A lesson in siphooning

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ERUDITE consequences can eventuate from improbabilities, and Poochie got a bath. Poochie is an alleged dogperson who lives with our granddaughters and superintends everything.

I, myself, am not all that fond of Poochie, as I have known many another dog of more agreeable countenance and more amiable disposition, but Poochie does look after the granddaughters and comes with them when they visit. Around home, Poochie takes care of everything except cleaning the gutters, and once at our place she adds the offshore fisheries, the merchant marine, the Coast Guard, the Beacon Boat Yard (hauling and storage), and the ebb and flow of the tide. Poochie has a flair for olfactory abomination and is perpetually needful of ablution.

So Grumpa was approached with the inquiry as to what we might have around here that would fit Poochie during nettoyage. The girls were waving a bottle of perfumed saponification and a long-handled brush, and perhaps had the silly notion I would allow Poochie to use my bathtub. Poochie was being restrained during the negotiations, reluctant to bide, and offering the ripe effluvia of rancid clams and spent grease from the launching ways.

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''You come just at the right time,'' I said. ''Before cold weather I have to empty my rain tub and tip it upside down for winter. We can empty it now, take it to the porch to douse poor Poochie, and then I'll take care of it. Fetch that short length of hose by the sillcock.''

My rain tub is plenty big enough for Poochie, and when full of rainwater is heavy. Rather than strain to tip it over, which would make a big puddle in the path, I arrange a siphon, usually draining the water onto my compost heap. ''Been a dry fall,'' I said when Karyn came running with the hose, ''and drenching the compost is a good idea.'' I stretched the hose from the tub to the heap, and heard Karyn say, ''What do you use for a pump?''

Although they do keep Poochie, these three girls are otherwise bright enough, and this gave me pause - I looked at the girls and they looked at me, and it was clear none of them knew about a siphon.

''We're going to make a siphon,'' I said.

''What's that?''

''A siphon is what Perky Nugent, over at the four corners, always called a siphoon; he knew better, but he thought it amused the summer people. Don't you know what a siphoon is?''

''A hose?''

So I stood back like a high-quality professor in a settled position with a permanent grant and did my best to elucidate the hydraulics of a siphon. Incredulity prevailed. ''You mean,'' said Karyn, ''that the thing will run by itself?''

''Not exactly. There are two natural forces put to work. The pull of gravity makes this side run down, and atmospheric pressure pushes this side up. Once you get these balanced off and working, a siphon will keep going as long as this point here is lower than that point there. But sometimes air gets in and spoils things and you have to start over.''

''How do you start it?''

''Just the way you blow up a balloon except the opposite. You get down there and suck until you exhaust enough air. Try it.'' Karyn tried it and got a good mouthful of elderly rainwater, choked and coughed and sputtered, but forgot her discomfort and surprise at the miracle of a stream. ''I did it! It works!'' she yelped. ''Eureka,'' I said.

Then we had to stop the siphon so the two other girls could try in turn, and I got them so they would quit pulling just before the rainwater arrived. Not quite so messy that way. So we stood there and watched the rain tub drain, and their expressions of wonder at their first siphoon pleased me. Afterwards we carried the empty tub to the porch, they fixed some warm water, and Poochie was cleansed. Poochie was not cooperative, and spoke at length about the indignity of being abused.

Afterwards, I tipped the tub over in a good place, put away the hose, and smiled to myself at recollection of Perky Nugent and his siphoon. I didn't tell the girls that Perky was arrested one time when he was caught siphooning gasoline from a truck that wasn't his'n.

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