Ingenious pool heater or secret Nazi weapon...you decide.
Of the many life-scarring household building projects that occurred at the old family homestead, none stands out more in everyone's mind than the satanic black iron pool heater contraption that the old man came up with. Growing up, there was always some pile of pressure-treated wood, stones, concrete, siding, PVC pipe, mulch, shingles, roof tar, knotty pine, slate, landscape timbers, park-a flooring, insulation, replacement windows, central vacuum system, and AstroTurf carpeting just waiting to be deployed at the estate. It always gave you a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach to wake up on a Saturday morning and find ten gallons of orange paint waiting for you in the dining room.
In the old days one of the greatest symbols that you had made it in the world, was to have an in ground pool. The Old Man finally achieved this goal and life was good. Or maybe. The one lingering thought in his mind was that the pool was never quite warm enough. So he and his son-n-law, let's call him Jack, got to thinking. All of their best ideas would come to them while drinking Genesee Cream Ale standing in the shallow end of the pool. I think the beer and pool water were a conduit to the gods. Well, one Friday night, I'm sure, back in maybe 1982, I recon, because the old withering redwood fence was still hanging in there, the idea of the century hit. I'm sure the following is how it occurred:
Old Man: "You know, sonny-boy, I wish we could come up with something to get this water up to about 90 degrees."
Jack: "If we had some sort of gigantic boiler that could pump hot water into the pool, which might work. I've been welding these big black iron cylinders down at the plant, maybe we can use that."
Old Man: "You know, that might work. Maybe we can burn firewood in it. And we can wrap copper tubing around it and have the water go through that." Jack: "That’s a great idea. Buurrp."
Old Man: "Hey, I have that black pvc pipe just lying in the driveway, maybe we can also have the water pumping through that.
Jack: "And we can coil that up and lay it on the roof over there so the sun can heat it in the daytime. Then it will come back down off the roof and go into the pool.
Old Man: "Hey, won't we also need a chimney on the wood burning boiler?"
Jack: "Yeah, we should use about twelve feet of galvanize pipe. I can see some laying over there in the side by the driveway right now."
Old Man: "This is going to be succulent!"
Soon after, the monstrous beast was delivered. Up the curb off the highway and through the backyard it came. The Old Man marveled the black beauty, like Hitler witnessing the first successful flight of the V-2 rocket. It was not long before the fire was stoked and black smoke billowed from the rusting chimney. Then hot water came. It was slow at first. Then, all of a sudden, water gushed out of the black pvc piping with such a great force, that it wailed around like a fire hose. Only this hose spewed scalding hot water and steam, burning anyone that dared to be in its way. A heavy rock was then placed over the pipe to keep it from flailing around.
Now when the Old Man was at work, it was up to one the many sons to keep the fire going in the summer months. As relayed to me by my brother, let's call him Craig, he was given this task one morning. Craig had wrenched his knee a week before and was on crutches. So, he hobbled out to the backyard and proceeded to put the three foot long logs in the black iron beauty. Well, the logs weren't catching fire too easily, so he decided to pour in some gasoline. I know, right? Just then, a sort of back draft occurred and an orange wall of flame went back into the gasoline can. You know that Craig is so damn smart; he got rid of the can straight away, by throwing it at the rotting redwood fence. Luckily, gasoline can fire was extinguished, but now the fence was ablaze. Fortunately, there is a whole pool full of water right there. Disaster averted.
Not everyone shared in the admiration of the amazing pool boiler. Neighbors lodged many complaints about the toxic black smoke clouds invading their backyards. Birds flying by would drop out of the sky. Sadly, for the Old Man, the pool heater had to be dismantled and no doubt used for some other ill-fated scheme.
I have tasked my sister, let's call her Robin, with searching through her 10,000 boxes of pictures, to find an image of the black iron beauty. The closest thing I know of that looks even remotely like it is the alien ship in Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home. That is the picture at the beginning of this blog. One of the differences between the two, as far as we know, is that the alien ship could achieve warp speed.
That is the illustrious story of the Old Man's great pool heater. I plan to erect a plaque to it next time I am at the estate.