A Fickle Finger of Fate?

 

The power is off but according to the little icon on my computer, I have a 99% charge.  I might as well use it.  It is the second time in the past twelve hours or so that we’ve lost power.  The remnants of Hurricane Michael have caused hundreds of thousands of outages as it has roared north…more to come I’m sure.

Some tree or limb is down across a power line…maybe, but we are in much better shape than our neighbors to the south.  Almost six hours of electricity charge left on my computer…my phone at eighty-nine.  If worse comes to worse, I can always crank a car and charge.  I don’t think we will be out that long…but you never know.

It’s quiet sitting here in the dark gray of late morning and the wind gust are audible.  Just forty mile per hour gusts.  Living where I live I worry.  We are surrounded by tall trees and have had a few come down over the years.  Hemlocks, walnuts, tulip poplars, a pecan, sweetgums, a twisted persimmon and oaks, all live inside our fenced in yard or close enough to worry about.  I worry one may come down on the house. We are on borrowed time.  We’ve lost four or five inside the fence over the years with limited damage, none to the house.  An outside building ripped open like a tin can, a fence and several trashcans flattened, the power line was taken down twice.  A tornado took a hundred and fifty trees down in a ravine behind the house…still down, tangled and stacked like giant Pick-Up Sticks, one upon the other.  It could have been worse.

The power has returned for now, just in time for Breaking News showing the devastation around the panhandle of Florida.  Mexico Beach is flattened as are other areas.  I have a special place in my heart for the area and the people who live there.  Memories of family vacations, an epic college road trip and the most memorable excursion of my life; my honeymoon, a meandering, two-week peregrination along the Gulf Coast from Panama City to New Orleans and back.

We are just barely three weeks past Hurricane Florence, a hurricane that whacked our Atlantic Coast’s bottom at Wilmington before making a hard-left turn and making its way to the foothills of the Blue Ridge and above.  More rains mean more floods and mudslides above us, but so far, we have dodged another bullet.

Is it okay to be thankful for the bad luck of others?  I feel deeply for those not as lucky and it is pure luck…nothing more.  An eleven-year-old in a bedroom in Georgia is hit in the head by a carport…why, not a sixty-eight-year-old guy sitting in his recliner typing?  Good luck, bad luck?  God’s will?

I thank God for his mercy, but I don’t believe my Divine Being points the “fickle finger of fate” at my little piece of heaven and says, “I shall spare you” any more than he cares who wins the World Series or predetermines the champion.  I don’t think God works that way…not that I have any idea of how he works.  I think he could work that way but he chooses not to.

I believe he cares more about how we treat people devastated by Mother Nature than Mother Nature herself.  At least my God does.  I don’t believe a hurricane is a punishment as some of my acquaintances have suggested or a precursor for things to come…unless it is a punishment for mistreating our world, something I do believe we have done.

Too much Old Testament, too much Sodom and Gomorrah.  My belief is in Global Climate Change, not the “fickle finger of fate.”  I believe as Algernon Sidney, “God helps those who help themselves.”  Either way, I believe storms like this will increase in both numbers and ferocity and that I’m on borrowed time for a tap from the “fickle finger of fate.”

For now, the skies are clearing and the sun is peeking out.  Fall temperatures are supposed to be here tomorrow.  I’ll give thanks for dodging one more “fickle finger” until the next one and enjoy the cooler less humid weather.

For those too young to remember, there was a movie entitled “The Fickle Finger of Fate”  starring Tab Hunter but my title came from memories of Rowen and Martin’s Laugh-In from the late 1960’s.  Their “The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award” recognized actual dubious achievements by public individuals or institutions, the most frequent recipients being members or branches of the government. The trophy was a gilded left hand mounted on a trophy base with its extended index finger adorned with two small wings.  I would think it is time reinstitute the award.

The image is from http://www.hauntedstudios.com/Flying-Fickle-Finger-of-Fate-ONE-ONLY.htm

For more musings click on https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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A FLOOD OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS

Excerpt fromThrough the Front Gate.  With the drowning we are receiving from Hurricane Florence, I thought about a flood and the weather “bullets” we have dodged here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Enjoy.

We are fifteen feet or more above the closest water, a shallow stream, but we are drowning.  I had an idea how the victims of sinking ships felt as they fought their way to the upper decks, in the dark as a river of water hit them in the face.  According to legend, a ragtime band played “Nearer My God to Thee” as the Titanic went to her watery grave taking some fifteen hundred passengers and crew with her.  The good news is that there were only two of us drowning.  The bad?  Linda Gail was singing hymns and one could have been “Nearer My God to Thee.”  (Actually, the band probably played “Autumn” but that doesn’t fit my story does it?)

Over our thirty years living at “Hemlock Hills” we’ve lived through bad weather and managed to dodge a few bullets…or tornadoes.  Not long after we moved in a twister took down a huge pecan tree which in turn took down several black walnuts along with the power to the house.  I had noted how green the clouds were and how calm, yet oppressive the air felt right before Linda Gail and I, along with three terrified puppies, made for the “perceived” safety of our hallway.

The pecan landed close enough to the house that we just stood outside shaking our heads in disbelief.  A few days later an ancient black walnut weakened by the storm fell into Highway 11 taking our power again before blocking the highway for several hours.  We sold the downed trees for the cost of removal to a self-employed contractor friend who, a couple of years later, sold them back to us in the form of flooring, cabinets, and countertops when he was hired to renovate.  Funny, I remember paying a lot more for the wood we got back than he paid for the trees originally.

Speaking of renovations, the day before ours was to begin we had a particularly violent thunderstorm that seemed to send lightning bolts bouncing off of our metal roof but never knocked off our power.  After a power outage, I always had to go prime our old pump.  I couldn’t understand why we had no water and remember repeating a silent prayer, “Lord please don’t let it be a lightning strike” over and over again as I made my way into the woods.  Sometimes you get exactly what you ask for.  The stream that fed our cistern came out of the ground from under a huge oak tree before being captured in a brick cistern.  A tornado twisted the old oak into kindling but not before landing it on top of our pump house and cistern, crushing them both.  Renovations were delayed for two weeks as we drilled a new well…one a bit closer to the house that never needs priming.

A third tornado hit us in 2012 and again we sorta dodged a bullet.  I went out to get my bike off of my car and noticed how still and tropical the air was along with the green-tinted clouds, “Deja vu” again.  I heard the sound of a freight train coming over the mountain behind us and ran for cover.  The wind portion of the storm was over in about thirty seconds although it rained for several hours.  We had dozens of trees down in the ravine behind us but only two were in the yard and only one had hit anything important, an outer building opened up like a tin can.  Luckily most of the contents were unhurt but Linda Gail was again singing hymns.  We didn’t even know we had been hit until the next morning when our puppies began to bring trash in from a flattened trash can.  My neighbor and nearby Lookup Lodge were hit much harder.

As scary as those tornadoes were, they were not as scary as the Great Flood of 2001.  This summer day was like any other summer day; hot, humid with air so heavy it seemed to envelop you like a wet, wool blanket.  In the nineties, both the temperature and humidity, it was the day that we were having our roof replaced.  The old metal shingles were in bad shape and we were replacing them to match the green metal sheets on the newer addition.  Big mistake.

The “good old boy” crew hired to do the job did not get finished…probably too many water breaks but that is unfair.  Before leaving for the day, they covered the open part of the roof with tarps assuring us they would be back first thing in the morning not knowing that first thing in the morning would be about one A.M. and also not knowing we were about to get six inches of thunderstorm driven rain in FIFTEEN MINUTES!  I hope it was the storm of the century because if it was not….

We learned the difference between “water proof” and “water resistant” that night but in all fairness to “water resistant,” I don’t think “water proof” could have withstood enough water to fill a swimming pool dumped on top of your house all at once.  I was also reminded how cool “under fire” Linda Gail is…despite singing “Shall We Gather at the River” or “Showers of Blessing.”  I remember dropping the “ladder” that leads to the attic and getting a face full of wind-driven rainwater for my trouble.  Over the course of the next “lifetime”, we yelled at each other angrily, cried, and alternately cursed then prayed.  Somehow we got the attic contents moved to the dry side of the attic and tarps down over the floor.  All the while Linda Gail sang hymns while looking like a drowned rat.

Her hymn singing and praying must have worked because as I look back into the fog of time, the damage was minimal.  Insulation gets really yucky when it gets wet and has to be removed, the wall paper in Ashley’s upstairs bedroom had to be redone in places and there are still water stains on the old parlor walls underneath.  We call it character.

I’m sure the old blown insulation washed to the bottom of the exterior walls.  The “good old” boys from Pickens rushed back and by two AM had “waterproof” tarps in place that they had purchased from an all-night Walmart.  I smile at the memory of my wife, mad as a “wet hen” at the “boys” one moment, full of concern and fear the next, as they battled high winds, lightning, and thunder, in the dark and on a metal roof while getting the new tarps into place.  I also smile at the “hang dog” looks and repeated apologies from the “good old” boys from Pickens.

I am experiencing this “flood” of memories because we are having a heavy late afternoon thunderstorm.  The last time I went outside I knew we were primed to get one.  Hot and humid with the air full of mosquitos, the only question was when not if.

Our “weather dog,” Tilly, is letting us know a storm is eminent.  Lightning is crackling, thunder booming and a puppy dog shivering as Linda Gail sings to her.  No hymn this time, it’s more along the lines of “Hush Little Puppy Don’t You Cry.”  We have dodged a bullet again.  No high winds or hail, just copious amounts of rain.  I see I have to clean out a gutter tomorrow morning.  I am happy not to be embracing Linda Gail while saying “You know It could have been much worse.”

For more musings please go to Don Miller’s author’s page  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Through the Front Gate

The image came from http://www.mdpparish.com/2014/09/stem-cell-issue-throws-cold-water-on-ice-bucket-challenge/ who probably got it from somewhere else.

Swingin’ into Spring

 

It’s spring in the foothills of the Blue Ridge…and rainy…and humid when it’s not rainy.  Thank a low-pressure system located somewhere in distant Florida.  The weather liars say five more days of this on and off and on-again rain.  We’ll see if they lie.  I walked this morning and the air was humid…as in I was drowning in my own sweat by nine in the AM humid.  I need to go out earlier but, in a month, it won’t matter, it will be humid no matter what time I walk.

I’m drowning tonight.  Drowning my aches and pains with a dark amber liquid.  Watching my bride swing on the front porch, a Jack Daniels in my left hand and a cigar in the right.  Jimmy Buffett croons softly in the background reminding me “if we weren’t all crazy we’d all go insane.”  If this is drowning, I’ll gladly go to my maker.  Swinging back and forth going nowhere, with nowhere to go.  The smooth bite of the brown liquor, the aroma of burning tobacco, and the rhythmic creaking of the swing chain keeping time to the music.  Telling stories to my love who has heard them all before.

The tree frogs must feel the humidity building with the clouds to the south.  They are singing at the top of their lungs.  Their high-frequency chirping must be calling the rain because it’s beginning to spit a bit.   I love their song, so comforting, so soothing…so “nature-all”…along with the cadence of the raindrops falling above my head.

I look out at in my Garden of Eden…make that the Wilderness of Linda, Linda my bride.  With her jumbled greenery, there are biting or stinging rascals hiding in the darkness just outside my front porch oasis.  The overhead fan stirs the smoke from the three citronella candles surrounding the porch.  Citronella must work, I haven’t been bitten yet… which is a false sense of prosperity.  The little vampires are lurking, buzzing about somewhere.  I don’t think mosquitoes ever really leave our little piece of heaven.

Oops!  I killed my first mosquito and lightning flashes are followed by a distant rumble.  A spring thunderstorm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Close enough to be concerned, close enough to drive us in.

There was a time, some thirty years ago, before we air-conditioned our ancient farmhouse.  We sat on the front porch to escape the heat that had built inside the house during the day.  Sat talking about our workday, the kids we taught or coached, the dreams we had until we had to go to bed, heat be damned, ceiling fans working on high.  Early beginnings to another work day were the cause.

Despite being retired with no schedule, and no alarm clock, it’s too easy to escape to the air conditioning, to the TV with hundreds of channels but no programming we want to watch…or to the laptop I use to write this.  Sometimes I miss those days when we were simply swingin’ into spring.

More of Don Miller’s ramblings or a book or six may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in romantic suspense, “mommy porn”, you might want to try Don Miller’s alter ego, Lena Christenson, at  https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

OUR FOREFATHERS WERE BUILT OF STERNER STUFF!

In honor of our first snow storm of 2017 I am posting a story about our first winter storm of 2016.

Our power is off and I am writing this using the wonderful modern technology we possess, a battery powered laptop. I am also freezing despite the roaring fire I have going and the worry I feel that my lower than normal wood reserves will dwindle to nothing before Blue Ridge Coop gets the power back on. It can’t be much above freezing in here. I also wonder how previous generations survived.

You see, here in the “Dark Corner” of upstate South Carolina, we are having a major winter event. I live in the South where most of our “snow storms” would be classified as a mist if it were rain and an inch of snow can bring
everything to a screeching halt…except the dairy and bread baking industry. Ours was a doomsday forecast with copious amounts of predicted snow falling followed by freezing rain and sleet followed by more snow. We are on the thin line separating more freezing rain from more snow. I pray we are on the snow side of that line and as dawn breaks I see we probably were. It looks to be some six to eight inches of compacted snow and ice. So, let’s get the power back on okay?

Nearly thirty years ago, my wife and I decided to purchase a farmhouse built in 1888. Built on top of oak timbers milled from the land, it had bead board walls and ceilings, pine flooring, wavy lead glass windows, all covered by tin shingles. Thirty years ago, we were big on “ambience,” today we are big on “KEEPING WARM!”

The old house sat empty from the Forties until 1956. It also sat bathroom-less with no plumbing or electricity and no heating system other than the five fire places and the wood “cook stove” sitting in the kitchen. It is my guess most of the winter functions “back in the day” took place in the small kitchen due to the heat produced by that the cook stove…and the kitchen’s proximity to the path that lead to the distant outhouse. The old house also had no insulation until 1956 when shredded paper insulation was blown into the walls. Sixty years later my guess is the insulation has compressed just a wee bit. Thankfully we added a modern “edition” that is well insulated but still the temperature just can’t be much above freezing in here…can it?

Can you imagine keeping five fireplaces and a wood stove fed during the winter months? We found a broken cross cut saw, forgotten in a closet, which I am sure is a tribute to the “stuff” the original owners had. I have a top of the line, modern chainsaw and since my last bout of sciatica from splitting wood with an axe and maul, a yearning for a hydraulic splitter. I can’t imagine keeping those fireplaces fed with modern technology much less with just an axe and crosscut saw. Did they just freeze if someone came down with sciatica? I hear people “yearning for the good old days.” Really? Maybe simpler, less stressed out days. More time to spend with family instead of trekking to and from the office maybe…. Just remember “more family time” might be sitting around the kitchen stove for the heat or family wood cutting and splitting expeditions.

YEAAAAAAA! THE POWER’S BACK ON! Quick turn up the heat! Wait, the furnace thermostat says it’s a balmy sixty degrees. Certainly seems colder. Yes, they were built of sterner stuff…or thicker blood.

If you enjoyed this you can find this story and others like it in the book “Through the First Gate.” More of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time may be purchased or downloaded at http://goo.gl/lomuQf.