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The Priceless Pool

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The Priceless Pool

Marianne negotiates a few learning curves when installing an above-ground pool

It’s all Ruthann Nordgaarden’s fault. She convinced me that we needed a swimming pool. She didn’t really try very hard. In fact, I doubt that she really cared whether we had a pool or not. All she did was answer some questions. Let’s just call my dear SHS classmate and friend an unwitting but willing accomplice in my latest over-the-top endeavor.

And, when I say “over-the-top,” I’m talking literally. You see I fell OUT of our swimming pool one day. Don’t ask me how because I don’t know. I do know, however, that I landed face-first, and when I stood up, covered with wet sand from head to toe, my husband stood inside the pool, squirting me with the hose and commenting, “Well, we lost a little more water.”

Then, we both laughed.

We lost a little water that day and a whole lot more a couple of days later when some unknown creature got into the pool and sent most of the 4,000-plus gallons of Oden water flowing out on to the ground where nothing but patchy grass grows. It would have been nice if it had been near the garden.

The idea for this ongoing pool saga hatched one day last summer when I rode my bicycle down Selle Road and saw Ruthann and her daughter Kiersten standing around a big blue pool which had suddenly appeared in their yard.

Kids were bouncing up and down, splashing and having a great time in more than four feet of water within the 15-foot vinyl structure with a blow-up ring around the top. This pool was the second of its kind that I’d spotted in the neighborhood. Claire Hansen down on North Center Valley Road has one too.

I stopped to visit Ruthann and to inquire about the pool. After all, I reasoned, if we could buy one of those for the Lovestead back yard for a reasonable price, I could stop dreading the dog days of summer when temperatures soar to 90-plus by noon and remain stuck there until the sun dips behind Schweitzer Mountain around 8 p.m.

In the past, enduring the dog days involved pontooning or swimming at the lake, at least a 20-minute drive away, taking up both gas money and time. Furthermore, I was always dried out, hot and sweating again by the time I reached home, thus facing a miserable late afternoon and evening. So, it seemed to me that a pool in the back yard could solve a lot of summer doldrums. I could jump in, get wet, climb out (not fall out) and go on about my business. Once sweat returned, just jump in again.

Armed with Ruthann’s information, I came home and announced to Bill I was going to buy one of those pools. He didn’t say much. He was also tight-lipped the morning he decided to take the gas-guzzling 4x4 truck, with the driver’s side door that won’t close, to Post Falls.

“I’ve got a First-Aid meeting, and I’m going to stop at Costco and Cabela’s,” he said. I wondered what in the world he was going to buy that would require spending all that gas money and praying for 100 miles that he didn’t fall out the driver’s-side door that doesn’t shut. Bill made it down there and back in one piece. When he came rolling in the driveway, I looked toward the back end of the pickup and could see a box about the right size for holding a vacuum cleaner. I knew it couldn’t be a vacuum cleaner because Bill had just added a Eureka to our ever-growing fleet a couple of months before.

“Happy Birthday,” he said. “I bought you a swimming pool.”

“So that’s why you took the big pickup,” I said.

“Yeah, I thought it would come in a much bigger container than this,” he said.

The box sat in the shop for a couple of days, while I ordered a dump truck full of sand from my friend, Dennis Warren. After all, Ruthann had told me how the pool needed to be level and how she and Kiersten had hauled two loads of sand in their pickup this spring to prepare a new site for their pool.  

I spent the better part of a day working with that sand pile, removing a substantial amount to cover up sharp rocks where the horses walk down the lane. Eventually, I worked the pile down, took a board, as suggested by my consultants, and did my best to level the spot.

Then, Bill read directions. It’s not a family trait, but sometimes even I agree the practice does come in handy. We carried the box to the pool site where he carefully took all items from within and laid them out. The directions said not to use an air compressor to blow up the ring around the top, but my usually meticulous husband allowed himself to break a rule, dragging the compressor to the site to hook it up to the pile of blue vinyl.

Nothing exploded.

Next, we ran some water in the bottom and decided to hold off the “big fill” until the next day. After Bill went off to work that day, I stuck the hose in the circle and went off about my business.

Big mistake.

Water (expensive Oden water) had been running about two hours when I was talking to Willie on the phone and suddenly remembered that I’d better go check the pool. I got out there to find the big blue mass quickly molding itself into the shape of a canoe with water about to flow out one end. Nothing looked like the picture on the box.

That’s when I remembered a comment Bill had made the night before. It’s a good idea for people to stand inside the pool to govern its shape while it fills with water. Well, governance needs to come early with these pools because once you get a few inches of water (approximately 500 gallons), you can’t do a thing about manipulating the pool’s figure or deterring its inclination to lose water over the sides.

I learned that principle a couple of days later after asking some advice from my lawnmower repairman, Tony. Information gleaned two days later, though, was not of much help because, try as I might, I could not get that damn mass to turn “round.”

I figured there was still hope, if we could just convince a half dozen people to help us with our pool. But Tony took one look at the big blue blob and said it wasn’t gonna happen. He knew from experience because he’d tried the same strategy during his own early-pool engineering days. Like Tony, we’ve since learned that lots of folks have experienced steep learning curves in getting their similar pools full and fully functional.

We’ve also relied on several self-imposed tutorials to get the pool where it is today—upright, full, slightly off kilter on one end but still usable. Whatever the unknown critter was that emptied it that day did us a favor. We had been using the imperfect pool and hoping to get our money’s worth from that original 4,000 gallons of Oden water.

In fact, we had a pool party on the Fourth of July with just family and curious cows in the pasture next door. No cameras allowed. Then, a day or so later, the unknown critter struck, making us go back to Square One, reread the directions, consider all the advice from friends who had incurred similar problems and to run another 4,000-plus gallons of that gold-plated water to fill it again.

The pool now looks somewhat respectable. We have been using it daily. So, no dog days at this place, as long as we can keep the dogs out of our swimming area. We’ve set up a smaller plastic doggie pool for their needs.

The only problem we have now is Bill, the “follow-the-directions” man and former water safety instructor at the Oakdale, Louisiana, municipal pool, has been reading up on “ph” and going to the store almost daily, buying new stuff to make sure the chemistry is right for avoiding algae slime build-up. That’s a whole story in itself.

As for me, I’ll pass along one observation, borrowing from the famed Mastercard ad for inspiration and paying Mastercard company to cover the bills.  One big blue pool in a box, $300. One truck load of sand, nearly $100. More than 8,000 gallons of Oden water, at least a couple hundred dollars. Advice from a village of experienced backyard pool consultants, zippo.

A daily dip on hot days in cool water alongside Stan Meserve’s magnificent spruce trees and within peeping range for Bert Wood’s voyeuristic cows:  priceless.

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Author info

Marianne Love Marianne Love is a freelance writer and former English teacher who enjoys telling the stories of her community. She has authored several books, the latest of which is "Lessons With Love."

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