Water and I have always had something of a love-hate relationship. For example, I love floating on crystal-clear Missouri streams and fishing in muddy farm ponds. I love watching and listening to ocean waves as they crash on the beach. I am also quite fond of taking long, hot showers and soaking in a jacuzzi once in a while.
Water, for its part, hates me. It has tried to kill me on several occasions. It leaves annoying spots on my otherwise gorgeous black truck. Water refuses to confine itself to the plumbing in my house, preferring instead to flow freely through floors and ceilings via any one of our home’s leaking or overflowing toilets.
On second thought, water and I have more of a hate-hate relationship.
I’ve spent most of my life living within a few miles of either the Mississippi River or the Missouri River. Mark Twain, my fellow Hannibalian, romanticized the river that flows past our boyhood hometown. It could be fairly said that the river was his first true love. He was a steamboat captain on the Mississippi before he wrote any of his books. I’ve been on the Mississippi as a passenger aboard a tugboat, a houseboat, a speedboat, and a replica steamboat that bears the famous author’s name, and while I did enjoy those experiences, I do not share Twain’s affection for big rivers.
Muddy rivers like the Mississippi and Missouri are polluted and disgusting to swim in. I’ve splashed around on the banks of both only to emerge covered in a filthy froth. Big rivers stink. Literally. Oh, and one more thing: they flood.
As beautiful as our state’s big rivers are to look at, they’re really quite ugly. The damage they do to homes, roads, and crops can be devastating to farmers, families, and whole communities. There are people living right here in our area who have more of a right to hate the river, and water in general, than I ever will.
My family’s recent vacation in Mexico, at the southern tip of the Baja California Desert, was a welcome reprieve from the relentless spring rains in Missouri. At the end of our trip, our plane landed just after yet another heavy downpour had gone through the Kansas City area, leaving the big black truck covered in those annoying water spots again.
When we got home later that night, we discovered mildew growing in our basement. Our central air conditioner had died a while back, and we were hoping to have a new unit installed before our vacation. Unfortunately, we could not get an appointment until after our trip, and our windowless guest bedroom paid the price for the delay. It was not a pretty sight. Or smell.
I also discovered new microbial growth on the ceiling of the basement bathroom. The new toilet that I installed upstairs in the master bathroom had been leaking through the sub-floor, much to my dismay.
When I replaced the toilet, I used two wax rings to ensure a good seal, (learning from the mistake I made when I replaced the basement toilet a couple years ago), but it apparently wasn’t good enough. I was therefore forced to pull the toilet up, yet again, and install an even taller flange and wax ring. Ah, the joys of home ownership!
In six years of living in our house, I have had to pull toilets six times. Once to install a new floor, twice to install new toilets, and three times to install new wax rings. I also had to replace two toilets in our old RV. (Ah, the joys of motorhome ownership!) My snarky brother informs me that there are people who will come to your house and take care of these problems for you. Plumbers, he says they’re called. (Thanks, Blake. You’re always such a big help.)
With the torrential rainfall we had in our area last weekend, my quarrels with water continued. Two of my friends hydroplaned on Highway 63, during separate downpours, and wrecked their cars. Luckily, neither were injured.
Three cars shows I was interested in attending got rained out. On my way to the Fulton Street Fair car show, I was forced to turn around at the Cedar Creek bridge on Route Y because the road was under two feet of water. Have you ever tried to do a three-point-turnaround in a 48-year-old truck not equipped with power steering on a narrow, shoulderless road surrounded by water on both sides? It’s so much fun! (It is not fun.)
Sometime during the weekend deluge, the sump pump in my mother-in-law’s fully finished and furnished basement stopped working. My wife, her mother Glee, and I used shop-vacs and carpet cleaners to suck up countless gallons of water. Thankfully, a repairman got the pump working again before my mother-in-law’s collection of creepy dolls was ruined.
Glee said she allowed herself to be upset when she first saw her flooded basement—but only for a moment. She said things could always be worse, and of course she’s right. The good people of Hartsburg and other towns along the flooding Missouri River know something about that.
I’ll try to keep that in mind the next time one of our toilets starts leaking.