Misadventures in homeownership, part 2

She was a big help there. Somewhere in the yard was a septic tank. And on the top of the tank was a lid. A lid that we’d have to find, expose and remove.

Yeah right. Like that information was in the reams of papers I signed in order to buy that mess the house. Not!

She suggested I make a trip to the county office. They’re supposed to have inspection records of things such as where your septic tank might be found. And sure enough, they did have the exact information I needed. They were even kind enough to print a diagram for me.

Are we in business or what!

We immediately headed for the hardware store to buy a dirt shovel, because sure as shooting the snow shovel wouldn’t be much help.

Turns out the dirt shovel wasn’t a whole lot of help either.

Apparently this house sits on some pretty hard dirt. More like clay. Or a combination of super glue, concrete and clay. All we could do was chip away at it. Actually the kids chipped away at it. I chipped twice and gave up.

My daughter thought it was great fun. The rest of us, on the other hand were fully aware that it wasn’t. But I guess like beauty, fun is in the eye of the beholder. And my eye didn’t behold it as even remotely close to fun.

After two and a half hours of my family taking turns, I ran back to town for a second shovel. The only progress at that point was a three foot square, ten inch deep hole. With no sign of the tank at all. At that rate I was afraid it would be about six months before we could schedule the appointment!

But the second shovel helped the whole process along and, after another couple of hours, there it was! The access hole.

Our elation quickly turned to dismay when we discovered that not only was it a thick concrete lid, the only handle, and I’m being very generous calling it a handle, was this curved, tiny, narrow metal thing. So narrow that the only way you could have worked two fingers in it side-by-side was if you happened to be that stretchy guy from the Fantastic Four. Or Casper. There was no way any of us would be able to grab it.

One brilliant suggestion was to rent a crane to get it off. I thought that might be overkill.

Finally we tried the claw part of the hammer, and the tip of one side fit in the small opening, only the lid wouldn’t budge. Some gentle tapping around the edge was all it took and voilà! The lid was removed.


I’d been in a few outhouses as a kid. A lot of roadside parks had them back then. And for those of you thinking that must have been around the turn of the last century, trust me, they’re still out there. And they will always smell bad. Really bad.

A septic tank with its lid off smells a lot worse though.

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