Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Water Tower Tour

Yes, it's weird.  I am completely aware of that.  But for some ridiculous reason, I have a fascination with water towers.  I liken it to my bizarrity to photograph feet.  I wrote about that in another blog post.  I don't like feet one iota of a smidge, but I love shots of people from the knees down.  Strange but true.  The same holds true for water towers.  I mean after all, I am not the mechanical one of our hubby/wifey duo, and water towers and their workings are quite mechanical, but there's something about these gigantuous water tanks that strike me as interesting.

Maybe it's how they rise so tall to silhouette again the sky, or maybe it's how they dot the tops of tall buildings in a cramped city scape, or maybe it's the nostalgia of the old towers - they are most definitely my favorites.  Or just maybe it's the pride towns can take in them and speak to passers-by saying, "Hey, this is our town!" Or maybe, ...

Regardless of the reason, I have embraced my weird fascination and have been on a photographic quest of sorts to capture these H2O giants on film, or really my SD card.  All but two of these towers live in the little corner of our world that we call home. Our county has quite the textile history and as a result has many little mill towns that are being restored.  Look up among the old mill buildings by the rivers that helped them run, and one will usually find an old water tower or even two.

Surprisingly (since I am usually all about the aesthetic), in the midst of my water tower tour, I began to wonder how these elevated tanks really worked.  The librarian corner of my mind went into action and I did what comes natural - research.  I found out that indeed there is a purpose for their elevation; it creates more pressure.  And since municipalities push water to our houses, pressure is a good thing.  These elevated tanks are connected to the maze of water pipes running through our towns and in the event of an emergency need, they act as a back up reservoir.  One of my favorite "who would have known" sites does a good job of explaining it if you care to check it out. 
The fact that water towers come in all shapes and sizes made my tour quite interesting.  The most unusual was the famous peach water tower that I photographed on a trip down I-85.  The largest was the huge, shiny silver city tower.  The typical tower holds the water of about 50 normal size swimming pools inside the its tank.  If that's the average size, I can't imagine how much water this silver guy holds!  Other facts of interest, pilots of small aircraft can use these towering city features as points of reference and these keepers of the water help lower insurance rates because they guarantee a water source in the event of a fire!

Call me crazy, but at times these towers seem almost romanticized. Ok, so laugh, but think about a movie scene, old friends sitting atop their little town's tower, feet dangling, solving life's problems... Ok, so romanticized might be a little strong.  And besides, every water tower I visited was surrounded at the base by fencing which usually involved barbs! So I settled for a view from below.  While most look fairly ordinary and standard, like this tower, the look completely change at night.  I didn't plan to photograph the same tower at night but I couldn't resist the shot when I saw it glowing from the spotlight with the stars overhead.

While it may seem that I'm making up for my blog deliquency with this rambling post about my weird but true fascination, my words do have a purpose.  Let me get down to the nitty gritty of my water tower tour.

I had already begun my photographic quest of water towers when for almost a solid week this past fall we started having amazing sunsets.  When picking up my youngest-one-of-three from ballet one Monday, I had already spotted the tower with the amazing sunset behind it as seen in the photo at the very top of this post but to my dismay, my camera was not with me. So, when I noticed a repeat performance from the sun the very next time she had ballet, I took my camera along. My middle-one-of-three tagged along, we picked up his sister from ballet, and headed across the interstate to capture the sun before it set.  My time window was brief but I was able to get the shot.

In my rush to get my camera together and get my daughter picked up in time, I had forgotten that I needed to bring her some pants to put on after ballet because we weren't going back home. It had turned drastically cooler and she needed something more than a tutu to wear on our after ballet errand. Going back home wasn't an option due to time constraints.  Across from her studio is a small store called Dollar General, we affectionately call it DG. My thinking is I'll swing by, pick her up some cheap sweatpants (she could use them anyway) and then quickly be on our errand before having to pick up my oldest-one-of-three from soccer practice.  A few minutes later and a six dollar pair a sweatpants in the bag, we were ready to go. Mission accomplished.  I backed out of the store parking lot, pulled onto what I would consider a cut through street from the parking lot to a main road, and I spotted him - a young man carrying a handsaw.

At first, alarm bells went off.  I mean it was dark, no one else was around and a man was in the road with a handsaw!  But then I began to reason.  Ok, so I've never read a news story about a handsaw murderer - after all, the old adage is ax murderer! So my thoughts turn to who in the world even uses a handsaw anymore? This is 2013, people use power tools not handsaws.  And who, especially, walks around with one through a dimly lit parking lot and across a very low traffic cut through street? 
Who?  Someone who's walking toward a tree on a night of our very first cold snap of the season.  Who?  Someone who looks a little awkward as he drops the handsaw to his side when he sees that I notice.  Who?  Someone who doesn't notice that I see in my rear view mirror as he grabs a tree limb.  Who?  Someone who doesn't have heat for the night - that's who.  

I'm processing all of these thoughts as I drive and tears come to my eyes just as they are now as I type.  I had just raced around to catch the perfect sunset shot behind a water tower.  A water tower that maybe provides unlimited water flow to my house - my wonderfully heated house.  I had just stopped, really out of convenience, to buy my child a pair of sweatpants to keep her warm on a quick errand.  My same child who gets to attend ballet class.  I would soon be picking up my oldest-one-of-three who's only worry is that it's a cool night for soccer practice, not how will we stay warm tonight.  My son, sitting in the passenger seat, his only care is which radio station he should pick. Truly, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  Gratitude for my limitless blessings.  Gratitude for warmth.  

Maybe it's how they rise so tall to silhouette again the sky, or maybe it's how they dot the tops of tall buildings in a cramped city scape, or maybe it's the nostalgia of the old towers - they are most definitely my favorites.  Or maybe it's the pride towns can take in them and speak to passers-by saying, "Hey, this is our town!" Or maybe, ... just maybe, it's that my fascination found meaning on this water tower tour.  Reminders, standing oh so tall for me to vividly see; reminders of my blessings.

1 comment:

  1. No Tracey, you're not alone in this one; plenty of people are into water towers, primarily on one of the reasons you said. They serve as pretty backdrops on a movie, before huge billboards sprung up. Fortunately, water towers aren't going away soon, as there could be plenty more uses for them. And they could even earn money for their owners.
    Jen Lau @