As I’ve grown older, I’ve come more and more to recognize the fact that a man never, never, never stops paying for mistakes, even some made decades earlier.

Almost thirty years ago, I built the house in which we now live. Naturally, for concrete, plumbing, wiring, and that sort of thing I relied on the experts. Seems like our city has a silly little idea that things like that should be carried out by responsible folks, not someone like me who learns on the job.

But the actual construction, studs, walls, insulation and that sort of thing, I did myself. Of course, I had to ask questions about everything, but, I told myself, as long as I cover all the bases, I’ll be okay. Ha!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit there are a few little flaws throughout the house. I followed the house plans. Oh yes, I had those. I’d found a plan of a lake house at school. The young folks in the drafting class drew it up, and except for one or two areas, it worked just fine.

One appliance I wanted was an electric hot water heater. I knew they were more expensive to run, but I could put it in a tighter space and not have to worry about gas fumes or fires.

And yes, before you ask, that was my only reason.

Access to it is gained by a door in the back of the house. I placed it in a niche between the kitchen, a closet, and a bedroom. Unfortunately, I forgot about flowerbeds, so consequently, I have to stomp on my wife’s lilies to get to it, a move that she doesn’t appreciate all that much. (this was one of those questions that I didn’t even have sense enough to ask)

The first trouble with the hot water heater came in the early nineties. We were in Montgomery, Alabama on vacation when my mother-in-law informed us the heater had burst. The back yard was flooded, but, said she in her imperturbable manner, “I turned off the water. So there’s nothing to worry about until you get back.”

Needless to say, we dropped all of our plans and headed home.

The closet and bedroom carpet was ruined.

Smart me had not bothered to put a catch-pan beneath the heater. Why? No one mentioned it. That was another of those little bases I didn’t cover.

Did I mention it was a tight fit?

You see, another thing I didn’t take into consideration was the plumbing, for after I put the heater in, the plumber ran the waterlines about two or three inches from the wall. With those copper lines protruding three inches into the opening, the heater was too wide to slip out.

So I called upon good-old-fashioned country engineering. You all know what that is. Country engineering is a makeshift means to effect the desired result without use of proper tools; you know, a screwdriver for a chisel. That sort of thing.

I wedged blocks under the hot water heater to elevate it until I could turn it upside down over the protruding waterlines. And yes, the process had to be reversed putting it back in.

But that was easier. One of the beauties of country engineering is that you always learn from the first disaster. I handled that by sliding the picnic table up to the opening, placing the heater on the table, then my wife and I guided it into the opening and stood it up.

Smart engineering, huh? The only problem then was getting my diminutive wife out from behind the heater after she guided it into place.

Well, things went okay for years. Then a couple weeks, back, bingo! It burst. This time, I had a catch pan that funneled the overflow into the flowerbed. Saved the carpet, killed my wife’s flowers deader than a beaver hat.

Needless to say, the gentleman I hired to replace the heater wasn’t too impressed with my engineering, a fact he made very clear when he handed me my final bill. I don’t blame him. It was more than fair for the work I put him through. Besides, after the shock of the purchase price for a new electric hot water heater, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the bill had been the equivalent of Obama’s stimulus plan.

Oh, well. I don’t have to worry about it for another ten years or so.

I hope.