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Well, Well, Well…

, , , , | Working | March 12, 2021

Many years ago, the water supply system in my hometown was privately owned. The city had granted a license to operate to a man who already owned a suitable reservoir built for a long-gone sawmill, and he operated the water system rather than everyone having to have a well.

While the streets were mostly paved, there were no sidewalks, and the water pipes ran under the unpaved areas to make it easier to work on the lines. Naturally, there were only a few places that had handholes to reach the valves. Also, there were few maps of the system, and it mostly relied on memory and local knowledge of where everything was.

Some years later, the system passes to another man, who has been assisting the owner for several years. [Owner] is getting on in years and is rather obstreperous. We joke that if you looked up “curmudgeon,” you’d find his picture.

It’s late summer and the reservoir is down lower than it should be, so the town is on watering restriction, and some of the industrial users are pumping from the river for their process water to reduce the load on the reservoir.

[Owner] drives down one of the streets, and finds a local resident watering his garden on a day when he shouldn’t be.

Owner: “Turn that sprinkler off!”

Resident: “Nope.”

Owner: “You turn it off or I will!”

Resident: “No, you won’t.”

So, [Owner] digs up the shutoff for [Resident]’s property and turns the valve off. And the sprinkler keeps going. [Owner] goes up to the head of the street, digs up the valve there, and turns the street off. The sprinkler’s still going. [Owner] figures this might be one of the strange places that are fed from the street behind, so he digs up that valve and turns that street off, too.

The spinkler’s still going.

Owner: “[Resident]! You got a well?!”

Resident: “A-yep.”

Owner: “Why didn’t you say so?!”

Resident: “You didn’t ask.”

The shutoff for [Resident]’s property did turn off the system’s supply… which fed only one faucet in the middle of the yard.

A few years later, the city got a loan from the federal government to buy the water system, which let [Owner] retire.

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