Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


Part one of a two-part series...

Mark 4:22:

"For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light."

One of the problems with country living, much as I love it, is the lack of a true sewer system. Most of us who live out here either have septic tanks or lagoons, and in my case, I own a septic tank. Septic tanks are one of those things that when they work, you don't notice them at all. When they don't, they suddenly become the most important item on the property. A mysterious malady called "flushing phobia" appears. You hate to have to plunge and struggle with every use.

Well, in the past few weeks, my septic tank started acting up--at first, just a little, but later to the point you had to plunge to get anything to move down into the tank at all and to the point things started backing up through the bathtub drain. Despite my best efforts at plunging, Insta-flow, and other drain cleaning products, nothing was going down.

So I finally broke down and called a septic contractor. What we discovered was, from the house to the septic tank, instead of the nice PVC pipe that led out of my tank, the pipes were made of "Orangeburg." I am pretty sure Orangeburg means "write the check" in some other language.

But seriously, Orangeburg is a type of sewer pipe that was popular from the 1860's until the 1970's. It was made of pressed wood fiber impregnated with coal tar pitch. In the days before plastic, it was considered an excellent product as it was light weight, did not break down from the components in the sewage, and could be joined without adhesive. The only problem was that the lifespan of Orangeburg is about 50 years. Considering the last pipe of this kind was used in the 1970's, what it means is that, buried under the ground, are miles and miles of Orangeburg that are reaching the end of its natural lifespan, and beginning to show their age. Orangeburg becomes very brittle over time--after all, it IS essentially made of paper--and collapses. The natural consequence of that is for the sewage to back up, of course.

So you can imagine my dismay when the contractor dug down and I saw the infamous Orangeburg staring back at me. My septic tank has nice PVC pipe on the effluent side and on the vents. I had no reason to assume anything other than that PVC ran from the house to the septic tank. But there it was, a piece of Orangeburg, clamped to the PVC, in an unholy union. For the ten years I'd lived in my house, I had no clue that buried in the yard was decaying sewer pipe, day by day becoming more on the verge of collapse. All the fresh waste that left my house was living in a fragile balance of coexistence with the aging Orangeburg.

Now, let me make it clear no one had rooked me in any way. Orangeburg was considered the best product we had for this in the pre-plastic days. It was built to last a half century. It was inert to essentially anything that would run through its lumen. It was light and easy to replace. But it was not inert to age. Orangeburg was distinctly finite. But its aging was not noticed becuse it was buried. When the forces of nature took control of it, its decay was finally brought to light, heralded by sewage bubbling up to the surface.

So it is with some other things we tend to bury. Things like sin. Things like guilt. Things like fear, anger, hurt, and uncertainty. These things are all the sewage of our life. From the day we first stole a cookie off the counter top, or learned to tell a little white lie to our parents or the day we first remember feeling hurt but never telling anyone, we began piping our sewage underground. We learned to run it through the best conduit we had at the time...but time has a way of decaying the conduit. We didn't know it needed repair because it was buried. It was not out in the open where we could see it. Only until it collapses, and the sewage bubbles up from the ground, do we see it.

Then we are forced to deal with it right then and there. Sometimes those who step in to help us act a little incredulous that "we didn't know." ("You didn't know there was Orangeburg there when you bought the house?") Well, no. We don't tend to randomly check on the quality of our sewer pipe if it seems to be working.

But thank God that what is buried usually eventually comes to light. How else would we deal with it if it didn't?

I will put together a second part to this in a few days.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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