Our Last Kentucky Job
Some people think that, without the fist of government, such things as roads, public utilities, first responders, and law wouldn't exist. And of course people would believe these silly lies. Hollywood and the government schools have systematically taught them to believe these lies without ever questioning why they believe them. It always strikes me how desperately people will cling to these silly religious beliefs even in the face of facts. However, when presented with facts that show they have been fooled, the discomfort of cognitive dissonance drives them right back into the comfort zone of the lies.
I could explain here how Carl Fisher built the first highway to connect Canada with Florida, the second to connect Philadelphia to San Francisco, all with private funding and no toll roads, because he wanted people to use their cars more so he could sell additional car parts. Or I could talk about Zomia in upland southeast Asia, and how the entire region functions smoothly without government and its arbitrary laws. But others have done so more eloquently than I am capable, so there is no need. Besides, that is not the purpose of this writing.
I will tell the story of my father who brought quality water from a private water system to Appalachian communities, without the help of any government agency or a single tax dollar.
In many areas of rural Appalachia, the well-based drinking water either has a very strong iron flavor, which is not good and stains clothing, or the well runs dry almost every summer. Or both. In some areas, it's difficult to drill a well without hitting salt water or hitting water that's saturated in natural gas, which is very dangerous and nasty to drink. Many people in Appalachia prefer to catch rain water from their roof and hold it in a cistern or in rain barrels, which is not a bad system if you get more rain than your house uses. But sometimes you just don't get rain when you need it, and cisterns and barrels run dry.
After making a bit of cash running his construction company around eastern Kentucky and southeastern Ohio, Dad decided to do something for his home community. The Stone family has lived there since about 1790, and our extended families of Fields', Aldridge’s, Jackson’s, Potter’s, and Brown’s lived there for about a hundred years prior to that. So Dad approached the owner of the water system that supplied water for the small town of South Shore Kentucky. I don't know all the details, but Dad convinced the man that if the water company would add a water tower on the top of the hill that separated South Shore and the communities south of there, Dad would do three things:
- he would use his crew to help build the tower at a very reasonable price;
- he would go through the communities and get enough people to sign up for water service, with an initial fee for connection that would fund the entire project;
- then, Dad would install the main line with all the stubs for the household connections.
So basically, for the price of a water tower that the South Shore water system already needed, Dad would triple the water company's customer base, thereby tripling the income of the water company.
What would Dad's motive to do such a thing be, other than his love for the people in those communities? Well, Dad was taking a risk. If not enough people signed up in the beginning, my dad would go broke building the water system. But the likelihood of that was slim. The people needed that water. And if the initial fee for connecting to the system was priced correctly, not too high but not too low, enough people would jump on board. If a large percentage of the people paid that initial fee, and it was priced correctly, Dad would make a serious profit for his risk and his labor. The bonus was that Dad could keep two crews of men employed for about a year, and that was important to my dad.
The owner of the South Shore water company agreed and work began on the water tower. Dad began going door to door explaining his plan while handing out reading material. My dad's reputation with the locals was very good, as was his whole family's reputation in the area. You would be hard pressed in that area to find a sober, reasonable person with something bad to say about the Stone family. That being the case, Dad raised enough money for a second phase that drove the water system even farther south than the original plan, making even more income for the water company, and for Dad.
Dad was able to keep his crews working, digging the trenches from each end toward the middle. I had the fun of
carrying and laying pipe. The trucks would deliver the 40-feet long bundles of big PVC pipe every few hundred yards, then we would cut open the closest bundle and start carrying each pipe and placing it at the end of the last until we got to the next bundle. Then we would jog back to where we started and begin connecting them, until the whole stretch was connected. Then we would jog back to the beginning and start carefully lowering the connected pipes into the ditch, working our way to the last pipe, right beside the next bundle. We did that over and over, keeping up with the trencher as the ditch was being dug in front of us, while the tractor back-filling the ditch trailed behind.
It was pretty amazing to watch, but it was a hoot and a half to actually be on a crew doing the work. We passed right in front of the houses of every kid I went to school with. While those kids were doing whatever it was that regular seventh grade kids did back in the mid-1970s, I was a construction worker. The State would call that "child labor" and would have forbidden it, but I called it the most fun I had ever had, and one of the best lessons of my life.
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