On Owning a Fish Tank - Part 1

I'm somewhere between San Marcos, Texas and Austin - probably Buda. My phone rings and it's my roommate on the other end: "Hey, dude, forgot to ask if you could pick up a few things at my dad's apartment on the way up. Some stuff we'll need up here in South Dakota."

I'm anxious to make it up to Dallas before I make the 14 hour drive north through Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska to get back to Mission, SD - but I'm a good friend and I assume whatever Keith needs me to bring will be valuable.

After a few wrong turns, I make it to the complex, his father is balancing himself on the curb and waving to make sure I see him. We get to a parking place and his father says, "This is going to take both of us."

He opens the back of his SUV and I see a rectangle box of glass no less than five feet across, a couple of feet wide and four feet tall. I could comfortably fit inside of it. Hell, me and my two brothers could comfortably fit inside it. It's resting on a solid oak base of the same size.

These things weigh a lot.

These things take up a great deal of space.

I drive a Honda C-RV.

Not only does he tell me Keith wants me to transport the 65 gallon fish tank over 1,500 miles across the country (greatly affecting my gas mileage), but I'm also to smuggle a chainsaw (which may or may not be legal), a sack of size 14 shoes and a Justin Bieber poster.

In Dallas, I spend close to an hour playing a game of small SUV Tetris as I attempt to fit all of the things I need for the next year (you know, clothing, toiletries, textbooks - things people really use) and head north with my back bumper kissing the top of every speed bump I travel over.

I finally make it up to The Land of Infinite Variety: my tires are swollen, my chassis has back pain and my transmission is having an asthma attack. I'm warmly welcomed by my roommate and the rest of the SoDak family. I feign a smile.

The next two days involve us transporting the building blocks of the Pyramid of Giza from the back of my mini-SUV to our back yard to clean, then into the house. Keith determines the living room is the proper place to have an aquarium that could house adolescent alligators. We set it up and then deplete the water supply for Todd County by spending the next hour dumping 65 gallons into a glass container resting two inches away from our leather couch.

The work isn't over.

"This will be worth it, trust me," Keith tells me.

Now we have to take a heavy black cylinder, about the size of R2-D2, and hook a bunch of hoses into it so we can have a "filtration system." This means that we get to pretend like we're Bo and Luke Duke siphoning gas from Rosco's police cruiser for the next hour. Finally, we've got a steady stream of water flowing in and out of R2-D2, we've got gravel in the bottom of the tank, we've tromped all over the field by our house to find suitable rocks for what Keith calls, hiding places (for the smaller, less gregarious fish, he tells me) and we've got fluorescent lights up top.

Now we just need the fish.

Rapid City is the closest place to find tropical freshwater fish. So, we go to Rapid City.

Click here to read Part 2