Graywater saga – part 5

Mr. R&H walked over toward us and said to Young Mr. ACME (YMA), “So, we’re moving some tomatoes, are we?”  At which point he, too, crouched down, joined YMA in grasping the near tomato barrel, and together the two of them grunted and lifted it down from its perch.

As the second barrel plunked resoundingly onto the ground, and as YMA and Mr. R&H jointly wiped sweat from their brows, Bob and Jodi pulled up in their van along Coffee Road.  Bob, to help move the tomatoes, you know.  Also, about this same time, Andrew returned from Bob and Jodi’s house with Charlie (15 and wiry) and Gracie (11 and not quite so wiry) , so now that the tomatoes had been successfully relocated, we had plenty of help to move them.  In some situations, timing in everything.

Now that the tomatoes were out of the way, YMA went to move his truck from our driveway to Coffee Road.  He then returned and fell to unscrewing the caps.  He opened the near one first.  It stunk to high heaven and was brimful of what looked like chunks of white cement laced with hot pink.  Simply lovely, I tell you.  YMA immediately said (looking accusingly at me), “That’s grease and Rid-X.”

Once again, I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I was supposed to say, so I just replied with a knowing, “Hmmm.”  He repeated himself.  “That’s grease and Rid-X.” Now YMA was not proving to be terribly verbose, but it did seem like a response was indicated.  I said something erudite like, “Really?”

“Yes, ma’am.  That’s a LOT of grease and Rid-X.”

“”Ummmm. . . what’s Rid-X?”

“It’s stuff some people put in septic tanks to treat ’em, but it’s REALLY bad.  See, it’s pink.  Only Rid-X’ll cause that pink.  You shouldn’t EVER use Rid-X.”

(feeling a bit defensive) “Well, I’ve never put anything in any tank to treat it,” (although I was thinking that maybe that’s something I should have been doing but didn’t realize) “and I’ve never even heard of Rid-X.”

“Sometimes they put it in the tank when they install it.  Maybe some bozo did that.”

“Well, that was installed by some bozos about eight years ago, and it’s never been pumped out or had anything added to it.”

At this point, both YMA and Mr. R&H looked purposefully at each other, then slowly at me, then back at each other.  I am fairly certain their look(s) meant something like, “People this ignorant shouldn’t even be allowed to visit rural areas, much less live in them.”  But they were both totally polite to me.  Mr. R&H said, “You really should have your tank pumped out every four years.  And by the way, I’m just stopping by.  I’m not on the clock or anything.  I was on my way back and was driving right past here, so when I heard you were having problems, I thought I’d stop and take a look.”  I thanked Mr. R&H and told him that R&H Plumbing had done a lot of work for us through the years and that they’d always given us great service.

And as we were talking I noticed his eyes.  They were striking.  Now most good ‘ole boys’ eyes look like, well, good ‘ole boys’ eyes.  I don’t mean to say that good ‘ole boys aren’t smart; they certainly are; but this man looked different.  Mr. R&H had what I can only call a distinct look of intelligence in his eyes, and I wondered to myself if he’d always been a plumber, or if this was a new line of work for him.

About this time, my phone rang.  Over the past hour, I had left multiple messages on Scott’s voicemail, hoping that someday, somewhere he’d get the news that things were messy at home and that that fact would motivate him to try to go to somewhere with a signal and call me back.  I knew I would need to make some decisions, all of which would probably cost money, and it would be really nice to find out what he wanted me to do and to hear him tell me (even if it were a lie) that everything would be all right.  Sometimes when things like this happen, I cry, and I’d much rather cry to Scott than to a bunch of service men I don’t know.

So, in the midst of it all, Scott called, and I began – for the 4th or 5th time now – to explain what had happened, what I had done, and what was going on at the moment.

At this point, for the sake of any city-dwelling readers, a bit of explanation about septic systems in general and our septic system in particular would be in order.

If you don’t have sewer service, all the water and waste that goes down your various drains has to go somewhere.  In some rural areas, it just runs out on the ground, but we’re not THAT hick around here!  Generally, a large (1000 gallon?) concrete tank is set down into the ground.  Your sewer line runs into that tank.  Relatively high up on the side of the tank is an outgoing pipe.  In theory, the. . . um. . . solid matter eventually sinks to the bottom, and the liquid (effluent) rises in the tank till it gets to the level of the outgoing pipe.  It then flows (theoretically downhill) through that pipe to a series of very long pipes laid in a downhill pattern underground that have holes drilled all along their bottom “sides.”  These pipes are the leach lines, and the area of the yard in which they are laid is called the leach field.  The liquid slowly drains out of the leach lines into the yard, which is often an area where the grass is thick and lush.

The septic tank has a concrete lid, and on top of the lid is a foot or so of dirt, with the rest of your yard on top of that.  Your average, run-of-the-mill septic tank will fill up (with mostly liquid) in about four days’ of usage, and it stays full all the time.   However, when the solid matter gets up to a certain level, you have to have the tank pumped out, which involves something having someone (like ACME Pumping Service) bring a truck with an enormous tank on the back.  They uncoil a one-foot diameter pipe (looks like a huge version of the self-serve vacuum hose at a car wash), stick into the opening on top of the septic tank (once the lid has been dug up and removed), turn on a big, noisy pump, and suck the contents of your septic tank out into the tank mounted on a truck.  When their tank is full, they drive it to (in our case) the Branson wastewater treatment facility where, for a fee, they are authorized to dump it.  And, as Mr. R&H so kindly informed me, this should be done at least every four years, whether you need it or not.  (Please note that Mr. R&H works for a plumbing company that does NOT pump out septic tanks, so he gained nothing by urging me to pump every four years.  Furthermore, his plumbing company emphatically does NOT work with ACME Pumping Service, and in fact urged me to call ACME’s main competitor.  All that to say that I believe Mr. R&H was sincerely interested in solving our problem and was just being a nice guy.  This will be important later.)

So that’s how septic systems work in general, but our situation is quite a bit more complicated, or, as I would prefer to describe it, “much more highly refined.”

(to be continued. . . )

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