All the faucets leaked and two toilets didn’t flush properly in the house Kaz and I bought in 1979. Our first order of business was to find a plumber. Turns out there was one in Oracle whose name was Delbert “Dub” Ragels. When Dub showed up after greetings and a few other niceties he fixed the worst offending leaky faucets, then suggested that we’d better learn to change the washers ourselves or we’d soon run out of money.
“This is Oracle,” he said. “But don’t get me wrong, I like the business.”
As he was about to return to his truck, I stopped him.
“We have another problem,” I said, “that maybe you can help us with. The toilets don’t seem to flush right. He turned with a half smile on his face said something like “maybe the septic tanks are full”. Then he pulled the covers off both tanks exposing two god awful stinky messes that featured plastic cleaning pads amid the rancid fecal stew.
“At a minimum they need to be pumped.”.
“Who does that?”
“But the real problem may be the leach lines.”
“That’s where the tank drains into the soil. A lot of times roots block the flow of liquids. Back in the day they used clay tiles laid end to end. Easy for the roots to get in. I don’t know for sure that’s the problem. Haven’t worked on the place. Fred and Eunice never hired local. Didn’t want anyone around here to know their business.”
Depressed by the situation we at least felt a bit righteous because unlike the previous owners we thought local hires were the way to go.
The day after Dub left the premises I began digging up the leach line from the main septic tank. It was pick and shovel work. After an hour or so a clunk announced my pick’s encounter with what proved to be one of the clay tiles Dub predicted. I cleaned out the trench. Sure enough there were roots penetrating the tiles one after another at every joint. Those I pulled out were completely plugged. New plastic drain pipe leading to one end of the exposed rocky leach field solved the problem. After that, and for over a decade, our toilets flushed properly. It seemed a hard won triumph until at a New Years Eve party our main toilet backed up and water began flooding into the living room under the bathroom wall. Pride goeth before a fall.
Kaz and I moved to Oracle in 1979. The house we bought dated to the late 1940s. With little advance knowledge of the place, we set out to build a new life together, intending to settle in and raise a family.