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Pump

Our son stopped by on Saturday and I told him, “Great news!  The pump started.” 

He looked a little puzzled, but said, “That is great news...I guess.” 

“Hey, trust me, you would have gotten a call if it hadn’t.” 

South of our farm place is a little divot in the field. I’ve been struggling with it for forty years or more. When I started farming, it was just a soggy spot that would occasionally get soggier. I fired up a gas operated floating pump when we got heavy rain and that was enough to save the crop. Over the years, what with climate change, it got wetter and wetter. We dug ditches, put in tile, and finally ran a power line to it and installed a giant electric pump that ran automatically, more or less. Each individual move made sense, but now that I don’t farm any more, I watch in the spring and see that every year it’s a bother.  The wetland across a small berm from the soggy divot is now deep enough that the plat books call it “Olson Lake” and I'm throwing in the towel. It feels like I keep pumping the same water over and over. If you’ve ever been to New Orleans and watched a ship sailing by on the other side of the levee, about ten feet over your head, you’ll understand my situation.  Next year I’m going to start the process of restoring the wetland, which means I won’t need the pump. 

I do need it this year. 

I bet you know where this is going. 

A couple weeks ago I threw the breaker in the electrical box and sauntered the quarter mile to the pump to make sure everything was working. Everything was making the right noises and everything that was supposed to be spinning was, in fact, spinning. 

But no water was coming out. 

I came up with two theories. One, even though there was water on top, ice down below was blocking the water intake. Or, two, the pump shaft was twisted off deep inside, resulting in a catastrophic failure. 

A reasonable person would have gone with the less traumatic theory, but not me. And it’s all because of that damned truck. 

When I was sixteen my dad bought a new farm truck. 

New to us, anyway. Maybe things have changed, but back in the day most farm trucks came into farm life with around 100,000 miles on them. Some company would buy them new and deliver marshmallows or stereos until the engine blew up, then somebody else would buy them, slap a new engine in, add a box and a hoist, and bada-bing - farm truck.  Hauling grain would only put on a few thousand miles a year, so they’d last a long time. In our case, about thirty years.   

Not without some maintenance, of course. Over the years we put in another engine, a clutch, a transmission, a differential, and replaced three broken wheels. I congratulated myself on having basically a new truck, until the radiator went out. 

Then I bought a new truck. Okay, it was a semi with 600,000 miles on it, but you know... 

The old truck went behind the shed for a couple years, until the last year I farmed. We had a bumper crop and ran short of hauling vehicles. My son and my father convinced me to fire up the old truck. We placed it at the far end of a field, a half mile from the closest road and the first time we loaded it an axle broke. 

Something I had previously thought impossible. 

Did I mention this was going to be the very last time I’d need to use that truck? 

After we finished harvesting, my son and my father replaced the axle. If it had been up to me, I’d have planted daisies in it and left it there for eternity. 

Every morning for the last two weeks, I looked south toward the pump, dreading the process of taking it apart and fixing whatever catastrophic failure had caused my problems. 

But then two days ago on a warmish day, I summoned the remnants of my moral courage, walked down to the pump and flipped the switch. Everything performed as it should. 

Sometimes things work out. 

Who knew? 

Copyright 2024 Brent Olson 

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