More Dogs on Main
March 23, 2012
Monday and Tuesday were probably the best days of the entire ski season. It was perfect powder under sunny skies. I had Empire Bowl to myself on Monday, and kept peeking over at Puma to see if it had opened. They didn’t get it open on Monday. I was about ten chairs from first tracks there on Tuesday. After a season of too many boring groomers and too-thin coverage in the trees, those two days were reminders of what it’s supposed to be about.
The days were even better because I was on a new pair of skis. The old skis were due for retirement at the end of this season, but the date moved up a bit when I pulled the binding out of one of them. That was a little bit like wrecking a car you hate. "Oh, how terrible, now I have to go out and get new skis on sale." The new ones are much wider than anything I’ve been on before. I’ve never felt that confident in the powder before in my life. Every year, I’ll have a run where I finish up thinking that if the season ended right then, it would be OK. That was Tuesday in Puma, four times.
But just to keep the ying and yang in balance, while the skiing was perfect, things were coming unglued at home. The water service to my house is from a little neighborhood utility with a grand total of about 35 connections. It’s a regular pile of spaghetti in terms of looping and parallel pipes. There are only a few of us here through the winter. Most of the cabin owners drain the pipes and pack it in until June. Somewhere, over the course of the winter, the main froze and broke. The ice in the pipe kept it corked off until it warmed up.
A week of 50-degree temperatures and the ice plug melted. I got a call about low pressure from one neighbor, and by the next morning the system had drained dry. The inflow from the spring couldn’t keep up with the outflow through a leak that still can’t be located. One of the downsides to living on the frontier is that when you call the water department, you answer your own call. I spent four full days tromping around in hip waders through the rotting, thawing snow pack trying to locate valves to see if I could isolate the leak. There was a time when the valves were all flagged, but that was apparently a long time ago.
Our lines run cross country, through pastures and open ground. I finally was able to locate a set of valves that would close off one stretch of pipe that seemed to be where things were leaking. Unfortunately, my house was on that section of pipe.
So I was without water for about a week until we could be sure we had really found the problem and got things organized to set a new valve in the line that would close off the leak downstream of my house. It wasn’t exactly pioneer conditions. I had access to a nicely heated bathroom at a relative’s unoccupied house next door. On the other hand, "next door" in my neighborhood can be a pretty good hike on a trail through all that new snow.
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When the backhoe showed up, the first order of business was finding the line. The 60-year-old trench is still pretty obvious in the summer when the lawnmower nicks the rocks on the top of it. In the mud and slush, it wasn’t so clear. After strip-mining the back yard, the backhoe operator asked me if I could witch pipes. He said he couldn’t, but his wife and son were really good at it. It just so happens that I can locate pipes with pieces of wire in my hands. I don’t often admit to it because I don’t believe it works, even though it does. I couldn’t find my special copper witching wires, but I got it with what we had on the truck.
Once we got it dug up, and had all the parts for the repair spread out, it immediately became clear that what the map said was a 2-inch-diameter pipe was actually a 2½-inch pipe. None of the fittings would work. I was about to give up, but the backhoe operator said it was OK. We’d just make our own. He grew up working in a saw mill, fixing big machinery in remote locations with duct tape and pine cones. We welded up a couple of scraps of pipe and made our own fittings.
I tell you, deep powder skiing, new wide boards, and a bathroom right in the house it just doesn’t get any better.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column for 25 years.