61. Water, Air, and Dirt

TCW

T C Weaver

My father was a bit of a pocket philosopher.  There wasn’t an occasion or event that couldn’t be summed by a clever quip that he had learned while growing up.  Some of these clever quips turned into what appeared to be stories of wisdom and sage.  You may have read one or two of them on this blog.  On this particular occasion however, Dad imparted his wisdom as if from God himself.

I never noticed that he was religious.  I can only remember one time that he attended church with the rest of the family.  But Dad did seem to have a knowledge that was based in the scriptures.  I never heard him quote from the Bible, but he would often paraphrase a biblical story as a basis for one of his own stories.  On this day he began, ” There are three things in this world that are provided to all of us equally, water, air, and dirt.  No one should ever have to pay for them.”

As a pre-adolescent, I took this all in as the gospel that he portrayed it to be.  However, what followed was a seemingly endless series of descriptions of where water came from and how it was naturally recycled, where the air came from and how it was naturally cleansed, and that dirt was just dirt.  These explanations were a curious blend of the scientific and the divine that would often be repeated throughout his lifetime.

My father’s career was in the manufacturing industry.  Clearly, he had a keen sense of the meaning of ‘quality’ and how that term changed the price points of products.  However, any discussion about the differences in the ‘quality’ of water, air, or dirt was an open invitation to a three-hour dissertation that included the scientific and the divine.  As a result, these subjects didn’t come up very often, until 1976.  That was the year that Perrier began selling bottled water in the US for the first time.  From that moment on you didn’t want to be caught in a grocery store with my father, because ultimately you would round the next corner and find yourself surrounded by those curious green bottles of water.  The penalty for your lack of planning and foresight was another three-hour diatribe that would include such phrases as ‘sin against nature’ and ‘how dumb can people be.’

At some point in the 80s, I began to notice that various stores were selling “potting soil” for $1 a bag.  It had been several years since my last diatribe so I made the mistake of mentioning what I had seen at the local Ace Hardware.  Well, his eyes got big, his face turned red, and the veins on his neck started to pulse.  He hadn’t even said a word yet and I knew I had made a terrible mistake.  By this time, he was nearing his 70th birthday and the three-hour speech had been reduced to just thirty minutes, ending only in ‘how dumb can people be.’  I retreated, shaking my head and thinking ‘next time keep your big mouth shut!’

As the 80’s turned into the 90’s, every business looked for new ways to make a little extra money.  The ‘loss leader’ was slowly disappearing, as did penny candy decades before.  Every gas station now had separate pumps for self-serve at a reduced price as well as a few cents off for cash vs credit.  The days of the attendant washing your windshield and checking your oil were long gone.  It was during this period that I saw, for the first time, a sign at the local gas station that made me smile and shake my head; it said “AIR, 25 cents a minute.”  It was for pumping up your tires of course, but I was just glad Dad wasn’t with me.  He was getting close to his 80’s by then and the discussion was no longer necessary.

But that three-hour diatribe never left me.  There was a lot of truth in it; simplistic perhaps, but still good clean common sense.  As I went about my life, I tried to use that common sense whenever I could.  To some degree, I have solved the ‘water, air, dirt’ problem.

I live in the country so I always have clean air.  There are times when a grey fox marks his territory and the air gets a little foul, or the occasional skunk will make you sit up straight and head for the door, but generally the air is pretty good here.  Oh, and Dad, my tires don’t use air anymore.  They actually fill them with nitrogen now and the dealer fills them for free.

Another by-product of living in the country is that we have well water and a septic system.  In a warped sense of economics, you could say we don’t pay the county for water/sewer, but we need a 15-amp pump to bring the water up, we need to filter the silt out of it, and we need to maintain the system.  Free, well sort of.  If you want the best water in the country, [sorry Colorado] the place to go is New York City.  Sorry Dad, I don’t care how much it costs, that is great water.  The dirt problem is the easiest one I think.  If you take one part grass clippings compost, add one part of ordinary sand, and one part of fireplace ashes, you will have great dirt.

So Dad, I think I’ve got it all solved.  I go outside and breathe the free air, work up a sweat making my free dirt, and come back inside for some free water.  You’ve been gone for 10 years now but, I’m sure you’re watching and smiling.

© J T Weaver

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About J T Weaver

The author of "Uphill Both Ways," a thought provoking series of stories about life, family, and growing up.
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27 Responses to 61. Water, Air, and Dirt

  1. Nice memory of dad. This story reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my nine-year-old students, the boy who may someday become the Governor of Utah. “One day you will grow up and think your own thoughts, and have your own ideas (not those of your fathers),” I told him. We’ll just have to see. 🙂

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  2. jguenther5 says:

    Don’t get me started! Oops, too late. Tea. I find it ab’olutely amazing that people will buy tea in bottles. Tea is ninety-nine-point-nine percent WATER? You’re buying water, when you buy pre-made tea. If you’ve ever stored tea, you know that it throws down sediment (prob’ly tannic acid). Bottled tea doesn’t. That means that they’ve put something else in the water to keep the tea sediment floating around in there. Chemicals of some sort. Now, let me tell you about chemicals…

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    • J T Weaver says:

      hahaha, I was wondering when you were going to show up. As I was writing it, I was thinking of all those other people I’ve met along the way who had their peeves. Cracks me up. btw, tea does contain various polyphenols and tannins, it does not contain tannic acid. 🙂

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  3. lvsrao says:

    Great Post. Great that you are recollecting your parents and their advises.
    Truly parents should always be in our mind and it all would be Blissful for us.

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  4. My grandmother would have loved your father. She lived in a village where almost everything was home grown and a river flowing by the house. Now, there are seasons when you are still surrounded by water, but you cannot drink from it, it is that polluted. And in the cities, we pay for almost everything….air..not yet 🙂

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  5. Benmo says:

    Great “dad” story. My mom is still alive and kicking. I hear her condensed “3-hour speech” frequently about bottled water. PLUS the added bonus of the money wasted on cell phones. She was never “into” preaching about dirt or air, thank goodness.

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  6. tchistorygal says:

    We are fortunate to have a well, but not the clean air. Judging from what I’ve read in your book I think your dad was probably the biggest influence on your life – even to the point of urging you to write your memoirs. Great post! The music was pretty quiet over my computer. Nice choices! 🙂

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  7. petchary says:

    You are lucky to have your own well! Here in Jamaica water is becoming increasingly more expensive, and more precious.

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  8. EllaDee says:

    Great story, I love Dad stories 🙂 I feel a little behind the times. I have never seen a place where you have to pay for tyre air, nor heard of nitrogen filled tyres free or otherwise. As far as I know in Australia we still use free air. However, paying for plastic or glass bottles of water is rampant, but also household water if it is piped by a utility company also is charged for, and sewer fees. We have a house in the country that has only tank water & septic, so like you the only cost is the associated apparatus, the water and the septic process is courtesy of Mother Nature. I will always see dirt as having a cost as we need to buy a block of it in order to erect a dwelling but we only own the top, underneath can be annexed by mining companies, and that kind of dirt is worth a lot of $$$$…

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    • J T Weaver says:

      If you let them, Americans will charge you, and convince you that it’s worth it, for just about anything. They came up with this nitrogen thing by saying that it doesn’t leak out of tires like air does. I just laugh and ask if it’s free. If not I’ll take the air, thanks.

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  9. Well done, again. =)
    Parents always remain with us. Good, bad and the ugly.
    Your Pops sounds like a beautiful spirit and I am so glad you shared this tidbit.

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  10. Opalla says:

    Your father is quite a character, and I enjoy reading this post about him.

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  11. Your dad sounds like a good guy and a little like my dad…

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  12. Anonymous says:

    The dealer fills your tires with nitrogen for free??? Ours charges for nitrogen….
    Great thoughts, though…. I recall thinking about how unfair it was when service stations began charging for the air we put in our tires. And how silly it seemed to buy water at the store when we could get it right out of our faucets at home (although I’ve always lived somewhere where we had to pay a “water company” to pipe that water to our home).
    And Rick has often talked about how his grandfather, who was a farmer, would just shake his head if he knew people paid for dirt!
    Air, water and dirt….. indeed!

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  13. knitwit56 says:

    I would have love’d to get into a discussion with your dad about property taxes. Don’t get me started!

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