Posts Tagged ‘yard work’

Stuck In a Well With Moonshiners

February 23, 2013

In June we had our well pump replaced by the guys from J & L Well & Pump Service.  I’m pretty sure their relatives are Jim Tom, Tickle, and the boys from Moonshiners.  They dress like them, talk like them, and their dental programs seem to be more reactive than proactive.  The head of J & L’s crew is a… tooth challenged guy named Leon.  Leon is the “L” in J & L. He told me so with a thick southern Indiana drawl that rolled off his tongue and out of the hole between missing teeth. Leon called me Craig. (When you say Craig you should put heavy emphasis on the “ai” sound…Craiiiiig) 

If you’ve never seen Moonshiners the concept for this show is similar to several other Discover Channel reality shows that rely heavily on the personalities and extreme circumstances of the characters and their extreme profession.  If you’ve seen Deadliest Catch, Swamp People, Ax Men, or Bering Sea Gold you know what I’m talking about.  Who wouldn’t like a show about avoiding the cops while brewing illegal high octane sour mash whiskey in some random woods that is 50 miles south of indoor plumbing and 180 miles west of common sense?  I know of one…my daughter Grace.  She will tell you without hesitation that I have a problem. Southern accents, overalls, and moonshine are not her cup of…sweet tea.  Refusing to allow myself to be governed by the rants of a sixteen year old…I tune in.    My dad’s side of our family is from a small town named Acorn, Kentucky.  Acorn is in the heart of moonshining country down in a holler near Summerset.  Having been there I’ve witnessed firsthand our moonshining relatives in their native habitat.  Watching the show is a trip down memory lane.  To me it is an hour of mindless entertainment… combined with the possibility of connecting with a lost relative.

It appears that cool spring water is important in the brewing process.  Wait a minute!  We are on a well…we have cool spring water pouring from our taps. My mind began to wander…after all…the Acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree! 

Then it all changed.

Saturday morning I kissed the Phelps women good bye.  Grace went off to ballet class and my wife left for a day of work in the ER. (Treating people like Jim Tom and Tickle)  I had a date with our apple trees.  Winter is the time of year to prune apple trees.  Pruning improves apple growth in the summer.  While I’m in the midst of pruning I’m usually inspired to have a talk with God about life, love, and all things good.  As I was pruning nature called so I went back into the house.  I went to the faucet.  Not one drop of cool spring water came from the tap. Our neighborhood is prone to power outages.  I glanced at the clock. It was working…that could only mean one thing.  Something was up with our well…again!  I naively thought that once the pump was fixed in June we would have another twenty plus years of cool clean goodness pouring from each faucet.  Wrong!

I called Leon the pump guy aka Jim Tom.  With assistants who mirrored the cast from Moonshiners in tow he showed up and began to diagnose the problem…He turned on the faucet.  ”Hell it looks like you ain’t got NO water.”  Then he hooked up a meter and did some electrical voodoo on the pump wires.   It seemed that our current problem was lectrical in nature. “Dat ware (wire) dat run from da foundation to da pump …done gone bad.”  In no time they transformed part of our yard and front porch into a mud bog and found the problem wasn’t the ware it was the pump.  Luckily the pump had a two year warranty.  There was one slight problem…Moonshiners don’t honor warranties.  Showing them the receipt seemed to me to be the logical step.  The problem, Moonshiners aren’t logical.  They argued, they pondered, they strategized, and they argued some more.  Eventually I had to forcefully point out that I paid them $2300.00 in June to do the job right and they needed to make good on that work.  Day three without water had become a pain.  We showered away from home.  Grace went to a friend’s house, I went to the gym, and my wife was in the ER taking sponge baths with patients…ok not really.  I can tell you she wasn’t taking sponge baths with me because…we had no water.  Days without water at my house had a limiting effect on “sponge baths”…if you know what I mean.  As if I didn’t have enough incentive to get the water hooked up before…I certainly did now. 

Later that afternoon they came to the door to talk payment again…which had grown to $1250.  My friend, neighbor, and attorney happened to drive by as we debated the reality of this payment.  I pointed to the car and said, “There goes my attorney.  I’d hate to have to get him involved.” Jim Tom turned to the crew of two and motioned. They started packing up.  The dead pump lay lifelessly next to one of the mud piles that surrounded our well.  Frustrated I went inside to call other well companies to get their opinion on pump warranties.

As I was on the phone the moonshiners took off with my new pump …and my old pump! I called the police.  I called my attorney.  I called the moonshiners to negotiate.  Then I called out to God asking what had happened to the peace, love, and good will we discussed Saturday morning as I stood cradled in the braches of my apple trees! 

This was beyond ridiculous!  I’d begun drawing water for flushing from the nearby crik (creek).  We had jugs of water for cooking and drinking.  Without running water our lifestyle had begun to transform into that of an Appalachian shanty dweller.  Suddenly whittling and playing the banjo by candle light had a strange appeal. Oh my god I was becoming one of them! 

Then Jim Tom and the boys came back with a new attitude and a new pump.  My wife, armed with a double barrel shotgun and a fresh wad of chewing tobacco had a different opinion of how this would play out.  She stood on the porch and hollered at them to git (get) their sorry asses off our land…then she spit and took aim…ok that didn’t happen.  Here is the truth.  They broke something in the well shaft while installing the new pump and left us at the end of the day without water.  I fired them and called in the cavalry…aka Hamilton Brothers, Inc.  They arrived the next day as I was making rabbit stew and sloppin the pigs…ok not really…I had plenty of slop, but no pigs…I’d fired them the night before.  The new guys tossed out a flurry of sarcastically tinged rhetorical questions about the moonshiner’s quality of workmanship. Then they got to work.  After four hours of work with high pressure tools and hydraulic wenches they came to the door with news.  The well had been rendered useless, by Jim Tom and the boys.  We had two choices; drill a new well for $6,000.00 or hook up to city water for what turned out to be $3900.00.  I was beyond pissed. 

Later that day as I was sitting at my dining room table discussing the process of hooking up to city water with my wife and our licensed and bonded contractor (that’s important) when Jim Tom called back.  He wanted to let me know that they’d be taking me to court to collect the money I owed for the new pump and the work they’d done.  He also wanted me to know that firing them had voided the warranty on that pump. At that point my calm disposition left the building.  I said, “Listen to me you fucking hill jack, if you call our house one more time I’m going to grab that pump, take it to your house, and shove it up your ass in front of your fat toothless wife.”  Then I hung up and looked over at my wife and the contractor and said, “I’m sorry, where were we?”  He didn’t bat an eye.  

Jim Tom called back.  I let it roll to voicemail.  Then Carly called from Chicago.  She’d been mugged by four teenagers.  She wasn’t hurt but, she was shaken and crying.  Suddenly everything that had just happened was put into perspective.  This episode with Jim Tom and our Moonshiners needed to become water under the bridge.  There were more important things in life that needed my attention.

 

 

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The Boys of Fall

September 26, 2009

About 6 years ago I was raking leaves in the fall when a pack of boys Carly’s age came walking down the street tossing a football.  I heard my mom’s voice, “Please play touch. No one needs to get hurt.”  The truth is any time a group of boys get together someone may get hurt.  It has nothing to do with sports.  If there are five boys in a room full of feathers one of them could end up with a quill sticking out of his eye.  We played touch if the game was up near the house where parents could see.  We always played with three rules.  Defense had a five apple rush and no blitzes.  The offense couldn’t use running plays.  Running plays led to an endless string of touchdowns which took all of the challenge and fun out of the game.  A five apple rush is this; you have to count out loud, one apple, two apple, three apple, four apple, five apple, before you rush the quarterback.  It made up for no blocking.  Those are really universal rules for any sand lot game, any where in the country.  The count may change from apples to Mississippi’s, but everything else is the same.

Playing football in a house full of ballerinas just doesn’t happen.  My girls love to watch it, but that is where it ends.  I felt the need to get grass stained and sweaty.  When they made it to our yard I said, “Are you done playing or going to play?”  They said, “Waiting on some other guys before we play.”  I really wanted to play. I went straight for the justification. I can rake these leaves Monday evening. So I said,” Come get me if you need another player.”  One of them said, “Mr Phelps, you’re funny”.  I said, “Seriously, come get me if you need another guy.”  They never showed.  The following week there were even more of them walking down the street with football in hand.  Again I was raking.  Again I felt the tugging of childhood. So I threw out the offer…again.  They stopped, “Seriously?”  I said, “Yeah!  I wouldn’t offer if I was kidding.”  “OK Mr. Phelps we’ll call you before we play”. They agreed just because they are nice.  I had just finished raking when my wife came outside saying, “Some boys from the neighborhood want to know if you can come down and play football?”  She thought it was cute.  I thought it was cool.  I’ve known them since they were in preschool.  Now they were old enough I didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone.  On my way out the door she said, “Honey, please don’t play tackle.”  It had come full circle. 

Our neighborhood has a creek that runs along one border.  The homes that line that creek have perfect back yards for football.  I walked down there wearing a T-shirt about ballet, jeans, and tennis shoes.  I wasn’t even thinking about it.  That’s what I was wearing to rake leaves.  They were all dressed in NFL jerseys and athletic shorts.  I could tell by the looks it was like showing up wearing black socks and dress shoes.  Half the kids were from our neighborhood and the other half were school friends who rode their bikes or were dropped off by parents.  I think our neighborhood kids were embarrassed.   “Ballet shirt?  Jeans?”  Wisdom taught me that at this stage of my life, Russian Pointe shoes at $85.00 a pop, are a better investment than a Polamalu jersey.  I was picked last.  Truth be told I was picked at all because they felt sorry for me.  The dad who lived there came out and tried to convince me not to play.  He was permanently on the “Physically unable to perform” list.  Said another way, he was too old to play.   He wanted me to be too.  He tried to talk the kids into making me the all time quarterback so I wouldn’t get hurt.  I knew him.  I like him.  I said, “Bill I’m not ready for the wrinkle ranch.  I came down here to have fun.”  He mumbled, “Make sure you guys play touch,” and went back inside.  I had a blast.  Mr Ballerina shirt could still play ball.  They saw me as something more than a stale dad.  I came home dirty, wet with sweat, the knees ripped out of my jeans, and the feeling of youth in my heart.  It sounds funny, but I was happy to be accepted.  I hadn’t been one of the guys, since college.  Carly thought it was funny.  They talked about it on the way to school Monday.  “Your dad can play!”  From that point forward I was on the list.  Friday night we went to the high school football games and every Sunday the phone rang.  My wife would answer, smile, and say, “The boys want to know if you can play.”  For the last five years we played.  This year it ended.  Most of them have responsibilities that come with getting older.   Others went in a less productive direction.  For a while I was given a second chance at childhood, another opportunity to be one of the boys.  It was cool.

football

Appearing on the Lawn…

July 15, 2009

There is a young entrepreneur in our neighborhood who loves his lawn mower.   He has five lawns within walking distance.  He sees dollar signs every time he fires up that red and black Toro.  He’s so happy, he sings while he mows.  It’s like a concert on the lawn.  I don’t mean sings to himself while mowing.  He belts it out like it’s an audition for High School Musical – Lawn Edition.  He’s got one of those industrial mowers that you can walk behind or add a little pedestal on wheels for your feet.   So you can stand, ride, and sing…apparently.  So it’s more like a little stage on wheels.  Everyone can hear him coming up the street over the power of that engine.  I can tell what song he’s singing when he’s mowing the neighbor’s lawn across the street, if I’m standing in our house.  That’s how much he loves to sing.  He put’s the iPod on eleven, (that’s the second Spinal Tap reference in two weeks!) engages the blades, and becomes The Beatles.  He doesn’t care that other people can hear him.  This evening he finished a song, looked over, saw me in the garden, and bowed while saying, “Thank you and good night!” with a big smile on his face.  I think it’s cool that he’s that comfortable with himself at age fifteen.  I’m forty-eight.  I can’t even sing in the car at a stop light with the windows rolled up for fear of what the person in the car next to me will think.  I don’t sing in front of my wife for the same reason.  I wish I could.  I know what song I‘d sing.  I visualize it in the car, before I get to the stop light.  Currently it’s “You & Me” from Dave Matthews new CD Big Whiskey,

 Wanna pack your bags, something small
Take what you need and we disappear
without a trace we’ll be gone, gone
the moon and the stars can follow the car
and then when we get to the ocean
we gonna take a boat to the end of the world
All the way to the end of the world

 You get the idea.  It’s romantic and it says what I’d like to say musically…if I weren’t a wimp.  Anyway today he was jammin’ when two of my daughter’s friends rode up on bikes to say hi.  They couldn’t get “Hi daddy Phelps” out of their mouth before …um…we’ll call him Dane, belts out some heavy lead vocals.  They rolled their eyes, laughed, and with a puzzled tone said, “What is he singing today”?  I couldn’t tell because the Briggs & Stratton accompaniment was distorting his lyrics.  Apparently none of his customers mind being serenaded.  He’s had the lawn across the street for three years so they must be cool with it..  Actually at their age they may not know.  They probably don’t even hear the lawn mower.  They just look out the window, notice that the grass is shorter, and call him to come get his money.  I really wanted to know what group he was singing this evening.  It was like a riddle.  Then he finished the yard and fired up the weed eater which doubles as a microphone and stand.  It became clear that today he was Rick Ashton,

 Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you

 You get the idea.  I don’t know what he was singing on the rest of the lawn, but that was his on encore.  I wanted to call him over and in my best, disappointed surfer voice, say one word, “Dude”!?  How could he go from The Beatles to that?  Well who am I to judge?  I can’t even bring myself to sing to a woman who promised to love me till death.