Back to basics
It’s funny how a combination of events can cause us to get in touch with the truly important. This Good Friday Evening, a killer snow storm hit Colorado’s central and north-central Rocky Mountains. The snow depths of between ten and 14 inches were not remarkable. That happens all the time in the winter months.
But this snow was heavy and warm as poured concrete and stuck like glue to the power and telephone lines. Then, the weight of the snow snapped the lines like dry sticks. The snow was so heavy that it not only dropped power and telephone lines, it broke off entire power poles. To make matter matters worse, we lost our cellular phone service as well.
Just as our lights began to flicker and the telephone connection got scratchy, I was learning from my Brother that our Father was seriously ill and in the hospital. Almost immediately after that, the power lines that span 1,100 feet across the gorge of the Colorado River behind our home snapped leaving us totally without power for four days.
At last, the electric company brought out a huge mobile generator and placed it in our back yard. But during that critical time, I had to fly off to Oklahoma to visit with my Father leaving Wonder Wife with just enough generator power to provide, heat, water and one or two low-wattage appliances. Finally, six days after the terrible storm, we had our full electric power restored. Kudos to the valiant workers of Middle Park Electric Company.
Fortunately, we had a lot of leftover Y2K supplies. In fact, right after January 1st, I suggested to Wonder Wife that we probably have enough stuff on hand for Y3K. But when the only heat one has are little Sterno® cans, the propane grill out on the deck and your most valuable appliance is a manual can-opener, one must admit her Y2K preparations really came in handy.
We filled our Jacuzzi® with snow. When it melted, we filled the tanks of the commodes so at least our septic system stayed in operation.
But, after four days of not being able to pump water out of our well, much less heat it, we rented a motel room in town just for the purpose of taking a shower. We even rented the room in our own name.
Not since those two years I spent in the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia have I had to be concerned with issues of heat, light and water sanitation. Fortunately, we now have two wood stoves, plenty of wood, lots of candles, hurricane lanterns and the discipline to only drink water we boiled out on the propane-fired grill. When you only have about 60 nights above 32 degrees, these things are good to have.
But, as we huddled cold, semi-hungry and unwashed, we thought about the poor people in the Balkans whose infrastructure was totally destroyed by American bombing last year. And, we thought about the refugees from political oppression and the victims of floods, tornadoes and natural disasters.
Wonder Wife is not keen on camping. In fact, she defines the Great Outdoors as the distance between the car and the motel. So, camping out at our house at 8,400 feet above sea level in a snowy April was not her cup of tea. But it could have been much, much worse.
How much worse? I happened to pick up a copy of A.B. Guthrie Jr.’s 1949 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Way West. This heart-wrenching novel describes the hardships faced by a wagon train of settlers traveling the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon. Next time you find yourself reading by candle light with no heat, no running water and no way to communicate with the outside world, start reading The Way West and you won’t feel sorry for yourself. Like the Oklahoma 89ers, those folks were really tough.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.