Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chasing water...

It was the water pump that tipped me over the edge. The one that pumps water from the house dam, through a few kilometres of poly pipe, to the overhead tank at the homestead. All week it’s been trying to take me down. Piece by piece.

Ever since its last oil change it’s not quite pumped properly again. I can start the motor alright. It’s the suction that’s just not sucking. Or, actually, it sucks majorly, just not in the way it’s supposed to.

For the fourth time in a week I was down at the house dam, priming the bloody thing with buckets and buckets of water. How much water am I supposed to shove down its throat before I give up? It’s 45 degrees. It’s 6pm. I have a garden dying of thirst. Dogs, chooks and a calf that need to drink. Clothes that need washing. Dinner than needs cooking. And there are two dirty, smelly, tired humans who are over it. Over. It.

I stumble down the bank to fill the bucket a fourth time. The level is low and there’s half a meter of mud to stretch over before I can even reach the water, dangling the bucket on its side, in the tips of my outstretched fingers... reaching… stretching… almost… Ahhh stuff it!

I’m in the bloody dam. Stinking, grey slush up to my shins. Water running around my ankles and into my work boots.

Ahhhh… stuff me! Stuff this! Stuff you! Stuff this whole bloody thing! All I want is normal taps like normal people. Ones where clean, normal water comes out when you turn them on. Is that so hard?

I lug the bucket of dirty liquid back up to the pump and begin the process again.

Unscrew cap. Pour water in until overflowing. Replace cap.

Flick choke left. Pull the starter rope. Motor starts. Flick choke right.

Listen for a change in engine noise… none. Watch poly pipe in the water for change in buoyancy… none.

Open water release tap…

Chug, chug, chug, gurgle, spit. Chug, chug, chug, gurgle, spit.

Spit. Gurgle. Spit.

This is not how it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be spraying water at full force, five feet away. Whyyyyyyy, God-all-things-irrigation-related, whyyyy!?

Turn motor off. Start again.

Prime. Choke. Start. Observe… Nothing.

This. Sucks.

This sucks. This sucks, this sucks, this sucks thissucksthissuuuuuucks!

I tell myself I’ll give it one more bucket of water… though I’ve already told myself this twice before.

This time, as I lumber down the dam bank to the water’s edge, my boots lose grip. Hard dirt and stones graze through the palm of my hand as I hit the ground, and angry tears prick my eyes.

I tell myself to suck it up. It’s just a bit of gravel rash. It’s just a bit of mud. It’s just a water pump. And other people have it far worse. At least I’ve got water left in the dam to pump.

But as I cart my full bucket of water back to the pump again, tears stream down my face and snot escapes my nose. I wash my stinging hands in the bucket and wipe my face, mixing tears and snot with blood and mud.

Unscrew cap. Pour water in until overflowing. Replace cap.

Flick choke left. Pull the starter rope. Motor starts. Flick choke right.

Listen for a change in engine noise… none. Watch poly pipe in the water for change in buoyancy… none.

Open water release tap…

This time I walk along the long length of poly pipe, that’s supposed to be sucking the water from the centre of the dam up into the pump, continually lifting it off the ground and dropping it again, trying to displace any airlocks which might be blocking the suction.

It’s searing. The hottest part of the hottest day, of a whole string of weeks that have been 45 degrees plus. Sweat beads on my hairline, dribbling into my eyes. I want to throw myself into the dam, but the muddy exit would ruin any relief or enjoyment.

While I’m trying to get water to our house, just so we can wash our hands, and shower, and flush the toilet, and water our pets and garden, ST is out starting pumps across the property to keep water supplies up to sheep and cattle. I hope he’s having more luck than me. The drive alone, just to start two pumps on the eastern side of Burragan, takes 90 minutes at pace. And that’s not including jobs, or problems, along the way.

I walk back up to the pump and close the water release tap again. Then open it. Then close it. Then open it.

“This is crap,” I growl aloud. Except maybe there’s a few swear words in there too.

And I tell myself to stop whining, again. With added swear words as well. Remember you’ve got it good.

Find the funny side, I urge myself… Come on, you usually can. What’s the funny side? Come on, anything, anything amusing at all? I draw a blank.

Focusing back on the task at hand, I hear the change of engine noise as the suction kicks in properly and the chug, chug, chug, gurgle, spit of liquid from the water release tap transforms suddenly into a magical high pressure gush of water.

Thank Christ! Success! Thank bloody Christ!

I close the release tap, stand by for a few minutes to make sure everything is still pumping properly, and then, dragging my boots through the sand, I head back up the dam bank to where I parked the ute.

I stop at the top of the bank. You… have… got to be kidding me!

Ten meters in front of me, there’s a geyser of water shooting into the air. Sometime between now and last time I was here, two days ago, something has blown a hole in the poly pipe line that leads to the house.

You win, Water Gods, you win.

I move to grumble down the bank and turn the pump off again.

But something stops me, and instead, I walk towards the fountain, turn my face to the sky, and feel it rain down on me.

It’s warm. But it’s wet. And it feels like artificial wishes, recalling how it’s done.