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Location: DownByTheRiver, Central Iowa, United States

Husband of the world's most wonderful wife, father of the world's four most brilliant children, grandfather to the world's eight most beautiful granddaughters and two handsomest grandsons

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Juan and Pablo.... Outlaws

Another true adventure of Juan and Pablo, the Gringo brothers....
Return with us now to those days of yesteryear... 35 years ago. Juan and Pablo, the Gringo brothers, were living in Juan and Philipa's trailer on the banks of the Leon River in Central Texas. Philipa was still pregnant with Juanito and Forita, the soon to be born Gringo twins. The tiny house had a 110 volt water heater tucked under the kitchen counter by the sink. One day there was no hot water. The electric element in the water heater had burned out. The brothers drove to the nearby town of Gatesville to purchase another and found that none was available at the hardware or plumbing stores. They had only 220 volt elements. However, the local Sears and Roebuck DID have a miniature 110 volt water heater for which replacement parts would be available at any Sears store. Juan used almost every cent he and Philipa had saved to buy it. The brothers also bought the plumbing fittings they were sure they would need and went back to the trailer to do the installation. They found out several things. The unit that had come with the trailer had apparently been built in as the house was assembled. They were forced to cut the front of the cabinet and remove it to begin working on the switch over. It had to be drained and the fittings disassembled. Water ran everywhere and had to be soaked up. Knuckles were scraped. Tools were borrowed from neighbors. Tempers flared. At last the old tank was out and the new ready to install. It was then they discovered that the plumbing fittings on the Sears water heater were all in totally different locations. There was more cutting and flaring of copper tubing. More tightening in impossibly small spaces. The job went on and on. At last it seemed they were almost done.
Suddenly Juan had a terrible premonition. He vaguely remember that when they unpacked the new unit, there was an extra hole in the top with a plastic plug in it. He reached up over the top of the heater, rescraping his knuckles on the bottom of the counter top in the incredibly tight area. He could just reach the plug with his fingertips, but that was enough to pop it out. The hole was meant for an overflow pipe and there was simply no way that an elbow and fitting would go in there. He sat on the floor, devastated. It was now 2:00 in the morning. He and Pablo would have to be up in four hours to go to work. The water was off. The toilet would not flush. Pablo reached his hand back up under the counter and measured the hole with his finger tip. "We need a 3/4" pipe plug." he announced. In the middle of the night. Something tickled at the back of Juan's mind. A 3/4" plug. Where had he seen 3/4" plugs before? Then he remembered! The bung hole plug on 55 gallon barrels is always a 3/4" plug and every barrel made in America had one. But where to find an empty barrel? The brothers searched the trailer community by flashlight. Nothing. Then at almost the same time they remembered that the local farmer's co-op had a storage yard about a mile from where they lived.
Soon they were driving down the country road with the lights on the car off. The storage yard had a high chain link fence around it and the gate was chained shut and padlocked. They hid the car in the brush and crept to the fence and climbed over. They didn't dare use a flashlight for fear a neighbor would see and call the sheriff. They felt their way around the storage yard till they came to a pile of empty barrels. Pablo held a barrel still while Juan used an adjustable wrench and a small pipe wrench to unscrew the rusty plug. They quaked at each screech as it came loose. Once they dived to the ground and hid behind the barrels as a car went by. At last they were back over the fence and in the car, dirty and scratched from the fence and triumphant in their own daring. They drove boldly home with the headlights on.
As there was no way of knowing what poison might have been in the barrel, Philipa boiled the plug in a pan on the stove for ten minutes. Then they soaked it in alcohol, then in chlorine bleach, then boiled it again. At last they put pipe thread compound on it and began the process of worrying it into place, getting it turned in and tightened in a space barely larger than the wrench. Pablo went outside and turned on the water. Juan let the air out through the kitchen sink faucet till the water rushed out. They checked all the fittings, especially the pipe plug fitting. All held without a drop of water leaking. Then they checked their wiring job to the electric box. Everything seemed fine. Juan turned on the switch. After a little while, the soft singing sound of water heating could be heard by putting one's head against the side of the heater. Overjoyed, they washed up in cold water and lay down for a couple hours of sleep. All too soon it was time to get up. And they both took hot showers. Philipa had hot water to do the dishes in and the brothers drove the long drive to work more pleased with themselves than had they been able to pay a plumber and revelling in the fact they were now true outlaws, having trespassed in the night and stolen a thrown away bung hole plug.
It really, really happened.


Blogger Eutychus said...

Proving once again that truth IS stranger than fiction. I recall how only one of the pair had small enough hands to reach inside that dear old cabinet. Amazingly, that plug remained in that tank until the trailer was sold. I also recall that it was a concrete ready-mix plant where the barrel resided. It all happened. Next time tell the tale of Juan y Pablo vs. the carnies at the county fair or Juan y Pablo the surfer-dudes or the long ride with Ted Bundy for a scary one.

3:49 PM  

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