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James R. Stout

Priming The Pump and A Rat

            About 1962 my grandfather installed an electric pump on their water well. From time to time you would hear it start up after someone ran a bath or shower. Prior to the electric pump they had a windmill. That pump was a big step up for them. But it wasn’t without its drawbacks. The switch to turn on the pump was located outside by the pump next to the well. Grandpa always had a couple of gallon jugs of water sitting on the back porch. Why? Because if the pump had been turned off while they were away it would need to be primed before turning it back on.

            Grandpa passed away in 1967 and Grandma wasn’t able to live out on the farm by herself because of health concerns. She bought a house in town and would go out to the farm a couple of days a week. That lasted for about 2 years, but she had developed heart problems and she needed to move close to her daughters (my mother being one of them). So, visits to the farm became less and less frequent over the next several years. We did have a large family Thanksgiving there in 1972, 1973, and 1975. The first person there had to prime the pump and get the water flowing, light the pilot light in the oven, and light the pilot in the water heater. A collection of water jugs kept on that back porch. The one thing that you didn’t want to do was get there after dark in the summer. It meant that you had to go out to the pump with a flashlight, prime the pump with someone holding the flashlight because it took two hands to prime that pump, and then turn on the pump and make sure it was working properly. The deal was you never knew if there might be a snake out there! It was always better to get there in daylight.

            In the fall of 1978, my wife and I decided to spend a weekend up at the farm. Since we both worked, we didn’t get up to the farm until after dark. But we managed to get the old pump primed and running without a problem. We would end up going to the farm for weekends and such several times over the years. That pump was getting older and older as the years passed by. In August of 1982 we decided to spend a week of our vacation at the farm. When I tried priming the pump when we got there it just wouldn’t come on. I checked everything out and finally went to the fuse box and checked the dedicated fuse for the pump. Sure enough it was blown. After a trip into Crockett hardware store, it didn’t take me long to get the fuse changed and the old pump running. That was some week. We had a lot of fun, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable weather. Hot doesn’t come close to describing it. By that time, we had installed a window A/C in the main bedroom. There was just no way to air condition the whole house, so we had a “cool” room to sleep in. We didn’t even think about watching TV. That wasn’t a priority. Yes, there was an old black and white TV there and an antenna, but we didn’t go up there to watch the TV.

            Oh, how I wish I could be in the shape I was then! We went for several long hikes over the 360 acres of woods and pastures. We explored the farm the way that I had as a child. A couple of canteens and some peanut butter crackers and we were good. I still recall very vividly walking across the pasture where I am currently sitting in my house. The old barbed wire gap gave me fits because it hadn’t been used in years. Then there were a couple of things that had to be dealt with. The heat actually helped us in one respect. At that time, the farmhouse only had the original bathroom. My grandfather preferred taking a shower over a bath, so they had the old tub replaced in the 60’s with a shower. By 1982 the floor of the shower was rotted through. If we had tried to stand in the shower, then we likely would have fallen through the floor. But we were never going to make it a week without a shower. We were used to one every day by then. What to do. Well, I came up with a solution. This is where the heat came in handy. Had it been cold outside, we couldn’t have done what we did. There were still clothesline poles in the back yard of the house. There was an outdoor spigot in the back yard. I went back to the hardware store and got a water hose and one of those sprayers that you hook to the hose and it has a couple of settings for the flow of water. I hooked it up and then draped the hose over one of the clothesline poles and we had a shower. The only thing was if someone were to drive by, they would get an eyeful! So, we took turns standing lookout while the other took a shower. I must admit that was another kind of priming the pump! Hey, we were young!

            The “cool” room didn’t have a full-sized bed. It just had two twin beds. Given we were still young and in love, we pushed the beds together. In those days there was no light pollution at all up here in the country. If you turned off the lights in the house and put your hand in front of your face, you weren’t going to be able to see your hand. Not unless there was a full-moon. It wasn’t a full-moon the week we were there. The farmhouse would not be renovated until the next year. So, it was pretty doggone rustic. One night we went to bed and after reading for a bit turned out the light and we both fell fast asleep. The whirring of the A/C unit made it very easy. But sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and something seemed off. I was groggy to be sure, but I sensed something amiss. It was dark as Texas Tea in that room. Then I felt it. Something was crawling on me and had stop on my stomach. It was not a bug. Nope, it was heavier than a bug. It was just laying there on my stomach. I suddenly thought that it was a rat! I could just see its beady red eyes. Well, it actually only had one pinkish colored eye. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want the thing to bite me or my wife, but I wasn’t prepared for it to stay where it was either. Then the idea came to me. I figured if I was quick enough, I could grab that critter and throw it across the room. I steeled myself for the coming confrontation and then grabbed that one-eyed rodent and tried to throw it as far as I could. But it was a stubborn critter. So was I. Then in all one very fast split-second I managed to throw it to the ground, and I heard two things. First, a loud thud. Just how big was that critter? Second, I heard my wife scream. Did it bite her? Was this going to mean a trip to the hospital in Crockett? Nope. I reached over and turned on the reading light and to my surprise the thud I had heard had been my wife. There was no critter either. The critter had been her hand! I had managed to literally toss her out of bed. That one pink eye had been the pink lindy star sapphire ring that I had given my wife for our first anniversary. I don’t know who was more surprised. Her or me. She sat on the floor looking up at me like I was some kind of idiot. Perhaps so. But after about a minute of explaining we both got quiet and then we both burst out loud with laughter.

            At the end of the week we were rested and had enjoyed our time despite “roughing it”. However, I must admit that we were glad to get back home to where the water flowed out of faucets without priming a pump first, where we had central air, and where taking a shower didn’t include potential exhibitionism. Those were the days of our lives. Wait, where have I heard that before? Hmmmm.

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