After arriving at a house in Bedford, David Davis, a Bloomington resident and small business owner, had to run to the grocery store, get wooden pallets to put on the floor and carry the electric sewer machine across the flooded basement.
He put a cable down the stopped-up drain and began working on the blockage. He started drilling and noticed the floor drain began to function, so he slowly pulled the cable out.
“Every time I pulled my cable there was a big clump of roots on it and water would just come shooting back out of there,” Davis said. “After a while, this ball came out and started bobbing in the water, so I grabbed it up and put it in my pocket. I said, now that’s going in a collection.”
Today, the ball sits on a shelf in his home office.
“This was my very first item,” Davis said. “When I was working with Roto-Rooter, I was down in Bedford drilling a sewer and this is the first thing I saved. I was in a basement that had about a foot and a half of water in it.”
A treasure trove of other unexpected items pulled from pipes, gutters and drains — like the ball he pulled from the Bedford basement — hold their own special place inside both Davis’ home and heart. He calls it his “Wall of Shame.”
“I started plumbing when I was about 12 years old with my dad,” Davis said. “I came up with all this because people were asking me, ‘What’s the strangest thing you’ve pulled out of a drain,’ so I started saving it. Now when they ask me, I just bring them in here and I tell them, what is the strangest thing, you tell me.”
Each and every piece decorating the wall has a story behind it.
Objects ranged from a cracked, glass dolphin and toy train to a busted sewer pipe top and comb.
“I’ve got about 40 items there that I ain’t mounted yet,” Davis said, pointing to a large drawer. “And that’s just from the last year and a half.”
The biggest thing mounted on Davis’ shelf is the head of an antique sewer cable he cut from a 53-foot cable at 10th Street Market.
Although it was the biggest, it was not Davis’ favorite object. Davis’ favorite wasn’t even something he had pulled out of a drain.
“My favorite thing that I’ve done would be this one,” Davis said as he held up a small piece of pipe with a large hole in it.
“I was sent out to a house in the wintertime, to the garage,” Davis said. “It was for a waterline that had busted and exploded in the garage and water was just spraying everywhere. The water meter was buried underneath a pile of snow, so I couldn’t shut the water off and the owner asked me if I could still fix it. I said I tell you what, if you’ll let me dry my clothes here when I’m done, I’ll fix it.”
Once Davis told the owner he could fix it, he did just that. In the dead of winter, Davis cut the pipe at both ends, got another section, put the compression cuppers on both ends and started tightening it up. As he was tightening the new pipe, water was spraying all over him.
“I knew I was gonna get soaked,” Davis said. “After I put the pipe back together and I took my clothes off, the owner handed me a bathrobe, I dried my clothes and I went on down the road.”
Looking at his wall, Davis shared one final plumbing adventure. Pulling down an old pipe that was broken in two, he said people really get a chuckle out of stories like this one.
“This guy got caught smoking in his bathroom,” Davis said. “He was supposed to quit, but his wife came knocking on the door so he flushed the pipe down the toilet. I got it out for him.”
Having never been artistically inclined in the past, Davis said part of the reason he started saving and mounting things he found was due to extra time.
“I just did this for my own amusement,” Davis said. “I’m a single guy, my wife died in 2002, so I have a lot of extra time on my hands.”
Davis said his success as a plumber was not due to chance.
After his mother died, he started going to church in 2006, and now the “blessings keep coming so fast” that he doesn’t know what to do with them.
“I couldn’t go to her funeral,” Davis said. “My business was just starting and I was struggling to get by. Every month I was thinking that this may be the month that I have to start living in the truck.”
Davis started David Sewer Cleaners in 2003, using the same name his uncle had, and it didn’t take off.
After 2006, his small business did take off and he takes no credit
“My success for getting the stuff out that other people couldn’t wasn’t all me, it was God,” Davis said. “So that’s another story.”