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THE WATER TOWER


"Is it true that they pay fifty dollars to change the light bulb at the top of the water tower when it burns out?" I asked my dad, Joe Karst. He replied with a question. "Why? Are you thinking about applying for the job?"  I replied softly, "I think I could do it." Dad just smiled but warned me that the water tower was much higher than it looked from the ground.

I couldn't get the prospect off my twelve-year-old mind.  I discussed it with my friends.  They all claimed they had climbed up the ladder a certain number of steps. While they tried to top one another, I listened and made my own plan to challenge the tower. My first attempt failed because one of the men who worked at the close-by City electric plant saw me and hollered to get off the ladder. I hoped he wouldn't mention my folly to my dad and decided that this was a job to be accomplished under the cover of darkness. I chose a moonless night when I would not be missed by my family or friends to make my climb. I had to prove to myself that I could do it before I pursued that fifty-dollar prize.

I approached the tower like a thief, looking all directions, and when I thought I was alone, I stepped up to that giant structure and gritted my teeth. The ladder was narrow and the steel rungs were cold, but I started my way up with confidence. At two-thirds of the distance to the top, the ladder inclined outwards, giving me the feeling that I was in mid air and no longer in complete control of my body. I kept climbing and made it to the platform walkway that encircled the huge tank. Another ladder led from the platform up and out onto the tank's top. There was the bulb, shining like a diamond in the sky! It was bigger than I had imagined, and I knew I would have to make a devise to carry it if I ever got the opportunity to change it.

I looked at the lights of town awhile before I got up the nerve to make my descent back to solid earth. My hands looked smaller and I hoped I wouldn't lose my grip. As I made my way back down the tower, I thought about how my friends would never believe me when I told them what I'd done, but I didn't care. I had scratched my initials at the very top and was prepared to back my story! 

Later, when I told my buddies who would listen, about my adventure and they expressed doubt, I challenged them to go up and take a look at my initials as proof of my amazing feat.

I don't recall how much time had passed when my dad mentioned the City had contracted to have the water tower painted, but it was then I realized the significance of the event. I knew when I saw the workers up there spreading coats of paint on the surface that they were destroying my credibility and the evidence of my climb to the stars. What I gained that night was worth a great deal more then any amount of money I might have received for switching luminaries, and I was ready to climb a few more towers.

Maurice D. Karst 2003
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