I like history. It’s one of my favorite genres in literature, non-fiction, and film. I thoroughly enjoyed the PBS historical ‘reality’ shows – Colonial House, and Frontier House, for instance. Like those of you who watched Survivor (which I’ve never seen but have heard about) I’ve wondered how well I would do in such circumstances. Would I be able to put up with the privatizations, make edible meals out of limited unprocessed ingredients using primitive cooking facilities, haul water to heat over a fire for cleaning, cooking and even drinking, stay warm without central heating? Would I be up to the demands of the physical labor? Could I stomach the disgusting toilets? Could I live without my internet connection?
I no longer wonder about these things – our living situation here has given me some insight into how well I would fare on the frontier. We are not, by any means, living the life of the early settlers. We have electricity for example. But we have been, and currently are, faced with some of the same difficulties, notably acquisition of water. Our water arrangement is not working well. To put it plainly, most of the time we don’t have running water. The 1000 gallon cistern may have settled unevenly or perhaps cracked during our extreme cold weather. The foot valve might not be seating securely interfering with the pressure the pump needs to move the water. The pump fittings might not be firmly attached and air might be bleeding into the mix making the pump run irregularly and shut down frequently. Whatever the issue is (I’m no plumber and I can’t afford to have a real one come fix things) it has been exacerbated by the cold weather which has contributed cracked pipes to the mix.
Dealing with this issue nearly constantly for the past month has given me the answer to the question above. And that answer my friends is No. No, I am not cut out for the pioneer lifestyle. I am not stalwart, strong and resourceful. I’m no MacGyver, able to construct or repair all manner of things with bailing wire, duct tape and a Swiss army knife. I’m no Pollyanna, able to remain positive and upbeat during set back after set back. I’m no Superman, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound either. If I were it would make hauling water so much easier. Truly I think the only thing I have going in my favor is that I’m tenacious. That and out of choices!
I wear down and I wear out. Priming and restarting the pump (an act that requires one to crawl in the cold mud under the trailer, unscrew the wooden cover to the pump box, unfasten the cap that must otherwise be screwed on as tightly as possible, and pour water down a pipe while simultaneously doing something similar 50-feet away at the cistern) three times a day because there is something wrong with the pump hookup and it regularly drones on without providing water and undoubtedly doing internal damage to itself is trying.
Hauling a wagon load of 15 gallons of water up hill on a muddy and rutted dirt, sometimes covered with snow, road is tiring (great for the calves but hard on the rest of me). But what really exhausts me is knowing that those 15 gallons will be gone in a less than a day of dish washing, cooking, drinking, flushing toilets and cleaning and I’ll be heading back down the hill with the empty bottles to do it all over again.
Of course water is merely one of the challenges that face me on a daily basis. The rest are much more 21st century however, like kids that need to be chauffeured hither and thither, lessons that need to be planned, tests that need to be graded, and animals that need to be fed and cared for, topped off with a car that needs new brakes (again, didn’t I just get brakes?), bills that are overdue and a bank account with less than $100 in it. If this were a reality show I’d have this to say, “Vote me out!”