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Out On The Mudline

Do-It-Yourself Plumbing Heaps Of Trouble

By W. P. Sissell

I had forgotten about the “lights out” time in my basic training days in the army. Just this past week we had a severe thunderstorm watch in effect just at sundown. For us it was correct—lots of thunder and lightning.  Years ago, in my summer teaching experience at Northwest, Karen, one of my paper graders and I were crossing the connecting porch between the new part and the old part of Burks Hall. As we crossed, there was a flash of lightning very close (mentally, I started counting—one th—BOOM) since sound travels at eleven hundred feet per second, my count showed that the lightning occurred about one-half second before the sound of the thunder.  Karen was very frightened and asked why we were having such violent weather.

I reassured Karen telling her that this was normal weather for our temperate zone. She had never spent a summer in the temperate zone before. Her home in Eagle Lake, Ontario, was near the Arctic Circle where they do not have the sudden mixing of the warm moist and cold dry air masses that are, basically, our weather makers. Karen’s mother was a Canadian Indian and her father was a Grenada, Mississippian. On my desk today I have a paperweight carved from stone by her grandmother.

Thursday Afternoon

Most of Thursday, after an early visit to Dr. Mayo, Nannette talked about our water pressure being very low. This happens on occasion on our rural water system, so I paid little attention to the pressure until shortly before night. After calling a couple of neighbors and finding that they had water pressure I decided that I might best check the pipe running from the meter to our home.  My first stop was our meter. There I found the measurement gauge hand rotating rapidly – to say the least. I immediately turned the cutoff which stopped the sound of running water.  In a few minutes I found the water coming from a hole under one of the oak trees on the east side of the house. I turned the meter on again to confirm my find. Actually that water was exiting from a tangle of roots.


As I gathered tools and pipe fittings I cried “help” to my son, Shipp, and two grandsons, Parker and William. They all responded with tools of their own. When that pipe was placed about ten feet from its trunk that 18-inch diameter oak tree was an 18-inch seedling plant, possibly with the acorn still attached.  Now its roots had engulfed —wrapped up that pipe.  

In and amongst the digging I heard my son mutter, “Mom and Dad planted trees all over this hill so I would have to dig here someday!” Mom does love her thicket. He also asked why I waited until 6 p.m. to find the trouble.

But trouble was just beginning—In the next two days we replaced the “innards” of two of the three commodes in the house.  In addition every faucet spewed gallons of terribly colored (a mixture of brown, orange, red) water.

Friday the 12th (the day Before the 13th)

On Friday, June 12, we had one of those “thunder boomers” I described previously. We, who grew up in this territory, know about them. Karen was frightened, but on the other hand when she returned from Christmas at Eagle Lake she asked one day, “Mr. Sissell, one day at home it was minus 40 degrees Centigrade. What would that be Fahrenheit?” Although I had to demonstrate the conversion, my answer was, “Minus 40 F, for that’s the temperature where the two are equal.”

That thunderstorm Friday dropped 2.87 inches of rain at my home. Almost simultaneously with the start of the downpour, our current went off. Our pool was filled to the point that I needed a bucket-brigade. I think my helpers of earlier in the week probably  would have declined to help. I wouldn’t have blamed them.

When the lights went out Nannette and I got a coal oil lamp down off the shelf and lit it. We marveled at the small amount of light we had in our kitchen-den area. We tried to figure out how we studied by that light. Friend Hugh Hunt told me, “You studied those lessons before nighttime,” and we probably did.

Now I know why my Grandad—with his cataracts—wouldn’t spend the night out of town.

Many of us lost a long time friend, Bill White.  We were members of the class of 1943—most of the boys are World War II veterans.

Thanks for your compliments and do have a great week.  We’re going to try to do the same.  You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606 or 662-563-9879.

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