Janet Combs

Janet Combs

Two weeks before doing some serious digging in our front yard, we called 811, the coordinated utilities locator number. A few different local utility representatives came out and sprayed our yard to indicate where lines were buried underground. The weekend prior to the delivery of our three palm trees, we called 811 again — because we didn’t notice a marking from the local water and sewer company where we thought one ought to be. The representative checked our file and reported that the water company had indeed been out and not to worry, all was clear.

You know where this story is going.

Actually, planting day went just fine. Three Sabal Palms were delivered, installed and staked without incident. But we had had this unfortunate notion that we’d set one palm tree at a slight angle, as if it had occurred naturally, the way a postcard palm tree looks swaying on a windswept beach. The problem is, ours turned out to be way more of a leaner. Maybe it was because we leaned just one — perhaps we should have inclined all three of them. As it was, the overall effect was of two sober friends in the front yard propping up the loser who was clearly three sheets to the wind.

We kept it that way for a week, insisting it was okay, or maybe artsy, which is an adjective you can use when something looks like crap but you don’t want to admit it. Over breakfast the following Saturday, I happened to mention how artsy our leaning palm was looking. That was it — we headed outside to readjust the angle of the leaner.

Ten-foot Sabal Palms weigh about 1,000 pounds, which, to give you a better idea, is approximately 10.5-times heavier than a toilet. The plan was for me to stand behind the staked tree and prop it up while my husband dug on the opposite side. We’d push the tree to a more upright position, and then backfill the other side with the dirt we had removed. For some reason, I thought the tree was stable and stepped aside to get a shovel to help my husband.

“Whoa!” I shouted, when I really should have cried “timber!” The leaner leaned, all the way to the ground, crashing with a soft thud.

There was no way my husband and I were going to get the tree back up without help — but fortunately on our street, young people are always visiting their grandparents. Our neighbor’s granddaughter and boyfriend happened to be in town; in a matter of minutes, the boyfriend and his buddy came over and righted the tree with us. We thought it would be a good idea to drive the stake deeper, since it had pulled out with the fall.

“I’ll do it,” one young man offered. He put the stake back in the existing hole and started sledgehammering.

“Uh oh,” he said. “Hear that?”

It was kind of like the opening scene of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” When up from the ground came a bubbling — but it was gushing, and it was water, and the only thing getting richer by the minute was the chaotic scene. We called the emergency number for Georgetown County Water and Sewer; they arrived within the half hour and set to work repairing the punctured pipe.

‘Water Main,” as we have named the third palm, has been lagging behind the other two in terms of blooming, but just this week it’s putting out a faint frond, so it’s going to make it. This is good news because we aren’t exactly characters on " The Beverly Hillbillies," and this particular Jed and Granny don’t have the youthful backs to be digging up artsy palms every other week. Which brings me to the moral of this column: always call 811 before digging. Also, make sure your neighbor’s grandkids are in town.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Contact her at www.janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.