Among the supposed four-letter words, which often are more or less than four letters, in that category considered "profanity" or "cussing," let me please add the word "plumbing."

I will never complain about the money plumbers charge because plumbing has to be the worst job thatís ever existed. Plumbing is worse than anything.

Last week, Tuesday I think it was (time has been a blur since then) I got a message after lunch to call the waterworks district.

"We just checked your meter," they said. "And itís spinning wildly!"

Talk about a sinking feeling. I had noticed that my bill was about $15 higher than usual last month, but I thought that was from the time I put the hose in the dogís water bucket and walked off and forgot about it for a couple hours. But apparently not

So I went home and looked in the back yard where the main line to the house is, and sure enough, thereís a big olí puddle of clear water. I got a shovel and started digging. Iím 42 years old, and for about 32 of those years Iíve been searching for a shovel that would fit my hand correctly. Still no luck. I dug up everything from the shut off valve to the three places the water enters the house and found no cause.

Nothing left to be done. Sighing like a condemned man, I crawled underneath the house. The dog thought this was just the neatest thing ever, and she kissed my face repeatedly, as if saying, "Hey! You came over to my place this time! Want some Purina? Itís kinda bland but you get used to it. Wanna play with a tennis ball?" before I found the problem: A little mud puddle, and a swirling in the center of it. I dug down with my little garden spade, and not only did I find the pipe, I knocked a chunk of rust off it when I did, and the swirling became a geyser that would make Old Faithful proud.

So I called my pal Larry, whoís among many other masteries, a plumber. He arrived the next morning and, our situation being dire, I took the day off work to help out. In a 160-year-old house, we rapidly realized that nothing was what it appeared to be. The whole main line from the shut off had to be replaced, and the two tie-ins were questionable at best. The plumbing had been installed in the 1940s and was largely original, except it had been moved around, repaired and rerouted many times over the decades. I had crawled around under the house to trace all the lines. The metal, busted one went toward the kitchen, then made a 90-degree turn under the back porch and vanished somewhere out in the yard. This was the exact direction of the old well-water pump house. I assumed it was the old well system feed into the house, and it had been capped when we tied in to what my grandparents called "city water."

You know what they say about making such assumptions, right?

We kicked things off about 9 a.m. Wednesday, cutting pipes since we had decided to reroute rather than replace. To my palís defense, he was working on my word about what I had seen happen up under the house in my tracings and goings about. All I can do is plead that the barrage of doggie kisses must have confused me.

We replaced the main line first, then the two tie-ins that supplied the house with water. While the glue on the main line and the tie-ins were drying, before we tied them into the house, we took a break for some ice cold water and a coupla short cigars.

My neighbor came by then and chatted with us for a bit before getting back to work. A few hours later, we had tied in to the house and were waiting for the glue to dry on that section so we could put the system under pressure. Naturally, cold water and stogies were in order, and naturally, my neighbor stopped by again to visit and catch up on our progress. He was, though, looking rather suspicious at this point and I couldnít quite figure out why.

Well, we put pressure to it about 5 p.m., and voila! We had water in the outside faucets and water in the bathroom. We congratulated ourselves on a job well-done and Larry took his leave of me.

To this day, I donít know why I didnít throw the kitchen faucet open. Itís not Larryís fault, he trusted me not to be a maroon, and I failed miserably. But when I went in the house later and went to wash some dishes that had been piling upÖno water.

It was hard to call my bud back and tell him I had mistraced the lines somehow. It was even harder for him to tell me he couldnít make it back until Saturday. But I had water in the bathroom and laundry room, so I resigned myself to washing dishes in the bathroom sink and waited for Saturday.

I found another line, and to be certain of what I had found, I opened the valve in the kitchen, went back outside and stuck a water hose to it and held it as tight as I could for a couple minutes. When I went back in the kitchen to look, there was water in the sink. Bingo!

Saturday evening we connected that line to the main and waited for it to dry with requisite cigars and a coupla cold ones. My neighbor came by and shook his head sadly at us.

"I donít know," he said.

"What?" I asked.

"I just donít know about this crew," he said.

"Whaddaya mean?" we demanded

"How do you ever expect to get this job done? Everytime I see you, youíre sitting around drinking and smoking cigars!"

So I fetched him a cold one and a stogie, just to keep him quiet.

At 8:30 p.m., we put the pressure to it and lo! It held, and I had water in the kitchen. This time, Larry and I patted ourselves on the back and promptly knocked on wood, just to be safe.

Everything passed by nicely from then on, until about 7 p.m. Sunday night, when I heard a weird sound I quickly realized was running water. I raced outside, and sure enough, one of the new fittings had split wide open.

If you donít think that was the hardest phone call I ever made, think again.

My pal came again, and heís still, thankfully, my pal. Unfortunately I had to be at work Monday and couldnít go assist, so Iím not sure if he and my neighbor had a cigar and cold one together while waiting for the glue to dry. I can only hope something good came out of the whole mess.

You know, they say the fall of the Roman Empire was due to the plumbing. Now, the historians say it was because they used lead and it made Ďem all crazy as loons from lead poisoning. I say it was just doing plumbing work. Thatíd bring the downfall of any civilization real quick, if you ask me.