all about our experiences of growing up in the bush. But when we mentioned that we used bucket showers he drew the line and insisted we were pulling his leg. We had to drag a teacher over to convince him that it was the truth.
Funny to think I’m still using one. A shower, yes, a bucket shower, used to be the first thing a host or hostess would offer someone who had just come in from a week long hunting trip. In fact, they still do.
I had a South African pen pal for several years, and she finally managed to pay me a visit. She was fascinated with the way we lived, but the thing that she loved most was the bucket shower. This was in the winter and I had a little add on shower stll, completely open to the elements on my old, small floathouse. She insisted that she couldn’t leave without first trying that bucket shower and she was thrilled when I filled it with hot water and hung it on hooks for her use, the hot water steaming the chill air.
And if you come visit, I promise to let you use my bucket shower, too.