I tried to turn on my heater for the first time this season during the cold snap we had around the first of January. Predictably, because this is my life, it wouldn’t light. The city spent about six months (instead of the 4 weeks they initially predicted) working on the gas lines in the easement behind my house last spring/summer/fall, and I figured that they just forgot to turn the gas back on. I called the public works department, and a few hours later a guy came out. He, after much tromping around, found that the line wasn’t holding pressure. He then turned the gas off and locked the meter. Houston, we have a gas leak.
I called the Rev and the G.P. to let them know. It was a Saturday, and since weekend rates of plumbers often have to be expressed in scientific notation, we decided to wait until Monday to call one. The G.P. had me covered, though. He brought over his ancient grey metal space heater and announced that I was saved.
I know this space heater well from my many banishments to the camper. We call it “The Electrocutioner” or “Old Shocky” because not only does it shock you every time you touch it, it also creates a static charge that travels through walls and floors and electrifies everything metal, including doorknobs. Just try to open a door without first covering your hand with your sleeve, and you get a filling buzzing jolt. As a basic rule, it’s always a good idea to wear rubber soled shoes around my Dad, but when the Shockster is heating the shop, the addition of ugly yellow dish washing gloves is also wise. It would have to get pretty cold in the house before I would turn that thing on.
I survived the weekend by putting on a sweater. It really doesn’t get that cold in Corpus Christi. On Monday, the plumber came and replaced a fitting near the house. The city returned and told us the problem remained unsolved. To me, living without natural gas wasn’t that big of a deal. I have LOTS of sweaters, and the heater is the only appliance in the house that runs on gas. The Rev and I suggested that when it’s time to sell the house, we just replace the gas furnace with an electric one. There’s little need for super efficiency when you only need the appliance three weeks out of the year, max. The G.P. was having none of it, and because the plumbers estimate was over $3,000, he began conniving plans to dig up the 35 meters of gas line running through my backyard himself.
The day your Daddy goes full on Don Quixote is a difficult one. Instead of jousting windmills, however, the G.P. is digging trenches. The initial plan was to dig pilot post holes in order to locate the line, and then to use his drill with an auger bit to make small holes between the larger post holes and use an electronic gas sniffer to find the leak. He started tunneling alongside the house, to figure out where the gas line went out through the yard. My Dad is 72 years old, and recently spent a month wearing a heart monitor to allow his cardiologist to check on his ticker. The Rev and I suspected that the monitor was more for the Old Man to clock his heart’s efficiency, much like the way he is obsessively aware of his car’s miles per gallon. Either way, Digging Dad was worrisome to me, so I spend a lot of time raking leaves and hanging around when he was working. I wasn’t allowed to dig. Dad was sure I’d mess it up. My job was to clean the yard and hang around in case he died. The Rev said that if the G.P. did expire, I wasn’t allowed to just kick him into the pit and fill it in with lime and dirt. She can be unreasonable.
Tracing the line from the house under two large decks proved more difficult than the G.P. thought, and now there are so many post holes that the back yard looks like it’s overrun with prairie dogs. I called the Rev when this was happening and told her that Dad had gone gopher.
Eventually, after much digging and cussing, the line was located and it was time to drill the smaller holes. The G.P. looked online for gas sniffing dogs, and then got mad because they were all German Shepherds – “In case the line needs biting when they find the leak,” he joked. Unfortunately, my yard is made of antediluvian clay baked into a solid secondary mantle, and was too hard to drill through. I tried to tell him, having once nearly decapitated myself trying to turn the topsoil with an electric tiller. He didn’t listen and almost broke his hand when the drill kicked back. Time for a new plan. The G.P. starting posting on Facebook about valor and quests.
My parents friends from Kansas, Ron and Nyla, arrived. Ron was the foreman on our family farm for years, and is still hale and hearty at 78 years old. He’s like Spongebob, super cheerful and always willing to lend a hand. He refused to be left out of what I’m sure looked to him like Don Daddy’s Super Fun Time Digging Adventure Project — so I wound up with over 150 years of old guy in my back yard. They started cutting the soil with a Milwaukee Saws all. After two days, Don Daddy and Sancho Ron had deep pits running across the yard, and were considering ways to remove one of my crepe myrtle trees. They didn’t have any dynamite, so the tree lived.
The lawn looks like a WWI battlefield – as though the Smurfs are about to take on the Kaiser – but you can see a lot of the gas line, except the bits that are under the two decks and the tree. You know, the parts where the leak probably is.
Both guys got injured on the last day they dug. Don Daddy hurt his shoulder, and Sancho Ron cut his hand. The G.P. also lost his beloved Yeti coffee cup. That evening, Don Daddy turned to the Rev (DulceMama?) and said, “Well, Kris, it sure would be a lot easier and much less dangerous just to get an electric heater.”
“That’s right, Bruce,” she replied. She’s learned after 40 years of marriage to face palm on the inside.
I’m awaiting the order to go fill in the trenches. I may plant poppies to commemorate the great battle fought there. Maybe I’ll also erect a small plaque that says, “Here fought Don Daddy and Sancho Ron. They didn’t win, but only for lack of dynamite.”
Stay tuned for Don Daddy’s next quest: The Search for the Lost Yeti (coffee mug).