Above and Beyond: An Everyday Hero
BANG! BOOM! WHOOSH! These are sounds no homeowner ever wants to hear, especially late on a snowy, Saturday evening when your house is over 200-years-old. Farmguy and I were finally relaxing last night, after spending all day studying and making flashcards for our WSET sommelier exam, when suddenly, we heard a crashing sound that sent us both into a heart pounding panic. We paused the television, jumped up, and looked around the room. Standing quietly, desperately trying to figure out what had just happened, we scanned our den searching for answers. Water….we heard rushing water. Where was it coming from? The wall? The floor? We couldn’t tell. Looking at each other, we said, “It’s a pipe!” We ran to the cellar. Water from a main pipe was spraying everywhere under the den floor, dampening the heating duct work and dripping down the rock wall.
We quickly shut off the water valve and assessed the situation. The pipe in question was under….way under the den floor, with only a small hole allowing access to a very cramped space. To make matters worse, our heating duct work also shares the same area. What a nightmare! Thoughts of, “How on earth are we going to fix it if we can’t get to it?” swirled around our heads. And then, panic really started to set in as I tried to figure out how we were going to provide drinking water for our animals, wash the dirty dishes from dinner, and on and on. We all know that water is important, but more than that….it’s essential. You can’t function without it. As I was starting to unravel, Farmguy picked up the phone to call our plumber.
First, I would just like to say, Thank you, Jesus that it snowed early in the evening, and we were home (because we had plans to go out) and second, that we even had a plumber to call. Because up until just a few months ago, we had not been able to find anyone decent for even minor plumbing issues. However, late last summer, Farmguy discovered the best plumber ever. Yes, that’s what I said. The. BEST. Plumber. EVER. We called three people: the first didn’t even bother to call us back and the second called two days later; but our angel, I’m sorry– plumber, answered his phone and scheduled a visit as soon as possible.
Enter Mike Walker: professional, intelligent, polite, competent, calm, positive, determined, and friendly. During his visit last August, Mike and his assistant came out to repair a leak in the faucet of our kitchen sink and a gasket in our downstairs bathroom. While here, they asked about the history of the house and complimented our efforts in saving it. I happily shared my family’s history and gave them the nickel tour of the house.
So, when Farmguy called Mike Saturday evening at 8:30 to ask for help, I wasn’t completely surprised when he agreed to drive an hour to rescue us. It was around 10 p.m. when he arrived. Smiling, and with an air of calm, Mike surveyed our conundrum. “I know this is stressful, but you all are so lucky you were home. This could’ve been a disaster,” he said comfortingly. He then went on to share that the duct work would have to come out in order to try to access the pipe. I quietly cringed as I thought, “This is going from bad to worse—first the water…now the heat.”
There was no way around it. The duct had to come out. The next step was to contact the heating company that installed the system, and who we regularly pay to come out to check and service our units, to see if they could offer some guidance as Mike didn’t want to damage anything during the removal. We called. And, our emergency request for aid was met with a loud, irritated, and gruff voice at the other end of the line. We were on our own. Feeling hopeless and sick to our stomachs, Farmguy and I looked at each other. “What are we going to do?” we silently thought. Sensing our anxiety, Mike walked back over to the site of the problem. He was thinking. After a few seconds, he offered that maybe we could detach the six feet of duct work, move it over just enough for him to climb inside the hole, and then slide next to it to reach the pipe.
So, after detaching the section of duct and cutting out a nonfunctional pipe, Mike bravely climbed into the dark, dirty, burrow-like hole. But, the space wasn’t big enough. His shoulder kept hitting a floor joist, keeping him slightly out of reach of the pipe. With a little assistance from Farmguy, Mike exited the earth tunnel completely covered with insulation and dirt, reporting that the area was too shallow. Once again, our hopes for water and a happy ending were squashed. Plan B was on the table: “We may have to pull up a section of flooring in the den to get to this thing,” offered Farmguy. Undeterred, Mike said, “Your house and those floors are too beautiful. We’re going to find another way.” In a resolute voice, he announced, “We’re going to dig out the tunnel to make it larger.” With his hammer and a garden trowel, he started to dig the loose, dry dirt bit by bit. Farmguy, realizing Mike needed better tools, ran to the barn to retrieve two mattock picks. Forty-five minutes and five gallons of dirt later, the hole was bigger. Undaunted, Mike climbed back into the hole. In about ten minutes the pipe was repaired and tested. And, the heating vent was reconnected as well. Thankfully, our 200-year-old house had running water and heat once more.
Here’s the thing: There were SO many times Mike could have said no to us: No, I’m not going to drive to your house, that’s an hour away, late on a snowy, Saturday night. No, I can’t even see your pipe much less get to it with all that duct work in the way. No, I’m not going to disconnect your six feet of duct and CLIMB into that tiny earth tunnel, surrounded by insulation and nastiness, to attempt to locate your pipe. No, your earth tunnel is too shallow, and I’m not willing to dig out five gallons of dirt with a hammer and trowel, just to bring you the precious gift of water. NO, NO, NO!
There were so many times Mike could’ve said, “no” to us. But instead, he said a cheerful, yes! He just persevered…over and over and over. Refusing to take a break during this difficult and grueling three hour period, he diligently stayed the course. Always upbeat–smiling, laughing, and joking the entire time, Mike consistently demonstrated patience and persistence. He never once said anything negative about our home or the situation. Thanks to Mike’s professionalism, integrity, determination, and kindness, not only was a disaster averted, but so was the stress, expense, and inconvenience of living without heat or water for a period of time. And, we were able to preserve our hardwood floors as well. A bad situation that could have been so much worse was completely transformed by the kindness, positive attitude, and sheer determination of one man. Thank you, Mike Walker. You are our hero!
*Due to the stress and seriousness of the situation, it didn’t occur to me to take photos as the night unfolded or of Mike inside this small hole where the silver-colored vent now resides; however, this is the duct that was removed and the impossibly small space where our plumber, and hero, climbed in order to save the day. 🙂
I wholeheartedly recommend Walker’s Plumbing: 540-875-8869