Sunday, June 20, 2010



This is a warning. When friends and relatives ask about how opening the cottage went, I curse and wave my fists and deliver a 15-minute monologue until they edge away with a strange look in their eyes.
After all, it only took five weeks, four visits from the plumber, two visits from the back-hoe operator and assorted copper elbows, taps, Band Aids, shower head, water pump etc.
And many many dollars.
It all began the first week of May, a pleasant day as I recall, and it all ended in humid June just before I had nightmares about tearing down the whole damn cottage to find every last inch of diseased plumbing.
My story even comes with a villain. I just wonder if someone hasn't been playing games with me. Sweat and frustration can make you paranoid, you know.
I closed Burnt Point last November just before fishing closed, working all day to clean gutters, store stuff, and to do all the countless tasks of the last cottage day of the year.
And then, dog tired, as evening came on with a cold rush, I pulled my water line out of the Trent River, opened every tap, and pumped all the water out of the system.
Or so I thought. In my most paranoid hours of misery this spring, when leak followed leak followed leak, I just wondered if someone out for a stroll after I left, noticed the water trickling out of the tap at the low point of the system and, helpfully or mischieviously, turned it off. And so water remained and became frozen havoc.
My first warning of the coming miseries came as I marched into the chilly water this May to sink my foot valve and start the torturous process of priming the pump. Pail after pail after pail. In 30 years, it had never taken this long.
Then I seemed to see and hear a pin hole leak underneath the tank beneath the pump. I disconnected the whole damn affair, only to find no sign of the leak. Yet I also found when I visited the local stores that a new tank cost more than half of getting a new pump/tank kit.
So I bought a new pump and tank. After all, the old one was more than 30 years old and some years I had kept it going only through strange parts, chewing gum and prayer.
Then I discovered that the new pump needed a new configuration of pipes to connect to my little system. So I called Bob Emery, the plumber in Havelock, who said he was in the spring rush and I wasn't one of his customers but he would come in a week or two.
Plumber Bob phoned me in Toronto two weeks later. He had connected the new pump but I had a leak in the hot water pipe behind the shower. Did I want to open up the wall and save some money? Sure I said, no need for his carpentry at $50 an hour.
Took down the panelling in the room beside the bathroom and cut a hole, by guess and by god and by ruler, to where I thought the shower pipes were. Nothing. Turned on the hot water. It was down below. So I picked up a new floor and cut another hole.
Plumber Bob came a week later, fixed the pipe under the floor and found another leak behind the shower that I hadn't seen before.
Turned the hot water on again. Now there was a leak far under the shower. There is no crawl space under my cottage at that point, so I called Darrell Brunton, who can open an envelope with his back hoe. But even Darrell with his skill couldn't dig UNDER the blasted cottage. So I did, with a hatchet to cut the roots and a hand shovel. In three feet, down four feet, to find a big rock with a concrete block on top just in front of the leak.
Since I had now destroyed a garden, I went all the way and had Darrell uncover my sewer pipe to the septic tank that has always given us trouble.
Plumber Bob came back, smashed the block supporting the cottage out of the way, and fixed the leak. Oh yes, he said on the telephone, he found a second leak there too but there was now a leak behind the kitchen sink.
So I returned to open another wall and floor. And Plumber Bob returned to fix that leak and then a new leak that appeared behind the bathroom sink. And he replaced my sewer pipe.
So what in the end was the good and the bad, the damage, besides to the nerves of Mary and me? Well, we got a good flush out of it with the new sewer. And the pump is new too, and we probably needed that.
Our modest water system is only one kitchen sink, one bathroom sink, toilet and shower. But the innards of every tap had to be replaced as Plumber Bob mended eight leaks in pipes and elbows. I suspect he regarded me as a bit of an idiot as I counted out the hundred dollar bills, babbling that I had drained my system for 30 years and never had a problem.
Emery departed and Brunton returned to fill the hole just outside the bathroom wall. I dug and pounded and raked and planted grass and watered and replaced bushes. And Mary and I each had a shower and then celebrated the return of water, especially hot water, to our cottage. I promised that I would hired Plumber Bob to turn my water on and off, and carpet the driveway with mines in case someone really was fooling around with me.
The next day, Mary returned from the pump house with the news that every cottage husband loves to hear. "The hot water tank is leaking," she said. And I said put a pail under it and went fishing.

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