The rain, in the main, falls on my domain

... and I've reached my saturation point

by Russ Priestley

All of you wimpy windbags writing your tales of woe, drag up a wooden chair... or something else which will float, while I relate my encounter with the wrecent wrain. First, we must go back to March 31, 2004. This is the day on which I finished six weeks of physical therapy for a torn rotator cuff...a condition caused by a motor vehicle accident that required a neck operation in December, 2003. It was decided, after weeks of x-rays and a final MRI, the need to install a three-inch titanium plate to keep my three fractured cervixes in place. (I was never told if they are regular or Phillips slotted, so I suppose any maintenance would require the service of the same surgeon... as if he needed the extra work).

I had to insert the above two sentences because the information relates to my main story. Be patient! It's coming up. Referring to March 31, 2004, that was also the date on which it began to rain. We had a measly six inches of rain overnight. I could hear my sump pump running, but when I checked later, it was just running, not pumping and I had eight inches in my basement. By the time I could purchase a new pump, I had twelve inches. That destroyed my furnace, clothes dryer and baseboard heating. These, plus much accumulated junk and sheets of plywood belonging to one son who did cabinet making, all became moldy and cost $1200 to dispose.

I had lived with this situation since 1977 when we bought this residence from a guy I never met. Our first flood was on the second day after moving in. It was then that I realized what that hole was for in the concrete floor. I had lived in three other homes in Melrose, including my father's, and never had a drop of basement water or even knew what a sump pump was. That former owner never had the guts to face us because the s.o.b. moved out along with his sump pump, which was in the hole. Several feet of plastic hose stored in the garage verified my suspicion. I hope he drowns in Hell... not possible you say. Wrong! Water is needed for fire control.

I worked sixteen weeks to prepare the basement for a "guaranteed" drainage system to be installed by Basement Technologies in August, 2004. I say "guaranteed" because wherever that appears in their printed sales pieces, it is followed by a disclaimer in smaller type where the customer ends up paying for any changes. I bring this up now because the rains we've had since installation have been dispersed successfully. The most recent rain was unusual. Their "famous patented Freeze Stop" was put in position next to the house foundation. The water never reached the discharge point in the middle of my front lawn. It flowed back into the ground and began to seep through my basement walls. This added to the water seeping up through the floor.

Finally, I had to put my once-used sump pump into action with the discharge going through the wall and into the back yard. It was difficult getting a tight connection, so I opened the window and aimed the hose to the backyard, then I found that hose was aging causing water to spray in several places. After applying a couple of makeshift patches, I said to hell wih it and stopped for lunch. I haven't the courage to check back.
While engaged in the frustrating procedures above, I thought of others in this city in the same plight. That brought to mind the following childhood memory.

Every neighborhood has a character. Ours was John Hennessey. We followed him as if he was the Pied Piper. In the rear of his home was the fringe of the famous estate of the Russell family. It was bounded by a tributary of the Spot Pond Brook, otherwise swampy and great for beginner skaters... one could use a tree in a sudden need for support. In other seasons, it was a jungle and John had us swinging from tree to tree, a la Tarzan. I can still remember getting the courage to first leap to the next tree and continue on, with renewed confidence, to a second and third tree.

As stated, it was the unusual rain which reverted my memory to John. Unlike the kids of today, we had empty lots, as well as the Middlesex Fells Reservation, where we could play. One such area was the triangle formed by Washington, Pleasant and Gould Streets. We had a full-size baseball diamond and football field. The only other users were residents of the rubber factory-owned houses who had vegetable gardens there.

The aforementioned brook ran under Crescent Avenue and surfaced again before going under Gould Street to the open triangle. Today this area has houses on Blackrock Road, Converse Lane, Groveland Road and Shadow Lane. It was this latter open area which used to flood in the spring rains because the brook meandered through the triangle, receiving the flow from the Fells Waterfall, which some snob renamed The Cascades... whatever suits one, but it does explain why residents in this triangle would suffer flooding.

All of this water eventually joined what we called the Main Brook... a combined flow of Ell Pond and Spot Pond Brooks. The latter defined the border of Lincoln School property to the south, open in my day but covered now. The confluence of all this water is where the Pleasant Apartments stand today.

But back to John; this flooding condition called for a boat. I'm not saying a raft. That would be too simple. Under John's tutelage we crafted a boat, caulked at the seams with tar "borrowed" from a road paving project. It was tested first in the brook near John's house, until declared sea-worthy of navigating in the flooded triangle. It would then be portaged to the waiting water. The boat builders who contributed more time would be maiden voyage passengers, followed by the other craftsmen. Oh yes, John made the oars too.

He joined FDR's CCCs, later the Army and at last report was in California. By now he could be in that great boatyard in the sky, or Jesus' Jungle just swinging from tree to tree, followed by his timid converts.

June 2, 2006

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