This Monday earned its reputation as being the day that killed the weekend. My wife woke me up and announced, “we have a problem.” Then she took me to the front yard and pointed: there were two large bubbles of lifted sod from which water was flowing. My wife had earlier noticed, after she’d been up for awhile, that suddenly the water pressure in the kitchen and bathroom had dropped significantly. She thought that was odd and initially wondered if the truck noises she heard outside indicated that the water company or the city were doing some sort of maintenance on the pipes.

Instead, it turned out to be much more localized. I poked at the mounds in my yard: they were squishy and very soggy. After announcing that I thought this was odd, my wife suggested I do something about it. So I shut off the water to the house and then went inside to put on my clothes and to get to work trying to figure out exactly what had gone wrong. Meanwhile, my wife left for the day to go to a teacher training on the other side of town. She’d be gone until three.

I got my shovel and started digging where the largest of the two water filled mounds had been located. The ground was very soft and easy to dig. After I’d dug some distance, I started reaching in and trying to see if I could find some sort of path from which the water might have been flowing. The hole I was digging was filled to the level of the grass with water.

So, I dug some, felt around some, and then dug some more. Based on the spot where the mound was located, my guess was that it was the main water line into the house that had sprung a leak.

I turned the water on briefly a couple of times to see where it was flowing from, and after the second time, I was finally able to locate the source of the break: my hole by then was about three feet deep and filled with water. Upon feeling around down in the muddy murk I was finally able to feel the PVC pipe of our main water line and I could also feel the break in the pipe.

My next chore, then was to empty the hole of water. This took a surprisingly long time. About half way down I finally stopped, rinsed myself off with water from my swimming pool that I scooped out into a bowl, and then went and had my breakfast and took my various medications, mostly allergy and asthma related.

Then it was back to work. I finally managed to scoop the water out and clear the pipe so I could see the break. At that point, I could see the cause of the break, too—though that wasn’t a big surprise. I have an enormous elm tree in my front yard; it’s trunk is about two and a half feet in diameter and its roots slither through my yard. I’d had experience with them before on those times I’d had to repair sprinkler lines.

So, I got out my reciprocating saw and tried sawing through the first of many roots; it was very slow going, largely because the blade was old and not really made for cutting through roots. So it was time for my first trip to Home Depot.

I found a nine inch blade designed for pruning and brought it home. It made much quicker work of that root, and several others after that. Most of these roots were about two inches in diameter. But when I got down to where the pipe was, as I moved more dirt away, I discovered that the root that had caused the break was about six inches in diameter and had partially wrapped itself around the pipe.

By then, my youngest daughter had wanted to be transported to a friend’s house, while my middle daughter had already planned to go to the water park that day with a couple of friends, so I had to let her drive me to my wife’s place of training so I could snag the van she had taken.

Back home and alone, I decided another trip to Home Depot was necessary and I secured a twelve inch blade, also designed for pruning. It still took the better part of twenty minutes sawing through two ends of the root while avoiding the pipe.

Success was mine however and I was able to move that chunk of root out of the way and clear the pipe.

By then it was time for lunch.

After lunch, it was back to work: more digging, more root cutting until at last it was time to try to fix the break in the pipe. Another trip to Home Depot to get one inch couplers and that smelly blue plastic PVC cement.

My first thought was to simply trim the break out a bit and try popping a coupler to connect the two ends. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. I tried several different methods, cutting back on the pipe. The problem was that the two ends were no longer on the same level; the root had pushed them so that they were nearly an inch off, one lower than the other.

By then, it was time to go pick up my wife from her training. Unfortunately, she had gotten done a bit early and tried to call me. Now, since I was working in mud and dirt, I had left my cellphone in the house; I wasn’t going to risk destroying it. Unfortunately, this meant my wife couldn’t get a hold of me and she decided that I must have forgotten and so she started walking. Thankfully when I got to where the training was and I discovered she wasn’t there, they let me call her cellphone from one of their phones and I found out what had happened. She had not gotten far and so I was able to pick her up.

And back home again, I continued the saga until at last I managed to get the pipe sealed. Or so I thought. When I pressurized it after letting the glue dry, it held only for about two minutes before releasing rather spectacularly. So, I went back to work; the second time I made certain that I had a better connection. When that was done, I had supper, made a trip to open our church facilities so that the Cub Scouts could use it. By then, over an hour had gone by and I was certain that the glue was dry.

When I pressurized the line, it held without problem. I happily went inside to turn the water in the kitchen sink.

Nothing came out.

I tried other faucets. No joy.

I tried turning the water to the house on and off repeatedly. Still nothing. But then the sprinklers came on and worked fine. I shut them off.

By then, my neighbor across the street wandered over and I told him our problem. He wondered if the pressure valve might have gotten clogged with some dirt. So, he showed me the bolt to loosen to open that up wider so it could clear itself of dirt and voila! Water flowed into my house.

By then it was about 8:00 and the sun was set and it was getting dark. I decided to cover the hole in my yard with boards and finish filling it on Tuesday. And then I went and took a shower and brushed my teeth for the first time that day.

And I still had an essay to do for an online news magazine that was due by 9 AM Eastern time on Tuesday, not to mention my weekly column for for the newspaper I write for. Somehow I got both things done by about 10:00 PM.

Tired. You bet. No wonder the comic strip cat Garfield hates Mondays.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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