I was reminded recently of what my elegant godmother announced the first time she visited me at our home in the “country” many years ago. “You were the most sophisticated young woman I ever knew in New York City,” she exclaimed, ”Good heavens, Victoria, what happened to you?” This week, I discovered once again that life lessons come in strange packages that I often wish had gotten lost in the mail.
When I heard the steady heavy rhythm of rain on the roof over my bed last Saturday, I sat up in fear. In other circumstances, this is a sound that would lull me to sleep. But I knew that the barn was flooding again, and at three in the morning, there was not a thing I could do to stop it. For over eight years, we have experienced the pain and agony of draining the horses’ stalls after heavy rains and cursed the foolish people who built our barn in the lowest part of our property. What made this instance particularly frightening for me was that I would have to fix the problem without any help from my husband or daughter, who were both away from home.
As I headed out to the barn, not even waiting for the sun to rise last Sunday morning, I could see that the trouble was in Silk’s stall. There was a knee-deep pool of poop soup by the front door, and my sweet horse was marooned in the back half of her bedroom. We had seriously sandbagged the back door, so there was no way for me to open it and lead her to dry land. It was still raining non-stop, but I put a halter and lead on her and escorted her next door to hang out with her daughter. Being a brave and trusting partner, Silk followed me without hesitation through the downpour and boot-sucking mud to safety.
I knew the drill, dragging the sump pump, heavy extra-long electric cords, the 50 foot drainage hose and the colander from the basement to the barn. I assembled everything and turned on the pump. The hose had a hole where it attached to the pump, sending a spray of stinky, filthy water right into my face and soaking me head to toe. When I ran back to the house for a towel, it took every ounce of will-power not to just hop in a warm shower and crawl back into my bed. Instead, I located another hose, positioned it so that it would drain out back into the ditch and re-attached it to the sump pump.
For a couple of hours, I stayed with the pump, moving it with the colander so that it didn’t get clogged, praying that the mucky water would recede. Once I finally got it drained, I walked away, knowing full well that when I returned about an hour later, the stall would be flooded again as the water seeped up from the ground under the barn. Three more times, I drained the stall and finally, before it got dark, I began dragging these back-breaking, heavy bags of wood pellets from the garage to the barn where I poured them into the hole to hopefully soak up the water as it returned overnight. My last thought before I fell into a dead sleep was that I was amazed and quite proud that even at my age, I was still able to conquer the flood on my own.
Monday morning, I woke up to the joy of Silk standing happily on dry pellets and shavings and the horror of Siete’s stall flooding. Again, feeling like Prometheus, I dragged the sump pump and all the paraphernalia back from the garage to the barn. This time, I had a much harder task since the hill above the barn was so saturated that it was not until this morning, a week later, for true dryness to be achieved.
Other women might long for new kitchens or expensive jewelry or exotic trips abroad. French drains, excavators, big trucks full of lovely gravel and crushed limestone fill my dreams. My husband has returned, and the best thing that he has promised me is that this is going to be the year when we conquer the flood.