Saturday, September 5, 2015

Lightning and the Unwell Well.

The lightning popped close last night, really damn close, closer than I have ever heard before in my life. I knew that something was going to take some damage because it’s lightning. Ever else you may believe you have to believe that there is no safe place when it comes to the electricity that slings down from the sky in a storm. It can kill you anywhere you’re above ground and under the right circumstances it will chase you down wherever you may be. There’s no warning, no signals and whatever you are doing when it strikes it will be a lot faster than your reaction. My advice to you is to stay away from the stuff.

When I got up this morning the first thing I did was flush the toilet and the water flowed. Great! The well is still alive. I went through turning lights on, opening the refrigerator, and basically trying to figure out if I had taken a serious hit. The breaker that controls the microwave and the coffee maker was flipped and that spooked me somewhat and it still does a little. Electricity around here has been acting weird the last few months. That frightens me a somewhat. This is a substance that is invisible, has no smell, and kicks without recoiling.  Electricity is nothing more than a little lightning that’s on a leash. It still yearns to kill us deep down inside its blue little heart.

The washing machine is who ratted the lightning out. It stopped filling up with water. I tried the kitchen sink and it ran dry. Oh no. Oh very no. It was before dawn but I knew there were just a few things that it could be. I went to the pump house and smelled the slight aroma of burned wires and rat’s nests. The breaker had burned through. It was blacked and ugly. That’s the cheapest way out, the breaker, but I have no sense of optimism here. The control box opened up and it looked, uh, okay, I guess. It’s the one I put in when lightning hit last time. I took photos of both objects, just in case, and hoped it wasn’t the pump itself, which is somewhere under the ground.

Of course, it is foggy and visibility is about 1000 feet. I haven’t had a shower. I feel yucky and this is the Labor Day weekend. If I have to call someone it’s going to be ugly. If it’s more than the breaker or the box it is going to be very ugly indeed. I cannot afford ugly. I cannot afford much past bad looking.

Lowe’s is one of those Great Big Hardware Stores which can be a little more than impersonal. But it is early and those who work in this place know what happened last night. Those hardy souls who work in the electrical aisle know the flood will come after the storm. I am the first but I will not be the last.

The Very Helpful Person tells me that yes, he does have the Breaker I need but he does not have the Two Horse Power Control Box, and furthermore, a week, maybe ten days, is as quickly as he can get one sent to me. He’s a kindly man. He leads me to a co-worker who looks at my photos with consternation. We have to stop now. I have something I would like to say.

Smart phones are only as smart as they are used. There is no excuse to walk into a Great Big Hardware Store without a photo of whatever you need. Model number serial number, where the wires go and to which, and many of them, too. Why would you write down a ten billion digit model number when you could, at the press of a button, have it definitively? The co-worker lays it down; it is either the control box or it is something ugly. He knows one place, one, not two or a couple, but one, one place in Valdosta that might, maybe, have a Two Horse Power Control Box. Miller’s Hardware, a small, tight, long lasting, defying the odds and thumbing its nose at the Great Big Hardware Stores, an anachronism with packed shelves, Miller Hardware, might. Maybe. He looks at me and asks me if I would like for him to call?

Yes, please.

He knows someone there, leaves a number and asks that the person call him back. This is an honest man. It is either the Two Horse Power Control Box or it is Ugly. I will either solve my problem within a couple of hours with less than a couple of hundred dollars or the dogs will have to get used to the way I smell and half rations. Miller’s calls back in three minutes. Yes, one, just one of these things exists, but they close at noon. It’s ten. And a ten minute drive.

Many the miles.

At Miller’s I am the first person in but they realize what’s happening. A half dozen people have called. One of them asked about this one box. The man was aghast that it would cost him more than he wanted to pay and they told him, by all means, go to the Great Big Hardware Stores, and let us know how it goes. Yes, try to get information about a well from some minimum wage college student desperately trying to fight off the effects of LSD, young women, and no parental supervision for the first time in his life, by all means, call them. We will be right here. Miller’s has the box and offers to let me return it if it doesn’t work. They know someone willing to pay for it, even if that person doesn’t quite grasp they are going to quite yet.

I gladly pay for the box and hit the road.

Two wires. Yes, that’s right, two wires are all that are involved in the breaker. But first, because I am more paranoid about electricity, yes, remember electricity? Because I do not trust the stuff I check the breaker in the main panel. Is it off? Mike, stop, take a deep breath and see this as what it is. Is the god damn breaker off? Yes. By all means, proceed. You turned it off, why on earth would it be on? Because dead, that's why. 

Two wires, cross referenced by photo twice, get the breaker in the pump house installed.

The Control Box, with its four wires, black, yellow, yellow, red, cross referenced by photos thrice, get tightened down hard. I rewrap two wires that have been chewed by rodents. I send my older sister a text; ten minutes, I will know in ten minutes. I cut the new breaker off and head to the main box and cut that one on.

The new breaker sits there with its shiny new tape and a new Two Horse Power Control Box. It is either solved or it is Ugly. I have a three day weekend or I have a wreck around me. I can take a shower in a few minutes or I have to find someone willing to let me be wet and naked in their home.

*flips switch*

The sound of a motor and rushing water fill the pump house. 

Take Care,


  1. Holy shit, two horsepower box? How deep is your well, and how far down is your pump? My pump is down about 90 feet, in a 130 ft well. I used a ¾ hp pump until the last time I changed it, then went with a ½ hp which eliminates the capacitor start box.

    When I bought the house, the well casing stuck up about a foot above ground with a cap, per legal requirements. about three feet down a bronze slip fitting sent the discharge pipe and wires into the house underground. That eliminates the need for a well house, although I still had to mow around the damn pipe.

    I lost two pumps to lightning in the first year and said screw this. Bought one of those 4 ft diameter, precast concrete thingys, with a manhole in the top, they bury in the road for pipe junctions. Sunk that thing in the lawn and cut the casing off below ground, just above the bronze slip fitting. No more lightning losses,

  2. Yep, two HP! The well is two hundred fifty feet deep. Welcome to Brooks County Georgia. I'm pretty sure the pump is down about the one hundred foot mark which means if we have to pull it it is going to hurt like hell. The original owner wanted to use it to fill up the pond but the pond isn't interested in being filled. It's been full once since I was here and that was after hour hurricanes in six weeks.

  3. Yeah, I've pulled mine several times and it sucks. The first time I replaced the threaded pipe sections with continuous plastic tubing.

    The first time I pulled it I called my Dad, him being a plumber for many years. Of course I didn't call him till I had it working again and ready to button it up. Kids are like that, either call Dad to bail them out, or call to tell Dad they did it without his help. Ha ha ha.

    So he tells me whenever I open the well, I should pour bleach down it to kill anything I’ve added, and let the water run until I can’t smell it anymore. OK, so I bleach the well, button it up and let the water run, eventually going to bed. The next morning I can still smell it, so we just didn’t drink any for a few days.

    Next time I saw my Dad I proudly related what happened, and he asked how much bleach? I told him about a gallon and a half was all I had. He said a cup was more than enough. Took the wind out of my sails.

    1. There is a lot of useful information there, thanks!