MEDINA — “Crossin’ the highway late last night.
He shoulda looked left and he shoulda looked right
He didn’t see the station wagon car
The skunk got squashed and there you are
You got yer
Dead skunk in the middle of the road”
Ahhh, yes, there was no mistaking the fact that I was in St. Lawrence County in northern New York. Loudon Wainwright III’s lyrics from his classic “Dead Skunk” song cleverly brings the (sometimes) malodorous reality of rural life to light with its novel insight. I was, indeed, back at our camp on the St. Lawrence River.
Dodging the black, white and red pizzas that littered the highway, I found solace in the fact that I had reached Ogdensburg — hometown for both my wife and me. The ’Burg — as it’s known to the locals — is the only American city on the gateway to the Great Lakes, the mighty and beautiful St. Lawrence River.
We are fortunate to have a place that keeps our family’s connection with the area alive. My wife and I both have family members who are still in the area, but despite that, we still return. I was there, by myself this trip, to complete the process of opening the camp. A broken water pump had curtailed previous efforts. My brother-in-law, Bill, had graciously volunteered to take it to a local shop and have it fixed. I was now returning to install the repaired unit and get the water turned on.
The first thing I had to do was carry the 80-pound tank and pump combo down the 61 steps to its site beside the camp. Piece of cake! I then had to stretch a new 70-foot waterline out into the river. I had to figure out how to do this despite the fact that a much-needed part that I had bought specifically for this project was missing. Apparently, it never got put in the bag with the other stuff at the store. No sweat — I just made do with what I had on hand.
When I finally got that done, I meticulously hooked everything up to the pump. Would the “new and improved” pump work? It had been three weeks since I last tried. I spent 150 bucks to get that sucker fixed. The wait was over; the moment of truth had arrived. I plugged it in and flipped the switch. Bingo! It fired up like a Saturn moon-rocket. Perfect!
The pump worked fine. Unfortunately (what has become standard operating procedure) something else went wrong. The tank sprang a leak. All was for naught. And once again, I was — no pun intended — dead in the water. I couldn’t get pressure with a hole in the tank.
There was still no water to the faucets, and the only shower I had was the mist that emanated from that hole in the 80-pound, $150 piece of back-breaking crap that had already put me three weeks behind schedule. The same piece of crap that was now in perilous danger of being pushed off the end of the dock and left to “swim with the fishes.”
Eventually, I did get it squared away. But not before having to replace several other sections of waterline along the way. (Every year the effects of winter cause the building to shift and this year, the process resulted in multiple breaks in the plastic piping. It was something I didn’t realize until after I got pressure to the lines.)
Camp life? Sing it loud, Loudon: “Stinkin’ to hi-gh heaven.”
By the way, I was kidding before — thank God I’ve got family up there. And, as a note to those who read last week’s column, it probably would have been a good idea to bring along my dog, Maggie — she’s always such a big help. OK, I’m kidding (again) about the tail-wagging canine-catastrophe!
That’s the way it looks from the Valley.