In The Big Horn Sheep De-Watering Device, veteran author and wildlife biologist Thomas A. Roberts makes a beginner’s mistake and pays for it when a four-and-a-half foot long pipe wrench becomes his cross to bear in a trek across the desert.
“We’d helicoptered in early that morning, some YCC volunteers, myself and my assistant Connie. We were installing a watering facility for bighorn sheep that involved locating a tank on a ridgetop, fed by a rainwater catchment apron, and enough pipe to connect it to a drinker far downslope, with a float valve that would keep the system from draining itself dry, and pressure reducers to keep the system from being overly stressed by the weight of the water in the pipe.
“It was growing late in the afternoon. But all that I had to do was install the reducers. I left the crew on the ridgetop and took for myself the sexiest assignment of scrambling down and doing this. I looked around for a box labeled PRESSURE REDUCERS, and to my instant mortification I could find bushings and nipples of all shapes and sizes, adapters and clamps, washers and hacksaws, PVC dope and a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne to christen the work, but no pressure reducers. I could think of some options but they all spelled debacle if examined for likelihood of success. Miserable, I waved my hat and called “Let her rip!” and rip she did. At the first collar (where I stood) there was just a serious hissing scream of a leak. At the lower reducer, two hundred feet further down, there was a lovely, lacy halo about two feet across. At the drinking trough itself, the float valve, unprotected by the reducers, blew out with a report like a rifleshot. It was fortunate that no sheep was watering there, as the float would have knocked it unconscious…”