Over the Hill

Broken pipe brings people together on Christmas Eve

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

Christmas Eve at our house last week almost became a nightmare version of “A Visit From St. Nicholas”: ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through our house, no water was flowing, not even a drop.

It began after dark Christmas Eve when our next-door neighbor told us water was running off our front lawn. I went out with a flashlight. It was worse than I’d feared. The water went over the curb like a waterfall and streamed away in the gutter.

It had all the makings of a disaster. Our daughter and our grandson from New York were staying with us, and our son and our granddaughter from Oregon were due on Christmas for a few days’ visit. But the disaster never materialized. Instead it was a positive experience.

My grandson, our next-door neighbor and I trudged over the soggy, squishy part of our lawn. It eventually became obvious that the pipe between our water meter and our house had broken.

I called the friendly plumber who had fixed two plumbing messes for me during the past year. But I wondered if he’d come on Christmas Eve? I left a panicky message on his answering machine. But if he didn’t call back, I’d have to resort to the Yellow Pages.

Then my grandson and I started digging. Our mission was to find the pipe and the break. We dug in the soggiest part of the lawn on the logical route for the pipe. Our hole, of course, filled with water. So we dug toward where the water seemed to flow from.

We found the pipe in a few minutes. The plumber called about the same time. He said he’d be here in 20 minutes and he was.

He set his big battery light on the edge of the hole, but the pipe was still in the shadows. It was about two and a half feet below ground level. My neighbor then got a long steel rod from his garage. He stuck it in the ground next to the hole and attached the light high enough on the rod to light the entire hole.

The plumber lay on the muddy ground, reached into the hole and performed the necessary surgery to heal the broken pipe. He said we should cover it with sand before dumping the heavy, lumpy adobe back onto it.

We needed to cover the pipe that night to keep it from freezing, but where could we get sand at 9:30 p.m. Christmas Eve? My neighbor went to his garage and returned with a sack of sand to contribute.

The broken pipe never became a disaster. It was a rare opportunity for a retired old writer to get together with three other men, not to chat, not to watch sports, not to compete but to accomplish something. We all contributed, suggested and cooperated. It warmed me. It satisfied me.