My Storm Story

Five minutes before the ten o’clock hour on December 10th, “If you live in the Buena Vista area, take cover immediately-in a basement, hallway, closet, or interior room, protected by as many walls as possible!” My dog Max and I, headed for the smallest bathroom. It had no windows. I put on a hooded sweatshirt, pulled the hood up over my head. Covered up with blankets and pillows in the bathtub, we rode out the storm. Put my arm around Max–who trembled with fear. “Max, I don’t know how this will turn out. If we die, we’ll die together.”

I would never again complain about TV meteorologists and interrupted programs. Lightning and thunder shook the foundation. Then it became ghostly quiet. Wind blew, the likes of which I’d never heard before. The lights went out. Wind propelled objects bounced off outside house walls. It was over, after three of the longest moments lived in a lifetime.

Revealed by flashlight, the ceilings were still there. We were still alive–although a bit shaken. I looked out the front door toward the lawn. There were roof shingles scattered about. I dared not walk around, because of downed power lines.

Thus began four days without the comforts of heat, electricity, and water. There was no electricity for eight days. A battery powered radio provided music and local news. Two battery lights illuminated my dark, damp dungeon.

My neighbor and myself made daily trips to fetch river water for toilet flushing. Before stored food went bad, I cooked bratwurst and hamburgers on the barbecue grill. Cold bratwurst sufficed as breakfast fare, with bananas and oranges.

Basics such as drinking water, ice for coolers, became a real concern. Relief centers opened on the third day. No bathing or hot showers for six days. Mornings began with my caffeine-addicted body craving coffee and hot food.

It was a nightmare, eighteen days ago, the effects of which will continue for some time to come. My wife had been hospitalized during the storm–and has since recovered. I visited her daily, except for the day after, and could always find decent meals there.

The local landscape has changed. A daily parade of black trucks, descend like vultures, gathering debris. A blue man’s shirt decorated a tree, near the destroyed fire station. Yesterday, I talked with someone at a local business. She and her family lost their home. She appeared calm, as always, but I know deep down the scars were there. The neat little farm, down the road, on the curve is no longer there. One of the horses died. The same two Great Pyrenees dogs guarded what was left.

This Could Be the Last Time?

A time-consuming, unwieldly, process began after the unboxing, proper assembly, of a gas-powered weed trimmer. Purchased at a large, regional, home improvement chain store on August 11, 2021.

All traces of elation over how deftly the machine trimmed weeds, faded after fifteen minutes of use. Nothing out of the ordinary happened during assembly or usage. The machine restarted, but failed to continue running. It balked and quit when throttle applications were made.

The machine came with a two-year warranty. Doubts crept in. Sometimes manufacturer warranties weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. Hereafter, the chain store will be referred to, as “Gertrude’s.” Why hadn’t I returned the trimmer where purchased? There were steps to be taken before the store would accept a return.

Per the store associate: “Find a local authorized repair center and get back to me.” Since I lived in rural Kentucky, that meant somewhere within a fifty mile radius. I found two service centers, both equidistant from my home. Called back the store associate, with what I thought was good news. What he meant, was the service center closest to his store, not to my house.

Two weeks ago Saturday, I crossed the archaic, blue, Brookport, Illinois bridge to the repair shop. By the way, the bridge has its own website. It’s narrow, with eight foot lanes, and a steel mesh deck. Trucks were not allowed. Brown waters of the Ohio River flowed beneath the bridge.

Yesterday’s diagnosis–defective engine. “Rocker stud and lock nuts were the issue. It needed a new short block.” Short, what? Hurricane doubt clouds circled over my head. “Take it to the store where purchased,” She said. “Depending on store policies, they may exchange for a new one. If that happens, the manufacturer will send a new machine to us at the repair center. Or, they may deliver to your home.” Would this be the last time I shopped at Gertrude’s?

The terminally ill machine, boxed up again, returned to Gertrude’s. What would be the outcome? Documents and receipts exchanged, the service desk clerk asked. “What would you like to do? I would like my money back and to return this machine. I don’t trust anything that doesn’t work longer that fifteen minutes.” She called someone, and charges were promptly taken off my credit card. That brought sighs of relief. The “nuclear option” (referral to the state attorney general’s consumer affairs office) wasn’t needed.

Milestones, Nostalgic Twinges

Not that I was unaware, it had been forty years before, my wife and I were wed. It was a warm spring afternoon, not unlike today’s weather. Why did I wax nostalgic sometimes, for people, things from the past?

Life was certainly not simpler, back then. I recently posted a letter to an old friend from the past. She was a good friend, had two daughters, and an ex-husband, with whom we were acquainted.

Still waiting to hear from her. Wasn’t like several decades hadn’t passed in the interim. I’d called in 2017, out of the blue, and she seemed cordial. It was just, that we’d relocated to the same state, in which she resided–three hours away. What was I hoping for? Familiar faces, familiar places? I really didn’t know.

This part of Kentucky has lots of rolling hills, farms, and pleasant scenery. This more than offsets greater distances to grocery, hardware stores, doctors, and hospitals. Everything is a minimum of five to ten miles, or more away.

There’s a small Methodist church, at a rural crossroads, on the way to the nearest town. For almost a year, my wife swore up and down, the church had no windows. I was skeptical. Why would a church, that still had a congregation, be windowless?

“Well, Dear,” I said. “Maybe they took out the stained glass–replaced them with clear glass windows?”

“I’ don’t know,” She answered. “It seemed pretty strange.”

“Didn’t you see reflections in the windows when we passed by?”

“No,” She answered. ” I didn’t see a thing.”

One morning, on the way to the grocery store, this past April, I made an unexpected detour. “Why are you stopping here?” She asked, surprised.

“I’m going to lay the church with no windows issue to rest,” I answered.

I drove in the gravel parking lot, parked close to the church. It was early morning. The sun was behind us. “Do you, now, see reflections in the window panes?” I asked.

She answered, that, indeed she had. That was the morning the myth of the “church with no windows” came ended.

What would we talk about, for the next forty years? There were an infinite number of topics, yet to be revealed.

“Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby…”

I don’t like fakeness in people, in automobiles, or anything else.

Because of regulations, environmental concerns, auto makers do more with less.

Smaller engines, with fewer cylinder configurations, abound.

More economical, with the same power as before. Eco-friendly, the sound not the same, as before when big hulking V8’s ruled the road.

What about electric vehicles? Electric vehicles make little noise. For pedestrian safety, some electric vehicles have artificially generated noise.

Certain automakers pipe fake engine noises through radio speakers. Is this because of manufacturer’s inferiority complexes? Economical engines made wimpy sounds? Was that what the public wanted?

What’s with large fake chrome exhaust tips? Powerful dual exhausts on everything. Some had tiny exhaust pipes in them, some were all show and no go.

When I grew up in the sixties, neighborhood bicyclists had “Mattel, Vroom, hot Rodder Engines” attached to their bike frames. Turning a knob increased the volume and tempo of motorcycle noises–until the batteries ran down. I carried on with playing cards in the spokes.

My bike sounded mean. Motorcycle noises increased to a loud “braaap” the faster I rode. I don’t think I fooled anyone. It was pure fantasy. Will there come a time when automobile engine sounds can be chosen? Like smart phone ring tones. Available at extra cost–of course.


Emerged from the deep freeze, just a few days ago. It was below zero, with an ice storm, followed by two snow storms. The storm that battered Texans made its way here. Felt isolated without transportation for five days.

The snow was up to my dog’s belly. Being a southern dog, he wasn’t accustomed to such weather extremes. He acquired a taste for freshly fallen snow. Will that mean I’ll have to purchase sno-cones for him this summer?

Followed just as quickly, came late winter thaw. Thawed mud oozed from jagged edges of asphalt pavement, road wounds. Waves of torrential rain washed away road salt.

Unseasonably warm today, with thunderstorms. Midwesterners knew, that meant unsettled weather, with possible tornadic activity.

Satellite internet has been sporadic at best. Good news–I got my first Covid vaccine this past Monday. Our eight-county part of the state seemed underserved, with only three sites. There seems to be positive movement with additional vaccination sites.

A Rainy Day With Friends

The congenial local weather “odds maker” gave a 100% chance for rain.

A good day for oversleeping, overeating, and overthinking.

Who put trash in the bin without a trash bag? There were only two in the household. Tossing around wild accusations was a bad way to start the day.

Satellite TV and internet would be in-and-out the entire day. Annoying pop-up ads, as always, would find their way through.

It had already started. “I wish there were some places to go. This was so boring.”

That was more a rhetorical statement than anything. Pandemic realities didn’t allow for unnecessary visits.

Scotty, Johnathan, and Nick–You Tube how-to channels would assuage my mind today.

How had Johnathan managed to get a vintage ’52 construction crane running, let alone, moving under its own power?

Freed from swampy overgrowth, boom protruded from the front, through a machinery storage building, to the side of the nearest highway for extraction.

The entire process done with dogged determination and gumption. Skeptical at the first appearance of the rusted, battered, mechanical behemoth, my opinions were changed.

From North Carolina, to Quebec at Nick’s garage. Nick began the tear down of a 1968 Dodge truck engine. His videos always full of sage advice. He disassembled the big block Chrysler to the crankshaft in an hour.

This had been the most rain experienced, from one storm, since moving to Western Kentucky. A creek formed in the valley where a trickling stream formerly resided.

Properly attired in waterproof coat, rubber galoshes, and umbrella, prepared to retrieve mail from the mailbox at the end of the driveway. It was an adventure–knees dampened from wind-driven rain. Gusty winds battered the umbrella. “Not this time,” I declared defiantly.

Mail secured with little damage. Debtors would receive their just due. Junk mail deposited in the trash can, where it belonged.

Briefly, glimpsed sunshine around 2:07 PM. The cowardly sun retreated a few minutes later. The remainder of the day filled with rainfall and subdued winds.

House Cleaning With a Robot

“Honey, you need to vacuum, so the new robot vacuum doesn’t have to work too hard?”

I didn’t say it out loud, but thought, “Why did we have the robot vacuum? Wasn’t it supposed to be a labor-saving device?”

“I know dear. I was worried about there being too much pet hair.”

It was a Christmas gift from our children. Probably, a few million people received robot vacuum cleaners, this year. The robot vacuum’s trial run in the master bedroom was sketchy. After travelling back-and-forth under the bed, it muttered something unintelligible, returned to home port, docked itself.

What had it said? “I quit? This was above its pay grade? Too may dust bunnies? Pet hair? Batteries not fully charged? I needed the heavy-duty model?” Many questions generated. A few days later, and things were much improved. Of course, after I’d pre-vacuumed.

The cyber contraption meandered through the master bedroom, into the bathroom. Twisted, turned, pirouetted, around solid objects. Mapping–that’s what it did, as it labored its little cyber guts out.

Room layouts, would no longer be secret. It had little difficulty hopping over bathmats and area rugs. Never liked sharing things that should be kept secret. Will the abode remain in a perpetual state of improved tidiness?

I distrusted this little device, that resembled a fifties sci-fi flying saucer on wheels. My faithful dog, would be at my side. He already despised the regular, person-powered vacuum.

At this moment, Max and I are sheltered in my office, with the door closed. Barred from intrusions from cyber-technical household devices. Home computers excluded, of course.

January 1, 2021

Because of inclement weather or pandemic fears, New Years Eve was relatively quiet. Max, the mutt, and myself slept peacefully last night. This was the first quiet New Years, I can ever remember.

Just returned from a peaceful morning walk in the farm field next to my property. The sun’s return, brightened up early morning. A flock of robins pecked through leaf litter, along with cardinals, and other winter birds.

The highlight, a herd of five deer, that walked across the county road, north, along the far edge of the clearing. Max, solitude interrupted, ears erect, prepared, to give chase.

“Max, don’t do it,” I warned. Max is as old, as I, in dog years. I’m 72. Neither of us are physically capable of chasing anything. Nonetheless, the fresh air, exercise, traipsing through mud from recent rains, was invigorating.

I felt encouraged. More encouraged than in recent weeks. How much bad news could a person take? My wife’s health concerns weighed heavily on my mind. She is scheduled for surgery one week from today.

The importance of regular health checkups and mammograms reinforced. A small cancerous lump detected early. With advances in treatment, recovery will be less traumatic.

I feel optimistic. Hoping for a better 2021 for everyone!

2020 Happy Holidays

Christmas 2020, for reasons not necessary to explain, had none of the usual anticipation. I’m waiting for others in the household to awaken. There are plenty of things about which to reflect on from this past year.

I’m alive and doing well. With the global pandemic, it has been difficult to remain positive. The old adage, “If you couldn’t think of anything good to say, it was better to say nothing at all.”

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, for 2020! I believe better days are ahead.

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