Pipe propels potato peels in perilous places

Editor’s note: This Thanksgiving-themed column first appeared in the Tribune Dec. 1, 2011.

Like it or not, everyone is known for something. Each of us carries a quirk so unique it identifies us for the rest of our lives. Observe, for example, a group of elderly men in a coffee shop, jawing about the weather. The door swings open, jangling an ancient bell, and in walks a lanky man in Key overalls. He ambles to his table of friends, who look up and greet him with a hearty, “Stinky!” You may never learn the root of the nickname, but you get the definite impression that “Stinky” stuck to the man many years ago, and never had the good grace to leave.

I tell you this because Schlueterville — and me in particular — recently laid claim to the oddest of afflictions. I have potato peels on my roof. You read that correctly. I have potato peels. on. my. roof. In fact, this year’s Schlueterville Thanksgiving will be forever known as “Tatergate.”
It began with the half-baked notion that I, as Turkey Day hostess, could better prepare for feasters by mashing my vat of potatoes the day before the big event. So I set my biggest pot on the stove, and peeled a pile of Yukon Golds. Ten pounds later, my pot was brimming, and my sink was filled with peels. Behold Mount Yukon.

I was about to learn a valuable lesson: Garbage disposals are evil and cannot be trusted.
Until that day, mine swallowed egg shells and oatmeal like a champ. I had no reason to question its ability to chew through a boatload of potato peels. So I flipped it on, and Mount Yukon went down the drain. That’s when things went terribly, horribly, unbelievably wrong. The disposal belched, the pipes clanked, and the sink stopped up tighter than a cork in a bottle.

I did what any potato-peeling disposal-killer does in situations like that. I shrieked like a fool. “HUNKA-HUNKA-HUNKA! I just destroyed the sink!”

Hunka Burnin’ Hubby is an unflappable man, but Tatergate nearly pushed him over the edge.

“Do you know what that many potato peels can do to pipes?” he asked.

“I do now,” I replied apologetically, wondering if plugged pipes were grounds for divorce.

And so began an all-night, labor-intensive quest to de-peel the pipes.

We plunged. We Drano’d. We tore everything out of my kitchen cabinets, disconnected pipes, and attacked it with a snake. When the first snake didn’t care for the taste of peels, we ran to the hardware store and bought a bigger one. Our sons came home from college, and were pressed into service. Nothing worked. Hunka drug in the garden hose, attached it to the afflicted pipe, and turned the water on full blast.

It moaned. It groaned. It rocked and rolled. And just when we thought we’d struck gold, the whole mess turned angry, gave an ugly growl, and exploded with volcanic intensity through the vent pipe on the roof. At least that’s what we assume it must have been like, complete with a cartoonish, “Ka-POW!”

Our son crawled up the ladder to inspect the damage, and I’ll forever remember hearing his words ringing in the darkness, “There’s a poop-load of potato peels up here!”

“Well, of course there are!” Hunka deadpanned in frustration. “That’s where potato peels go to die!”

Thank God for our plumber nephew, who came armed for battle and rescued us Thanksgiving morn. I hugged him like a raft to a drowning man.

And so ends the tale of Tatergate, with lessons learned and a nickname earned. Potato peels and pipes don’t play well together. Everyone needs a compost pile. And just call me Tater.

And in case you’re wondering, the mashed potatoes were surprisingly delicious.

Tamera Schlueter

Tam Schlueter adopts a "strike-fast-and-keep-them-laughing" approach to writing. Her column appears every Thursday in the Hastings Tribune, and showcases the wonder of family, dogs, muscle cars, and folks with blue collars and no-nonsense attitudes.

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