If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I usually get on a subject and then write about everything I know about that subject. You also know that I occasionally go “off the track.” Lately, I have been writing about water conditioning equipment, most recently about iron filters. But this column is going to be way off the “track.”

If you are regular you also know that I am a great believer in attending conferences, conventions and other meetings that our industry hosts from time to time. Recently, I have attended two good meetings, sadly missed an important one and visited some locations that have a serious water quality problem —that does not include bacteria.

Recently, my wife Shirley and I attended two of what I call “dealer days.” These are one-day events sponsored by supply houses and featuring table-top exhibits by the vendors whose products they sell. Lunch is always included, and is always very tasty, along with other refreshments — but no alcohol. (I fully support the no-alcohol policy.) In addition, everyone who attends gets a shopping bag, usually some writing pads, some pens to write on them with, a baseball cap with the supply house’s logo and, at one of these events this year, everybody got a t-shirt and a pair of socks. All you needed in addition to go on a job was your trousers and a pair of shoes. Needless to say, we had a grand time at these events, one of which was 75 miles or so from our location and the other about 150 miles.

Of course the best parts of these “days” are seeing new products, and catching up with old friends and perhaps making a few new ones. On the friendship side, this year we were saddened to learn that one of our contractor friends has a serious illness, but has prospects for a cure. Another long-time contractor had a semi-major procedure, but is doing well. Steve and Jack, we hope things continue to go well for you. We also learned that the long, long, long time representative of a major manufacturer to our industry is retiring. I think this man covered Michigan and many areas for more than 40 years. Don, we wish you a long retirement and appreciate your decades of service. I got to visit with this man’s successor and he seems to be a qualified young man who will I think do well. 

We did not see very many new products as, of course, you readers realize we are a rather mature industry and major advances in drilling methods, materials used and other improvements are not really in demand. At one meeting we did see a pump hoist of a brand new design. This unit is being rather heavily advertised and looks like a really good option. The one we saw had been sold to a contractor in Michigan and was on its way “home.” An upside of this new design was it left the truck bed on which it was mounted almost completely open. It did have a lot of electronic controls and, being an old driller, I have a little question about electronics. It also had in my opinion a rather stiff price tag, but nowadays almost everything has a rather stiff price tag in my thinking. 

One interesting fact in both of these events was that the hosts are both members of a large national chain of supply houses. I believe these two brands in Michigan have 10 locations. Some contractors I know seem to dislike this at least a little bit. This is, however, the way of business in 2019. Around here, every little town used to have a Ford Motor Co. dealership, a General Motors dealership and Chrysler Corp. dealership. Likewise, every small town had a John Deere outlet and one for International Harvester, Ford Tractors, Oliver, Massey-Harris, Allis Chalmers, and others. In 2019, for me, it is about 20 miles to the nearest GM dealership, about the same to a Dodge dealership and about 40 miles to a Ford dealership. The nearest agriculture equipment stores for John Deere, CNH (Case New Holland the successor to International Harvester) and Agco are from 20 to 50 miles away. This is just the way things are nowadays. I’m not saying it is better or worse than the old days, just that that is the way it is. Our industry is no different. Whatever, Dan and Glen, we appreciate being invited. 

One unpleasant aspect of our travels to these dealer meetings was stopping at rest areas along the interstate highways. The water quality in these facilities is just terrible. They are using water straight from the wells, which is good, but almost all well water in southern Michigan is hard and contains a lot of iron. Worse yet, we learned that these facilities used to have iron and hardness treatment but MDOT took them out as a way to cut the budget. Our new governor wants to add a gasoline tax of 45 cents per gallon for the repair of the interstates and state highways. The county and local roads, which are disasters, will have unfunded — that is, no — repairs. Perhaps she should make a 60-cent gas tax addition and put water conditioning treatment back in the rest areas. 

The meeting I did not make this winter and spring was the 2019 MGWA Conference. The last one of these that I missed was in 1957, so I broke a long attendance record. The last two years, MGWA has held a conference not a convention. As I did not attend, I will not attempt to write about whether the conference was good or not. Things just did not work out for me this year and I feel badly that I missed this event.

As I write this near the middle of April, our weather has been varying greatly. Yesterday and today, we’ve had sunny skies and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The day before, we had rain all day and temps near freezing — just a miserable day. My infamous lawn is very green, but has yet to be mowed. It is too short. Thanks for reading this “off the track” column, and next time I will get back to water conditioning.

For more John Schmitt columns, visit www.thedriller.com/schmitt