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Plumbing the depths of summer

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The Observer planted 146 heirloom tomatoes last weekend. This is pure recklessness. The Observer would sooner drive down Cantrell Hill with no brakes as plant tomatoes in March. These late winter warm spells are just bait for the intemperate gardener, sending him on a fool's errand of planting, only to be ambushed in early April by a mass of Arctic air moving down from Canada.

Or so it used to be.

Any soul who denies global warming should spend time in The Observer's market garden. The Kentucky Wonder pole beans came up last week for heavens sake — a month early! Three weeks ago The Observer stepped on a king snake in the elephant garlic. The world is awry.

So this Saturday, he will plant 700 more heirlooms, the whole family drafted into stoop labor. He cuts a hole in the black plastic mulch over the raised bed, son drops a shovel of chicken manure onto the hole, daughter stirs the dirt and manure with a trowel and wife plugs in the tomato plant.

Thirty years of gardening history says The Observer is a fool. Yet this feels permanent. Something fundamental has changed.

Speaking of hot water, The Observer had to have a plumber out the other day to look at the pipes in the bowels of The Observatory. The night before, while the washing machine was running, we'd heard first a trickle and then a flood as the overflow under the windowsill backed up and sent soapy wash water everywhere — all over the sewing machine and our dented toolbox and the waist high stack of ancient paint cans we keep in the laundry room for God knows what reason. We got her shut off, but not before everything got a good and thorough soaking.

Service professionals of all stripes — roofers, painters, mechanics, AC guys, plumbers and so on — have long been the bane of our existence, making off with far too much of our hard earned scratch in times of great sorrow and gnashing of teeth. They tend to work on the stuff that you mostly never even think about until it breaks, and paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to fix something we know we'll never think about has always degutted us to know end.

Still, we ain't no plumber, so with Spouse forcing our fingers down on the button with every number, we dialed up one of those sultans of stoppage. Soon enough, a van pulled up, and there stood our hero in his blue work shirt, a big ol' rootin' machine in tow. Standing outside by the cleanout caps at the side of the house, The Plumber and Yours Truly had the following exchange:

HIM: "Where's the bathroom you're having problems with?"

THE OBSERVER: "It's in the house."

HIM: ...

There's really nothing you can do at a moment like that to keep yourself from looking like a chimpanzee that has escaped from the zoo, had a full-body wax and somehow learned to speak, is there? We both just pretended like The Homeowner hadn't said it.

Then again, as a pal later pointed out during the Commiseration Phase — us a few days and a few hundred dollars lighter — this IS Arkansas. There's always the chance the bathroom in question isn't of the indoor variety. We'd probably need a good carpenter to fix that one.

We ran across an Associated Press story the other day about attempts by the city fathers of Harrison to shed the town's racist image. Anybody who knows anything about the sad history of racism in this state knows that Boone County hamlet — which, as the Encyclopedia of Arkansas notes, was one of the state's "Sundown Towns" that forbade blacks from living there by threat of violence throughout a big chunk of the 20th century — has never received a gold star for "Most Improved" in that category, though the fact that some are thinking in that direction at least gives us reason to hope. It was an assessment from one white Harrison resident quoted in the AP article, though, that won The Observer's Award for Bass-Ackward Logic.

"How can it be a racist town," the fella was quoted as saying, "if there's no blacks here?"

Indeed, sir. Up next: curing sexism by rounding up all the women and shipping them to Australia.

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