Oh well

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

The most famous song of the Mormon pioneers ends with the stirring proclamation, “All is well. All is well.”

Well, maybe so.

“You can’t fight city hall,” so the saying goes. But I did.

I love my town, Provo Utah, but I also strongly believe the government should not roll over people; especially if what they (the government) want to do is illegal. This was. The state law prescribes that no city can annex land unless a majority of the land owners in the proposed area request it.

Our family and others lived in the county fairly close to the city boundaries. Most of us wanted to keep our open spaces and rural atmosphere. The city saw us as potential property tax income. They tried to persuade or pressure us to request annexation. In the case of our home, the pressure got uncomfortably personal. We could either join the city, or forego drinking, washing, and going to the bathroom. That is they would shut off the culinary water to our house.

Draping myself in an imaginary American revolutionary flag proclaiming “Don’t Tread on Me,” and whistling “Yankee Doodle,” I called the state house in Salt Lake City. The state hydrologist agreed with my position, and issued me a permit to drill a well. A well permit in our arid state is like having squatter’s rights on Sutter’s Mill stream where the California gold rush began.

However drilling a well is equivalent to building Sutter’s Mill. Every foot down costs a week’s worth of groceries. But I had set my flinty face against tyranny, or maybe I was just pig headed. Whatever, I hired a driller, and down went his bit, cachunk, cachunk, cachunk. Each cachunk was a twenty dollar bill flying out of my wallet. Ninety percent of American land has water within fifty feet down. We are part of the lucky ten percent, 100 feet, cachunk 200 feet cachunk, cachunk, 300 feet, I’m thinking, “Will we have to suck water from the Yangtze River in China?” At 305 feet a tiny dribble, 325 feet a modest underground seep. I decided to go with that. “And so we lived happily ever after…”

Except that paraphrasing the old English proverb, “There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip;” likewise much slippage twixt the well and the faucet.

Driving a six inch casing pipe into the ground is just the beginning of the fun especially if you are a naive do it yourselfer like me always looking for new thrills. After the well is dug, you have to lower a pump and connecting steel pipe down to the bottom of the well. This is done by the well drilling company, but of course for a price. I said, “I can do that. What could go wrong?” Don’t ask. You may find out.

I bought three long pipes from a scrap yard, and bolted them into a tripod tepee over the well pipe. I hooked a hand powered pulling tool called a “come along” to the top. I screwed a hefty submersible well pump onto a 20 foot long, 60 pound section of pipe, hoisted the whole operation up and hooked it to the come along at the top of the tepee. I climbed up the tepee, set the come along to extend mode, and lifted the handle. The pipe descended toward the well about half an inch. So far so good. Another lift of the handle, another half inch. In only 480 lifts and lowerings of the come along handle I had the first pipe and the well pump dangling from the top of the well casing. Only 15 more pipe sections to go. Or in another image which I preferred to not think about, it would be like crawling across a football field, (including one end zone) with your fingers taking half inch steps, and hoping not to be whip lashed by speeding snails coming up behind you. But, hey, after only 7,680 pumps on the come along I had the pump snugly at the bottom of the well (actually a few feet above so I didn’t pump dirt off the bottom.)

The good part about drilling a well on our property is that we have no rocks for about 50 feet, and few for about 275 feet down. We were able to drill the well straight. But at that depth we met a big rock, and had to lower and explode a bundle of dynamite to break it up. This allowed the casing to slip by the shattered rock, but this Do-si-do of pipe and rock bent the pipe slightly. As I lowered the pump, the bent casing scraped bare the wires attached to the pump, and shorted out the connection when the pump was submerged in the water. That meant inching back up the football field to fix it. Which I did.

The trip back down was made easier with a block and tackle my friend Don Buidge lent to me. It was not freeway speed. I still had to climb up the tripod, and screw on the pipe sections, but I was getting better at the process.

Until at about 200 feet down. The pipe slipped off its hook and a thousand pounds of pump and pipe headed for middle earth. Instinctively (euphemism for stupidly) I grabbed the pipe. The brace at the end of the pipe slammed down onto the iron well casing within half a hair of making me a four fingered no thumb guitar player. It instantly turned my thumbnail black and caused me to exclaim something like, “My, my, this is an interesting development.” or words to that effect.

I took off a few days to recuperate, then returned to the project, lowered the pump, flipped the switch, and…nothing happened. The fall had killed the pump.

My performing partner Dick Davis and I had a tour on the east coast, so I reluctantly parted with the joys of well digging for a couple of weeks. My luck traveled with me. At Cornell University in Ithaca New York, we parked our truck and camper on an incline. The road was icy so we blocked one wheel with a big stone. That worked well except we also dropped the rock on my foot breaking two toes. A local medical clinic fitted me with a cast and crutches. As true troupers we did the show that night, finished the tour. I went back to the well.

It was early winter now, snow flurries sometimes whipped around me as I dragged my cast up and down the tripod; unscrewed pipes on the way up fixed the motor and screwed pipes together on the way down. I flipped the switch not daring to expect anything.

Miracle! Water gushed up the well and into a hose I had attached. Three hundred pounds of water pressure turned the hose into a twenty foot snake weaving and whipping above me. I was a Hindu snake charmer with a snake on steroids. I hadn’t hooked up the pressure limiter on the well, and frankly wasn’t interested in doing so. I was having too much fun. Finally I reluctantly turned the pump off, then turned it on a few more times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.

The well worked perfectly until once when I was on tour, the children turned it on by mistake, ran the pump dry and burned out the motor. I pulled it out, but it was toast.

Meanwhile, the city changed tactics. They realigned their proposed annexation boundaries to include a big section of land owned by developers who wanted to put their property into the city. This made my neighbors and me a minority of the property holders, so we could be swept in against our will.

So yes, you can fight city hall. You just can’t win. But Provo is a fine city full of great people, and they left our house water on. I am presently using a more primitive system on the well as a backup to obtain water in an emergency.

Shakespeare wrote, “All’s well that ends well.” I ended with a well and a story to tell. I guess Shakespeare would be pleased.

 Your next installment is: Helping Freedom Ring

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?
The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.