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What About This . . .? By Wayne William Cipriano

By Wayne William Cipriano

The ice storm we experienced overnight on January 11-12 brought home to us once again how very fragile our civilization has become. Over time, with the advance of technology in every field, we have placed ourselves in a position where a serious, but, by no means catastrophic weather event, takes away our roads and our electricity and sends us back a couple of centuries without the experience, training, and techniques people used every day back then.

This storm was, for us, the worst one since the one that got us maybe 20 years ago. We lived in Ava at that time, and just getting out to the ranch was a real character-builder.

As you may remember, we had a train of four or five winter storms that not only prevented the ice from melting, but added another layer with each passing storm. Before it was over and we finally saw the sun again, we had five or six inches of ice on the ground in some places and well over two inches everywhere.

In order to reach the barn to toss out some hay, the hills had to be very carefully walked (think goodness for golf shoes). And the cattle, moving to the barn, had to be even more careful as none of them played golf. Their hard hooves were useless on ice.

During the recent storm, we were lucky enough to have electricity until about 9:30 a.m. on Saturday as I write this, our hopes for renewed electricity are huge. Also, lucky are we in that we heat with propane and cook with it as well.

As we walked around the house, we noticed all the branches that had broken off due to the thick coating of ice everything collected. It is so quiet that the cracking and falling to earth of overloaded branches sound like rifle shots and the thudding of big game.

We have heat and Rosalie can cook. I haven’t yet flipped on a light switch as I enter a darkened room, but it’s early in the storm. We managed to fill a bunch of old wine bottles with water before the storm, so we have some before we get around to draining the water heater, but no electricity makes our well useless.

This sort of weather wasn’t nearly as problematic years ago, before electricity became so important to us doing everything from providing water to milking cows.  People broke ice covering the water they usually drew, heated, and cooked with wood fires; milked cows with Popeye-like forearm. They traveled a bit slower over ice than through mud, but didn’t require as many trips as we seem to need today. Having few, if any, of what we consider “modern conveniences,” the inclement weather took much less away from them.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not hearken back to those days with nostalgia (or imagined nostalgia). Life then was so much rougher than our lives today, that those few still alive from that era don’t much talk about it. They rightly feel we who were not there have difficulty believing what it was like. And those older folks probably shy away from telling stories that sound like “walking uphill both ways barefoot in the snow.”

This piece got pretty long, for I was hoping the power would be restored before I finished and I could put a pleasant note of repair at the end. Like all guys, I don’t much like leaving the house when everything is stopped, even though I realize my presence here won’t amount to much situational remediation.

That remediation is provided by those guys (and gals?) who climb those poles and ride those buckets and risk cooking their fingers and more when dealing with high tension electrical wires, The ones who earn all their pay on four or five truly miserable days during the year, and then it seems like they work for nothing the rest of the year waiting for “The Big Ones” while they perform their regular duties.

The cattle will be happy to see me, and they won’t be ice skating like they were all those years ago. I hope the road is not blocked by any sizable tree falls that will require firing up the chainsaw but we are always pretty lucky about that. The big thing will probably be all the fence repairs. There will be some trepidation at each hill and curve, hoping no “bad news” will be encountered, but that will be balanced off by the absolute beauty of the walk to the barn.

Moving though a gray, crystal-coated forest that is dead quiet –there are much worse ways to get to work!

P.S. We got our power restored just before dark, so we didn’t need all the candles that Rosalie laid out. The power was off just long enough to remind us how grateful we should be to have it, without being gone so long that serious inconvenience or even danger resulted. God bless electricity!