“Raise up……… A little more…….. Yes. Yes. That’s it!…….. Perfect! We do have a view of the river!!”
I dream of the day when I’ll be able to go home to my country, river side estate after a week of hard, productive work writing columns about the misery of people who built their own homes but shouldn’t have. There I’ll be a relaxed witness watching, as the sun slowly lengthens it’s rays stirring cool ripples into ribbons of fire which are, one by one, quenched finally, by twilight. Or maybe I’ll invite some guests out for the weekend. After a pleasant gourmet meal of pheasant or crown rib roast or Salmon-Limburger Patty Melts, we’ll adjourn to the Summer Terrace and watch as the twinkling stars and fire flies perform a watery waltz, their lights indistinguishable on the glassy flow in the pitch black silence of the night. Or maybe I’ll be like Mr. Scope and retire to the master suite and cry my eyes out because all I wanted was a house with a terrace that had a view of the river, and even though I’ve spent enough money to indenture five generations to servitude, I still can’t see the river because I didn’t know that I could have a terrace with a view or toilets that would flush, but not both.
For Sale: ACREAGE Overlooking the beautiful Poorschnook River. Infinite possibilities. Call for appointment.
Mr. Perry Scope answered that ad. From his first look at the property he knew he was home. All his life he had dreamed of living in such a place. The timing was perfect. His business had finally gotten to the point where he was making real money. His children were old enough that he wouldn’t have to spend every minute worrying about them drowning in the river, and his wife was actually agreeable to the move ever since she’d heard about the city’s new outer loop which would mean shorter trips to town. It was perfect!
You’ve heard the saying “He could pinch a nickel ‘til the buffalo screamed?” Well, Perry’s father could milk the bison for extra pennies. Even though he was financially secure, the intense frugality of Perry’s childhood resurfaced and became the guiding force as he planned his home.
He knew the site would require a septic tank if the house was to have indoor plumbing. He knew that the only way to find out if a septic tank would work was to hire someone to do some soil tests. He also believed that it was a good idea to avoid permit charges and impact fees, so he didn’t notify the health department or any department of his plans to build. Most people realize that building codes are for the safety of everyone. Building codes assure safe practices and results during and after construction. But, Perry was sure all that code stuff was just a gimmick to collect more revenue for the state. He decided to mimic that 1990s shoe slogan and just-do-it. Unfortunately, he would later discover that in his case this was not a good slogan.
The soil test is called a percolation test. It determines how fast and how much water can percolate or absorb into the ground. The test did not look promising. In fact, it revealed that the ground was so hard and rocky that it wouldn’t allow a standard in-ground sewage system to work at all. Even worse, it was determined that to dig out the rocky dirt and replace it with better earth could be quite expensive. The phrase “quite expensive” made Perry’s pocket buffalo begin to huff and stomp, and that was a sign to Perry that a cheaper method was needed. A mound system was recommended. True to his nature, Perry instructed the installers to select the least expensive location. Once the decisions about the sewage system’s type and location were made, that part of the building process was put away until later.
What’s a mound system? It’s a mound. When the existing dirt on a site won’t perc’ (slang for percolate), one solution is to bring in a big pile of dirt and build a mound with it. Then you stick some pipes in it and connect them to the septic tank. The septic tank is where waste water (a term for water you no longer wish to keep in the house) is broken down (they call it digested) into simple nontoxic compounds and moisture. When all these parts are in place, the greatest scientific wonder of the modern age can happen. The toilet will flush.
The flushed water swirls around, forming that neat little vortex that you watched as a child (I still like it). Then it rushes unhindered through the drain pipe where it’s carried into the septic tank to be mixed with cute little bacteria things that take out some of the water’s repulsiveness before it is dumped into the pipes that are inside the new mound of dirt which absorbs the water out of the pipes so the whole process can be repeated again.
The main problem was that Mr. Scope missed the key concept. Somehow it never occurred to him that a mound system would involve something like, …..oh, you know,……… a mound!
Plans were completed. Construction started. Changes were made. Money was spent to make the changes. The changes caused more changes to be made so more money was spent. “Wouldn’t it be neat if…..” became the battle cry and was soon joined by “Let’s go ahead and do that.” Change beget change and as for the money Perry had hoped to keep….. Well, let me put it this way. Have you ever seen a screaming, stomping, huffing buffalo nickel that could fly? Because nearly every buffalo Perry had flew straight from his bank account to build that house.
And what a house. It was glorious! Everything the Scope family wanted was there in wood floored, cherry paneled, marble stepped, tile countered, high ceilinged, Victorian bell & whistle splendor. And, let’s not forget the terrace. After all that’s the reason the house was built in the first place.
Even before it was finished, Perry could stand on the terrace and, watching the river, imagine a feast of sunsets and star rises, of firefly fantasies, of moments when the syrupy river would move faster than his life. He was living for those moments and even now could feel the attacks of office sponsored stress bouncing off his river bluff armor.
Finally the day came when it was time to install the septic tank. Perry was there for the digging of the main trench that would hold the connection pipe between the house and the septic tank. But, he was at the office when the last shovel full of dirt was piled on top of the you-know-what.
Since you do know what, it should be no surprise that Perry’s first words as he leapt from his car were “What’s that big pile of dirt doing there? It’s right in the way of my view!”
“That’s your mound.” came the response.
“I know it’s a mound, but I don’t want it there. Let’s get it dug up and move it out of here!”
“Can’t…………If you move that dirt the toilets won’t flush.”
Perry forced himself to calm down and listen as it was explained that he alone had made the decision to put the mound system in that particular location because it was the cheapest place, that he knew it was a mound of dirt, that it had been described as a high mound of dirt, and though it was sad that he had missed the height part which would cause his precious view to be blocked, it was now his mound of dirt.
If he wanted it moved “he would…… “
The buffalo’s ears perked up.
The buffalo stood and raised a foot.
Huffing! Snorting! Screaming!! Stomping!!!
That was Perry. The buffalo took it pretty well.
The buffalo was so calm because it was all alone in Perry’s pocket. It knew it was not worth enough to pay for the relocation of the mound system. It also knew that there were no friends or relatives left in Perry’s bank account. At least for a little while, Perry was down to his last bison.
Also, at least for a little while, the only member of the Scope family who can enjoy the view from the terrace is little Perry, Jr. If big Perry stands on the terrace and raises little Perry up high enough, the little guy can see the river quite clearly. Perry the father would like for the Perry the son to describe what he sees so the whole family can at least enjoy hearing about the view. The problem is that Perry the son hasn’t yet learned phrases like “stirring cool ripples into ribbons of fire”.
Mostly he just says “Ooooooooo” and “Ahhhhhhhh” for as long as his father can hold him up.