Water Tank

2001 Summer

Water Tank

One water tank, two stories. Read Tim's version first. If you know Pop and have seen the hillside occupied by the tank his tale will have you laughing out loud.

The man, on the hill, with the tank, that inspired the story.

by Tim

I watched it bounding down the sheer hill. We both did. What else could we do?

In my younger days, I ran tiny plastic buckboards off the proportionally colossal cliff-side over at the Cotham's, and it never was so soul-stirring spectacular as the stage coach in yawning slow-mo springing off the dirt road to hover before splintering with a wham in movies; that was dramatic, poised like the gods gave weight to it. No matter how close I lean, I cannot lend my own story the same drama with a tiny plastic wagon over an 18" drop.

But here, I could detect the staggery molten import of epics on the hoof, great swollen legacies of prime mechanical element rendered strange and regal and ponderous and sudden in relation to me, that was the ticket.

He'd said, hold it, hold it, and we'd leaned in as he slipped the clips and the monster rolled over onto us. We brought it to the ground and he said, Nick said, now let's bring it around, move your end, slow, slow, and settle it over that little oak, now, rock it slightly, we'll slide, slide, but we can't lose it, we better not lose it.

We lost it.

But only for a little. I mean, we had solid control for ten minutes and only lost it for a split second. I'd say we done mostly good. But there that monster was, bounding through the trees on the way who knew where.

But let me go back to the beginning.

I met Nick the huge tank delivery guy and his lady in a pickup at Quickstop, and on the bed behind them was our monster olive green 1,500 gallon water tank. I was chatting with Nick through the window of the Jeep but I was gazing at that colossus strapped to the bed of his truck. Okay, if you'll follow me, I said, and I was thinking, Jesus.

I watched him slowly wind behind me and he made every sinuous move until we crested the big hill and went down into the trees and I turned in a circle and came out and there he was. I said, follow us, and me and Max headed out for McKee Road.

I led him over the flats at the top of our hill, and he saw an old tank of a neighbor in the woods, and he thought, this should be easy, just lowering onto flat ground. Not so fast; we have further to go.

The tank was heavy plastic and it was eight feet in diameter and some twelve feet high, and it would hold two thousand five hundred gallons and weigh, as Casey told me, thirty of me.

I told Nick, our station is down the trail, and he looked over the narrow heavily wooded path, and he thought some. The ground was mulch, he needed room to turn around, and his big tires might not bite down here. We can't roll it, because it would run away from us. We'll have to slide it, and to do that, let's bring it down closer, he said.

His lady was in the cab of his flatbed and she held her little Chinese Pug, who figured he needed many frames to make a good showing in her movie so he was animated and nervous. Max was everywhere. I had been advised to leave him in the house but the call came sudden and he was outside and besides if there's any way I can take my buddy along, I will - recognizing his antisocial behavior at times; not that he's uncouth; he's a perfect David Niven except for his habit of wetting wherever there are smells but he never does that on hard ground or in the house, he's just an excitable boy and he's excited now.

Nick said to her, you'll have to climb out, because you'll be scared if you go with me. She took her little hound and stood down and tried to withstand the inquisitive nature of Max. Nick took the truck and brought it down and around and backed and there was a small oak in the way down between two portals of redwood. We'll have to debark here, he said. But we can't lose it. We better not lose it.

From our back porch the well is fifteen feet away. It is plentiful, and it runs heavy iron. We buy water for our coffee, have spritzer to drink, bathe in what comes out of our ground.

But there is an idea, Casey thought it up, and it has taken root, about a huge tank way up the hill, and Casey knows, he's an engineer, he knows, it is three hundred and sixty feet up there and that will mean we will have seventy pounds of pressure per inch. We will oxidize the water which will be pumped up that hillside from our well and all manner of good will come of it. Why, such liquid miracles have not been wrought since the wedding at Canaan. We will turn on a faucet and we will drink what comes out of it, just like in the big cities.

But we gotta catch that careening tank first.

First it lumbers, then it jumps like a deer, and then it hits the ground like thunder for for another leap, and it's ever faster now, and the whomps are louder, and the jumps are higher. It's a beauty to watch, or would be, if it were someone else's water supply running away.

"Hit a tree..." Nick calls after it. And that's what happens. Excellent call, but then he's an old hand at maneuvering monster tanks, and besides it's not really remarkable to hit a tree in a forest.

"They're sturdy," he says, as we follow the path of the runaway tank. The lid popped off, but it seems to be resting comfortably otherwise. A copse has halted the runaway. I see grim possibilities over to port; this is a ridge, well wooded, but over there is a drop of a hundred feet and somewhere there are houses with maybe dreamy gardeners not expecting the pretty blue sky to rear up grand gondola tanks of doom. She blinks in sudden shadow, glances up to behold the descending spinning monster...

But Nick is not sanguine about our prospects.

"Do you have anybody who might help?"

"No, but we can leave it until the weekend..."

I indicate the pad we have prepared for it. Nick is surprised, pleased. I had shown him the surveyor's stake up the hill, but only as a marker. He thought we had to haul this monster back up there, maybe fifty feet. We only have to raise it ten, and over twenty.

We set about it. Heave, then scotch the slippage and rest, then push again, roll, stop the roll.... Max grabs the log we'd used to stop the roll and runs away with it. He likes to play stick games. We're holding it with our backs.

You cannot believe how it worked from here. We handled it to the edge of the pad, which was a huge dent in the hill Casey and I had dug out and I'd brought rocks from a supply depot to cover the setting, and now we hustled the monstrosity up over onto it's bottom and it slammed into place like in the movies.

Perfect. "It's level," comments Nick. Yes, well, me and Casey spent some time making sure of that.

It looks like part of the forest now, a stately green fortress in the woods. Niki J came up just after noon, home from school. The outline of it was in sylvan harmony so you saw it before you knew it.

Here we are now sitting in the flatbed cab, there's Nick, waiting for the confirmation of my card to come over the phone, and his lady holding tightly to her pug, and I bring Max in with us to see how that would be, and it's just too strange for Max, he's like me in that he won't tolerate strange environments for long; he bolts out and he jumps into the Jeep through the window, saying, let's go home, this is sufficient adventure for one morning.

I agree, and that's what we do.

by Casey

Exactly why my parent's needed a water tank is not relevant. I decided they should have one and thus it was so. Just like most (all) of the projects I initiate at their house I simply start, bill them for the materials, ask for help if required, curse a bit, then sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor. However, the tank does make a lot of sense.

Water comes from a well, located near the hot tub, that extends several hundred feet down. With the old system, a pump at the bottom of the well worked in conjunction with pressure tanks to drive the water through pipes into the house. The system is set up to pressurize the water to a set value, then cut off and not restart until the pressure dropped to another set value (due to normal water use) at which point it would kick in again. This could result in a less than satisfactory shower if you got caught at the low end of the pressure range and also meant that, if the power went out, which could be for a week due to a severe winter storm, water would cease to flow after very few flushes of the toilet.

With the new system, water is pumped from the bottom of the well to the tank that is located 160 vertical feet above their house so showers now operate under 70 psi, about twice the old pressure. And when the power goes out may parents still have water under pressure for as much as 2 weeks if they conserve. Now factor in their propane water heater, stove, and heating system and you have a house that is quite unaffected by loss of electricity. Back when I growing up, say during the great storm of 1982, this was certainly not the case and I remember an entire week when we had no water or power and heat was provided only by a wood burning fireplace.

Back to the tank, to determine if it was actually feasible I had to first see if it could be located high enough above the house to develop sufficient water pressure. Surveying was out of the option since I don't have any such equipment, it would have been tedious in the rugged terrain, and the results probably would have been screwed up. Instead I got a 100-foot length of flexible pipe, put a pressure gauge on one end, filled it with water, then capped the other end. With the gauge in my hand at the house I told my mom to take the capped end up the mountain as far as she could go and then to mark the point then shout. Upon hearing the shout I would record the pressure and then take the gauge end to where she was waiting. After a few iterations of this the sum of the pressures was around 70 psi and we found a nice "potential" spot for the tank.

I say "potential" because the hillside is steep and to provide a level base required a lot of digging. Early one morning I started and after several hours my pop joined in and after several more hours we had a level pad. Over the next few weekends I cleared a 350-foot long path from the tank down to the well and laid 3 sets of PVC pipe; one for pumping the water up to the tank from the well, another for the water to run from the tank down to the house, and the last for electrical conduit to power the ozone system. For the next several weekends I didn't travel down to my parents house but the tank work still progressed. The tank was delivered to our neighbors up the hill and just as the driver was warning my dad that we would be in trouble if it "got away" it did, rolling out of control down the hill until it was stopped by a tree just feet from its final position. After the tank was set the plumber came up and installed the ozone system and made all of the necessary connections. When I finally came down again it was all done and over the next year pop did an admirable job of covering the 350 feet of conduit since I had been to lazy to dig a trench.

Two pictures of the conduit winding through the forest. It has long since been buried and Max, seen in the right picture, has passed away.

Pa, Scoobie, and the water tank. It is 161 vertical feet above the house which translates into 70 pounds per square inch of water pressure. Finally someone can flush the toilet while another person is showering.

One day, when I was up in the woods laying the pipe, I was stung by a bee and being quite stubborn I continued to work instead of icing my lip. One day I'll learn.