Jun 21

Death of a cistern

JackhammerLike all recent mornings, there is, as I write this, a gigantic jackhammer jackhammering right outside my window. The jackhammer is destroying a 50,000 gallon underground concrete cistern. This cistern, constructed at great expense at the urging of my architect (“you’ve never tasted water so good!”), was meant to collect rainwater off the roof of the bunkhouse. And it did, in fact, collect some of that. It also collected oak pollen, squirrel feces, katydid frass, and the incessant involvement of my annoying handyman, who was obliged to ascend the roof with a leaf-blower seemingly every other day in a futile attempt to combat nature’s natural impulse to deposit its stankonious detritus over every square millimeter of Dreadful Acres.

The fact that rainwater collection necessitated daily interactions with a person as annoying as my handyman made that aspect of the process particularly trying.

The mosquitoes, though, were the cistern’s most truly breathtaking product. In the middle of a 3-year drought, with no other standing water around for miles, my house was a beacon, a spa, a luxury resort for mosquitoes. They spawned like mad in the cistern, where they were protected from both predators and, owing to the intended purpose of the water (drinking), from pesticides. For eight months out of the year any trip outside the house in shorts and a T-shirt was a foolhardy suicide mission.

“You aren’t going outside?”

“But I have to. The horses haven’t eaten since, like, April.”

“Well, here, just slip on this suit of armor.”

“Are you crazy? It’s 102 degrees out there.”

“Then at least spray yourself with Deep Woods Off. The bugs’ll still bite you, but at least you’ll get cancer.”

“Great idea!”

One would limp back in moments later, stinking of DEET, disfigured by stinging red bumps, scratching bloody divets into the skin, defeated, showing symptoms of malaria.

Meanwhile, a couple of months ago something or someone crawled into the cistern and died. The water went septic. I wonder if you grasp my meaning. The entire house stunk a stink the sheer enormity of which words cannot adequately express. Let me just tell you, you haven’t lived (in hell) until you’ve showered with water in which an unidentified mammal has recently decomposed.

Well, that was IT. With deft and malodorous fingers I texted young Travis, the quintessentially Texan cowboy Brad Pitt-lookin rurally-literate dude I keep on retainer, and gave him the word.

“Let’s fill that motherfucker in.”

Looking back, I probably didn’t actually use the word ‘motherfucker’. It’s irrational, but for some reason I am uncomfortable dropping the good old misogynist curses around godly young persons who wear Jesus fish chokers on leather thongs and call me “ma’am.”

rebarWhich brings me to this morning, Day 5 of the Great Cistern Demolition of 2013. The crew informs me that they’ll probably have it fully collapsed by tonight.

Not a moment too soon. Five days of ceaseless jackhammering can wear a crone down. The contractor who built this place was without a doubt the most drunken chump-ass jacknut this side of Luckenbach, but he was apparently and uncharacteristically somewhat on the ball when he installed the cistern. That thing was constructed like the president’s atomic bunker, and from what I can tell, was also the source of the Great Rebar Shortage of 2005.* In other words, it has resisted demolition at every turn. The jackhammerist is pretty fed up with it. Somehow, when I imagined filling it in, I hadn’t envisioned that it would entail caving in a vast expanse of concrete 30 feet across and 2 feet thick and pissing off 3 dudes with heavy machinery for the better part of a week. I thought maybe they’d drop one of those Monty Python weights on it and shove a bit of dirt in the hole, done and done.

Well, you live and learn. Next time I spend thousands of dollars on a useless mosquito farm, I’ll be sure and put it above ground and on someone else’s property.

* You can’t tell from the photo, because Flickr has apparently done something screwy to the resolution, but that’s about 47,358 rebars in a pile in front of what was once the cistern in question.


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  1. Comradde PhysioProffe

    Why did it have to be demolished, instead of just filled with fucken dirt?

  2. buttercup

    I’d been wondering how things are going at Dreadful Acres. The demise of your cistern is no doubt a bright spot in an otherwise uneventful summer, eh? Maybe you can use the rebar to build a chapel or something, “aunt crony’s temple of the cistern” instead of brethern.

    Or not.

  3. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Comradde, picture a giant hat box, 30 feet in diameter and 7 feet deep, made of concrete and sunk in the ground. The lid of the hat box is also made of concrete and is 2 feet thick. The lid is what’s being demolished, so they can actually get the dirt into the box. They’re leaving the floor and walls as is for future archaeologists to find and go “hmm, looks like another redneck kidnapper’s underground bunker.”

    And yes, Buttercup, next week I’m throwing a Cistern Filling party to celebrate.

  4. Hattie

    Jesus! How ghastly. I know of this kind of water situation, although most collected rainwater here on the Big Island of Hawaii is kept above ground and needs constant attention. When our water pipe down by the street broke last week, six guys came over and repaired the bugga in several hours, and it did not cost us a cent. Yes, we are on city water. How effete of us. Let’s hear it for dependent living!
    Friends of ours, though, have dug a well that (so they say) is deep enough to provide clean water. We shall see.

  5. pheenobarbidoll

    “The mosquitoes, though, were the cistern’s most truly breathtaking product. In the middle of a 3-year drought,”

    So you’re the culprit. I wondered where the damn things were coming from.

  6. Ron Sullivan

    Bless my soul; how do you choke a fish?

  7. Comradde PhysioProffe

    Holy Fucknoly!

  8. ew_nc

    This situation seems to have endless pun potential. I’ll have to work on that.

  9. Ol-Lozy Ram

    Dang. It’s always sumthin’. If you just fill the remaining container up with backfill and what-not, the ground above it (Note: this comment assumes that Texas can still have extended rainy periods, on this, our new planet Eaarth) will tend to be a squishy quagmire. Plant something, or delineate the area so heavy equipment stays off the quicksand. Been there, done something sorta like that.

  10. Friend of Snakes

    Good golly, woman, what is the matter with your thinking processes here? That pit has the makings of a cracker-jack snake hibernaculum if you’d play your cards right. Dump a load of pea gravel in the bottom; get you some BIG rocks to go with the cement chunks; saw (or bend) that rebar into shapes that’ll smush back into the pit; backfill with dirt and more rocks. Et voilà!

    You’re missing out on a feature which would add value to Dreadful Acres when it come time to sell. As long as you advertise in the appropriate places.

  11. Tei Tetua

    So the master’s tools can dismantle, well, something, but it’ll cost ya.

  12. shopstewardess

    Glad you’ve got a cure for the cisternitis. In my neck of the woods, there would need to be a hole in the bottom of the cistern before backfilling, to prevent stagnant water, but perhaps that’s not a problem in Cottonmouth County.

  13. Ruby Lou

    Have you shared your joyful cistern experiences with the architect who recommended it?

  14. goblinbee

    Missing your posts, Twisty!

  15. quixote

    Me too, goblinbee. Me too.

  16. Comradde PhysioProffe

    I hope everything is cool at Dreadful Acres!

  17. tinfoil hattie

    Missing you and Dreadful Acres posts.

  18. Hattie

    I want to hear more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. debbaasseerr

    Glad to see this blog is up! I understand that blogular sporaticism is a fact of life but I still like to re-read the old ones.

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