Thursday, June 5, 2014

that summer

End of July, 1981.  I was 16 years old - summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school.

It was morning.  Early.  My dad came into my bedroom and woke me up.  Said we needed to get up.  This was weird because (1) my dad never entered my bedroom during all my teen years, and (2) my dad never entered my bedroom during all my teen years.  I think he was kind of afraid of me at that stage - a teenaged girl with who-knows-what going on hormonally at any given time - even though I was his own kid.

He'd said something about how there was no water.  I still didn't know how that equated to us having to get up at butt crack of dawn.  In fact, to this day, I still don't.

The thing what happened was, the water main into town broke, so there was no running water for anyone.  Nowadays, I hear about water mains breaking and people being out of running water for a couple of hours.  In my hometown, in summer of 1981, we went for two weeks.

We'd been made aware of the impending stoppage of water flow.  The break was somewhere upstream from town, so until the main was emptied, we still had running water, which everyone proceeded to hoard.  In our house, we filled our bathtubs and some big garbage cans.  We were not immune to the hoarding.

And then, just like that, the water stopped.

For two weeks.

Several restaurants and other businesses closed.  People ate with plasticware off of paper plates.  I remember feeling hot and sticky all of the time.  Prince Charles and Lady Diana got married while we were having our waterless summer.  My best friend and I watched the glittering ceremony on TV while hot, dirty, grimy, and snacking on canned Chef Boyardee with a spork.

And then there were the water buffaloes.

See, the army came to the rescue, in the form of water buffaloes.  Not the big cow-looking animals, but these things:

Water buffaloes were stationed at various places, and our neighborhood had one at the end of the street.  Each household was allowed a certain  number of gallons per day.   I don't remember the circumstances, but it seems like it was usually me that was sent to fetch the water.  In the beginning.

I'd just walk down the street in my short shorts and flip flops and have the empties filled up by the young, strong, heroic army guardsmen.  Maybe we'd chit chat a bit.  Then I'd lug the water home.

One evening, my mom came with me to help lug the water.  I remember the concerned look on her face as she sized up the young, strong, heroic army guardsmen, then looked to me in my summer outfit as my heart rate probably increased and my pupils probably dilated.

After that, Mom made sure that she or someone else came with me to get the water.  Moms.

Eventually, we townfolk were told to open up our faucets because water would soon flow again, and a sudden spike in pressure could break the pipes.  We opened and waited as nothing flowed from the faucets.

Then one day it happened.

I remember it clearly.  I was bored and went out to pedal around on my bicycle for lack of anything else.  I was slowly rolling around on the street in front of our house when I heard the most eerie sound.  Like a ghost moaning.  Not that I've ever really heard a ghost moaning, but like I imagine a ghost would sound if it were moaning.

I stopped pedaling and looked around, thinking Armageddon had arrived, when lo and behold, water began spewing forth from the lawn sprinklers.  From everyone's lawn sprinklers.  Cool, clear, beautiful, magnificent water.  Came in sputtering at first, but soon flowed like oil from a struck well.  It was like Christmas only way better.

I think of that summer every time I flush.

Not really.

Hookin' up with Mama Kat today
3.) A memorable summer.



Michelle said...

That would most definitely make for a memorable summer! I like the way you told the story and shared the details that would be important to a 16-year-old (those Army guardsmen).

Abby said...

Thanks, I almost made those Army guardsmen the focus of the whole post!

Guano said...

You have a good memory! I only remembered the bathtub water, the water buppalos, and the awkward victory of a (*ahem*) productive poop when we went over to the next town. Oh, and the ol' man complaining the Nat. Guard was staying at the Holiday Inn, not in tents.

And yeah, bet those guard guys talk about those country girls.....

Abby said...

It's funny the different things that stand out. For you, a victorious (*ahem*) and Dad grouching. Me, young army guys down the street all day and a royal wedding. Although, I do remember you and Dad using the "Boyscout Urinal" out back...

Riot Kitty said...

Good God! I can't even imagine. I am so addicted to indoor plumbing. (And you are obviously lying about your age, because you look so much younger. So there.)

Marcy said...

Two weeks! I suffered through just four or five days with no water after a hurricane and thought that was terrible.

Abby said...

... sez my twin.

Abby said...

I think I was more tolerant then. Now it would probably be a 2-week whine fest.

agg79 said...

Ah, you had me at water buffaloes. As one who has spent a few years in the field, I am quite familiar with water buffaloes. We relied upon those beasts when we were stationed in the field for weeks. No, it wasn't a bottle of Evian or Dasani, but when you don't have any other options, they can taste pretty good. You learn to really appreciate the simple things in life at that point (like a working toilet). Some really great memory of younger days - the kind that build character/memories. Something about a boy scout urinal struck close to home. I wonder how we would handle the same situation today (without WiFi).

terri said...

We're so spoiled with our conveniences these days, I imagine I would want to up and move into a hotel somewhere where there was water. But that would be expensive, especially for an entire family.

I can imagine how frustrated everyone must have been. I mean, some habits are so ingrained that I'll bet you still tried turning on faucets several times a day before being reminded there was no water to be had.

I remember that very same summer, because of the Royal Wedding and a friend who was obsessed with the royal couple. And I distinctly remember being aware of the lack of excitement in my life then. Had I been aware of your kind of "excitement" that summer, I'd have known to be grateful for my boredom.

Abby said...

Looking back, I think it did help build character. I wish my kids would have to go 2 weeks without running water, but then... I'd probably have to do it too.

And I wouldn't mind owning one of those water buffaloes. It would come in handy for the apocalypse!

Abby said...

Ours was a pretty humble little town, and in my memory, we all just sort of rolled with it. But yes, I do remember turning on faucets on reflex, and then, "aw, crap".

Anonymous said...

I didn't KNOW about the water buffalo! I could give up water for a few days, if only I was guaranteed a visit... okay... no I couldn't.
Chip has been without water all winter. He comes home to shower every day and fill up water jugs. I suppose WE'RE his water buffalo.
When the kids were little, we'd have "Pioneer weeks". They'd have to go without screens of any type. They were still allowed running water and electricity, but it was torturous for them at times.

Abby said...

YES, I'd say you can claim offical Water Buffalo status!
"Pioneer weeks" sound like a great idea. We've done "EMP weekends" - no electronics or electricity for a weekend, but we still use running water. Good to tap into the inner cave family once in a while.