Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A small victory is no defeat

The stakes were high on Monday night. We bought a thick nylon rope at Lowe's and squeezed in some grocery shopping with the utmost efficiency, then hightailed it for home. Threw on our work clothes, disposed of Le Rat, ready to rumble.

Preparations: Replace clothesline lead with new rope. Uncover silver snake where it lay on the lawn and feed it into the basement, its head ready to enter the conduit and its tail still sticking out the opposite basement window into the flowerbeds. Retie crochet knot and retape the bottle-top tip. Slather with vegetable oil for lubrication.

John took up his station at the boiler and I put on my gloves and got ready to push the snake into the conduit from the basement. He pulled up the slack, I stuck the tip into the conduit, and we commenced to pull and push. Got about 7 or 8 feet in, then stuck. All my weight thrown forward and it wouldn't budge. We rested, tried again. Nothing.

O.K. Maybe the tip of the plastic bottle, the part you screw the cap onto, is getting hung up on the ridges inside the conduit. We cut it off, added another bottle top for strength, and retaped this new dome shape. Should travel more smoothly past any obstacles now. Battle stations! Push! Pull! Got about 7 or 8 feet in, then stuck. No better.

O.K. We pulled the thing out for a second time, the insulation already pretty beat up from moving backward through conduit and the ragged concrete hole in the foundation. Maybe the fit is just too tight? We decided to take off the fourth line, the one outside the insulation, and deal with that one later. John once again deconstructed the bottle top device while I moved down the snake cutting the tape away that held the fourth line onto the other three. Retie, retape. Downsized now, the snake looked ready to glide. We took up our positions. Started off okay, then stuck. "Are we any further than we were before?" John asked. "We're not even that far," I said.

He came down to the basement and we paced around. Oh man. We might have to rent the backhoe again and redig our trench. Maybe there's a collapse in the conduit somewhere under the earth. Maybe the way the trench bends is just too tough to get this thing past. I asked if John wanted to try pushing. He did; no luck. I got next to him and we put our four hands on it. Suddenly it moved! It moved and moved and moved! We were getting it! I saw the tail end come crashing into the basement! We were laughing and laughing, shoving the snake through the ground! Yes! We've buried it! It must be almost to the boiler by now! Margaritas! Margaritas!

John looked out the window and gasped. The silver snake was looped just outside the basement, sticking up from the conduit in weird curves.

It hadn't been moving through the conduit at all. It had only popped up and looped outward in the space between the conduit and the foundation.

You can imagine that we spent some time being disappointed at this point in the evening. Then it took some time just to feed the snake back into the basement.

What to do?

I suggested that maybe, now that we had the fourth line separated anyway, we should try just feeding that by itself. If we get it through or if we don't, I reasoned, it would give us some information about what's going on in there. So we retaped, retied. Fed it right through, no problem.

This means we SHOULD be able to get the other lines through as long as we take them one at a time. We'll have to kill our big mama snake, though--unwrap the insulation, most of which is pretty torn up by now anyway, and rewrap each line by itself. And we'll have to think of some clever way to get a lead back through that second conduit, the one where the rat chewed through the rope.

- Erika

The snake comes in from the side yard...

Enters through the basement window...

And should feed through that hole in the foundation into the conduit...

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