Most people when looking back on their teenage years can reflect fondly on new experiences, the thrill of driving, and the joys of becoming independent.
I say “most people” because I and my siblings are not among them. Our teenage years consisted of moving pipe on my grandpa’s farm. Every day, rain, shine, weekends, holidays, the Apocalypse, etc, we would go out at 6 am and 5 pm to move MILES and MILES of sprinkler pipe across fields to irrigate them. As evidenced by this picture, it was terrible:
There were days, however rare, that made the horrific mornings and blisteringly hot nights worth every second. This is one of those days.
During times when virtually every field in fifty miles was being irrigated, we would split up. This particular afternoon my siblings and uncle Curtis went several miles away to the Haws Ground (population: nine billion mosquitos the size of tanks) while I went with my Dad and uncle Kevin. (My dad only moved pipe under the most egregious of circumstances; this illustrates how badly we needed the help.)
There were two fields the three of us had to move. One was the Pasture, filled with stinky, nasty cows that spent most of their time leaving presents all over the field for us to step in.
The other was Ann’s.
You are not shaking with terror. You should be. The field was named after an obscure family member, and if she happened to resemble the field at all, she would probably have been an axe murderer. It was a typographical nightmare. Ponds, creeks, trees and old rusted equipment littered the field, making it almost impossible to move pipe on. Landing a spaceship on the moon was child’s play in comparison.
I chose the Pasture. Poop can wash off. The psychological scarring from Ann’s is forever. So they dropped me off to deal with the herd of immensely stupid cows and assorted pies, and they went to Ann’s.
I moved most of the line without incident. Just before I was ready to pressurize the pipes and send the sprinklers bursting forth in their watery glory, I heard something.
It was a faint pop. Not much of anything, really. But I was in the middle of nowhere. Other than the lowing of cows and the thrumming of homicidal mosquito clouds, I shouldn’t have heard anything at all.
I looked around. Off in the distance, in the direction of Ann’s, I saw this:
No, we do not live anywhere near Yellowstone National Park. I had a faint idea of what that was, but there was no way to tell from a mile and a half away. I wasn’t even sure if it was Ann’s. It could have been someone else’s field. So I finished the line, and went and sat on the hay bales in the barn.
About a half hour later, the truck came clanging up. My dad was driving, and he was fine. My uncle Kevin was in the passenger seat, and he was…not fine. In fact, he looked like this:
He was sopping wet, partially deaf, and unable to form coherent sentences. Shaking with suppressed laughter, my dad told the story.
In addition to the debris littering Ann’s, there was another problem: faulty plumbing. The pipes we move across the field are hooked up to hydrants stationed at one end of the field. Those hydrants are fed by underground pipes that hook up to a water supply and a pump that pressurizes the whole line.
These underground pipes at Ann’s are older than the dirt that surrounds them. Sometimes they fail. My uncle had gone to turn on the hydrant…
My uncle has a unique genetic flaw that allows his knees to bend backwards. It CERTAINLY isn’t because I can’t draw people correctly.
The pipe broke underground…
The pressure forced the pipe upwards at twice the speed of sound…
Sending my uncle flying…
And a geyser of water to spray a hundred feet into the air. (That is not an exaggeration. The pressure in these lines is incredible.)
My dad told me that had Kevin’s head been directly in the line of the pipe instead of his chest, our local town would have soon had their own version of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
As it was, my uncle Kevin regained consciousness after several minutes lying spread-eagled in a field that was rapidly becoming a mudhole. It took him several minutes to remember his own name, and a few more to remember why he was so wet. My dad, hooting like a deranged owl, shut the pump off and helped Kevin to the truck; which was rather difficult as he kept wandering off to the left.
Other than a spectacular bruise and a ringing sound in his ears, my uncle eventually recovered. Like my father, he only rarely moves pipe now. I can’t imagine why.