Monday, April 8, 2013

No Water!

The year was 1951. The place was Juneau, Alaska. I was five years old. My  parents had been operating a children's home for two years that bitterly cold January day.

"Mommy, there's no water!" I said, as I exited the bathroom.

"Oh, no!" she gasped. She whirled from the stove to the kitchen sink and turned on the faucet. Two tiny drops slowly fell into the sink, then nothing.

Frantically, she raced down the stairs to the basement laundry room and turned on the faucet in the big, square sink there. A tiny trickle, then nothing.

"Oh, dear Lord! What am I going to do now!" she groaned and sagged against the laundry tub.

Behind her, sorted into piles, lay the laundry that needed to be washed in the wringer washing machine that morning. Beside her, diapers soaked in a bucket. There were no disposable diapers nor laundromats in those days, and she had a seven preschool-aged children to do laundry for, including three under two years of age. Upstairs, the breakfast dishes waited to be washed.

She hated to disturb my father at his job at Alaska Coastal Airlines, but this was an emergency. "Honey, our water pipes must be frozen. Would you please bring us some water on your lunch hour?"

Our water supply came from a mountain stream diverted by a partial dam into our private six-foot square reservoir about 300 feet up the mountain across Glacier Highway from the Bethel Beach Children's Home. A buried pipe carried the water from the reservoir to the house.

My dad arrived home about half past noon. He unloaded two 10-gallon milk cans full of water. "I called someone to thaw out the pipes, but with this extreme cold spell, they are all booked up until tonight," he told my mother. "One of the fellows at work suggested that I stop by the dairy co-op to get water."

"Well, at least I can make more milk," Mother said. "At breakfast, the children finished up the pitcher of powered milk I mixed up last night."

After Daddy went back to work, Mommy put us all down for naps. Then, she washed up the dishes. Next, she hand-washed the diapers and other essential items and hung them up to dry on the rack over the floor furnace grate. She saved all the used water to flush the toilet as needed.

That evening after dinner, the thawers finally arrived. Dragging in two heavy-duty electric cables attached to a generator on their pickup, they clamped the ends to the pipes on either side of the section that might be frozen. Then, they sent a strong electric current through the pipes. Hopefully, the heat would warm the pipes and melt the ice.

They waited for the ice to melt and the water to start flowing into the faucets, but nothing happened.

"Let's try up by the highway," one of the men suggested.

They moved the equipment up to the end of the 200-foot driveway and dug through the snow and frozen ground with a pick and shovel to expose the pipe. When the cables were attached, they again ran the generator. While they waited, the men came back to the house for hot coffee.

My father imagined the dollar signs rolling. How would he pay the bill?

My mother encouraged us kids to pray. Surely God would answer our prayers.

Still no water--even after they again moved the equipment across the highway to another section of pipe.

Way after midnight, they finally decided the trouble must be at the reservoir. It was too dark and the climb too treacherous to attempt before daylight. My dad had to work all week, and it was dark when he arrived home in the evenings, so we had to go five days without running water before he could investigate.

To be continued...

Have you ever had an experience when God doesn't answer your prayers right away?

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