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Creek Running North

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July 27, 2003

Cool, clear water

We don't have kids. We don't plan to.

But I still keep a mental notebook of things to pass down to a child someday. Some of them moral, some practical. Honest answers are easier to keep track of than lies; holding grudges is a waste of your time; it's more efficient to eat meat the British way, with steak knife in right hand and fork - tines down - in the left. Things like that.

I have another such item now: "always wrap the Teflon tape as if you were winding it up the pipe threads."

Two days, more or less, with pickaxe and shovel, two days inhaling the sweet perfume of PVC pipe solvent, two days feeling old Sol filter through the hair on the back of my neck, and we now have two new hose bibbs in the back yard. I merely had to shut the water off to the house, take off the tap at the north side, add a 3/4 inch T, replace the tap, run a nipple from the T into a pressure reducer into a PVC sleeve fitting into 80 feet of ramified Schedule 40 3/4" PVC pipe with fittings, sink a couple of four-by stubs into concrete, run the two ends of the PVC into galvanized nipples and a new hose bibb on each, bolt the nipples to the four-bys, let the glue dry and that, as they say, was all she wrote.

God and the devil are, as they say, in the details. All that fitting of pipe into pipe required the winding of yards of Teflon tape around the threads. Wrap the tape, then screw on the fitting... wrapped the wrong way, the tape will loosen more the more you tighten the fitting. Teflon tape is to threaded pipe as etiquette, Miss Manners declaims, is to human society: it allows a better, smoother fit between components and thus prevents leakage. Actually, I'm not sure what leakage would correspond to in the etiquette metaphor, so let's let that one lie and move on to the trenches.

Trenches. I had to dig them so that the PVC would have someplace to sleep. Aboveground PVC decomposes from UV radiation and being tripped over. A mere six or so inches of soil is sufficient blanket. Easier said than done in this yard. Four inches down is an outcrop of diatomite I've mentioned before, Miocene fossils of phytoplankton that settled to the bottom of a long-gone sea and welded tight. Take a block of vanilla Joyvah halvah, set it in a southfacing storefront window in 1955, and let it sit there until there is peace in the Middle East, and it may by that point have just about reached the firmness and consistency of the bedrock that underlies our home.

Which leads us to the pickaxe. After scraping topsoil from the intended course of the trench, the pickaxe becomes necessary to proceed further into the bosom of the Earth. Tossed over your head - being careful to maintain a grasp on the end of the handle - the mass of the metal pickaxe head will, in falling back to the surface of the earth, develop enough momentum that its reasonably sharp blade will whittle off a matchbook-sized chunk of Miocene halvah. A quarter inch of rock per bite times eighty feet of trench times ten pound of metal tossed four feet overhead per bite.

The water comes out of the new taps cool and clean now, and the four by posts are snug in their concrete footings. A few rock chips remain, their constituent elements exposed to sunlight for the first time in 13 million years. Tomorrow I start on the raised beds.

All this weekend, buckeye butterflies drank dew from the new lawn, nectar from the Rudbeckias and Buddleia. Their eyespots looked flirtatious, like the eyes of symbolic women in fitful dreams, staring then fluttering reproachfully away.

Posted by Chris Clarke at July 27, 2003 10:13 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


Oh, those flirtatious eyespots! Nice piece of writing, Chris.

Posted by: beth at July 29, 2003 01:13 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

p.s. --not to mention the Miocene halvah!

Posted by: beth at July 29, 2003 01:13 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs