— Jerome K. Jerome
From, “Three Men In A Boat”
While many basked in the tropical comfort of a Florida beach or some other sunny destination during the recent spring break, I snuggled in the lap of my own little paradise.
Standing under the dark clouds of an incoming, cold-weather storm and draped in dirty blue jeans, thermal underwear, a hoodie, toboggan cap and boots, I watched from my backyard as a crew pumped out the ... er, contents ... of our troubled septic tank. In sporadic waves, flurries of snow swirled about my frowning face.
This was the unwelcomed arrival of the late-March anomaly I had dubbed Winter Storm Stinky. The National Weather Service and The Weather Channel designated their own respective code names, but in my modest world where I had taken a week off work in order to work all week in the yard, it was just plain stinky.
In order to put a credible dent in my growing list of “Ricky Do” chores, all I had asked were reasonably warm temperatures, little or no rain and few interruptions during my day-to-day agenda. Instead, I got temperatures in the 30s, wind gusts near 40, a rogue snowfall and rain and rumors of rain throughout the week.
And yes, I realize I was planning outdoor activities in March ... the month that gave us the Blizzard of ’93. But a fellow can hope.
In keeping with the “when it rains, it pours” conundrum, our property’s recent septic woes came to a head on this same week, resulting in our home’s visit by the monster pump truck that eats organic matter, both large and small. Standing there in the middle of the winter storm, I dared not flick out my tongue to catch a snowflake for fear of splashback from the giant intake hose.
Nor did I stand downwind from the indelicate procedure.
Nor did I give up hope that Cleveland Utilities will one day extend its sewer lines to our section of the county, thereby eliminating the need for septic systems in a clay-based land that laughs in the face of sludge. As I said, a fellow can hope.
As the winds of Winter Storm Stinky blew in the beauty of more and more wayward flurries while also spreading about septic odors of discontent, I measured her low-hanging clouds from my backyard perch with bewildered eyes and befuddled nose. I wondered how many more chores I could complete, or at least start, on the remainder of this doomed Tuesday afternoon after the monster pump truck had taken its final slurp.
Monday had gone well and as planned. Cleaned the gutters of the storage shed. Cleansed their nearby counterparts that lined the house’s eaves while testing the limits of a limited step ladder. Pulled weeds. Whacked with the trimmer those weeds I could not pull. Invigorated tired landscaping by reshaping the previous season’s surviving mulch. Mowed the front, back and side yards, and the neighbor’s yard. Raked unclaimed leaves of the prior autumn from each nook, cranny and corner. And scowled at the seasonal arrival of every wild onion, and their every next of kin.
In spite of Stinky’s fast approach and her explosive gusts, Tuesday morning was just as productive. Reconfigured some misshapen flower beds. Repositioned landscaping pavers that had lost their way during a winter of heavy rains. Assembled a new iron trellis to support the purple and burgundy blooms of the spring season’s emerging clematis while shrugging off the cold of Stinky’s worsening winds and doubting the thickness of my old, grey hoodie.
Tugging the toboggan to well below the earlobes and tightening the string of the sweatshirt’s hood, I mumbled something under my breath about how the spring breakers were undoubtedly faring in their own ocean breeze.
Wishing for a warm beard like Grizzly Adams’ and the resiliency of Nanook of the North, I cranked the push mower for a second day and shaved the sprigs of late winter from the yard’s final plot — a section that lines the back property line which we call the West Bank.
Meanwhile, the monster truck continued its pumpfest.
Other chores awaiting their turn, and whose call I answered in shivering defiance, included the changing of the mower’s aging, bent and dented blade; the installation of a new tubeless (a true modern miracle of rubber and foam) tire on the rickety wheelbarrow; and replacing the dirt-dulled, wood-weary chain of the aging Poulan Pro which, if it could talk, would surely have stories to tell from years of gruelling battles against giants made of oak and limbs that stretched to the heavens.
With a hidden sigh of relief, I put away my final tool at the sound of the monster pump truck powering down. Its hunger appeased, I strolled over to the tanker’s driver — whom I crowned as the Earl of Effluent — and thanked him for his time and commitment to task.
The good news is the septic tank now sat empty. The bad news is its field lines still held their own whiff of wrong. Apparently, there was a clog somewhere in their vast length.
Earl put me in touch with another specialist, a good-natured, country fellow who had made a living of repairing faulty field lines for 40 years. His name was Ed. I coronated him Sir Edward.
Like Earl, Sir Edward rode in on his white stallion — actually, a yellow backhoe — and exorcised these demon deposits like nobody’s business.
My castle and crown are now safe, thanks in full to Earl and Ed.
For the record, that week of workplace freedom wore on. Wednesday was dedicated to handyman runarounds to Lowe’s and other sources for weapons of backyard destruction. Weather again raised its ugly head, but chores are chores, and the show had to go on.
Warmer temps but gusty winds served as backdrop for Thursday’s full day of pressure washing: Shed, house, lawn furniture, figurines, ornamental landscaping bricks, porch and deck.
Friday brought dark clouds and more rain. Another trip to Lowe’s, a journey to the bank and grocery shopping took the morning.
Then came the weekend ... and adventures anew.
But just recalling the experience tires me so. So this column must end.
I love vacations. Don’t you?