Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hurricane Ike Clean Up Break

Wednesday September 17th

I just got through cranking up the generator; a morning ritual that includes topping off the gas tank while it’s cool enough not to worry about causing a flash fire. My laptop needed to be charged up and I noticed the spyware program had kicked in and was in auto update mode, downloading the latest fixes; that meant we had internet! I looked over at the “tower” and sure enough it was “green across the board”. Everything below was written during the last few days.

I wonder is kids going back to school after this unexpected break from classes will be asked to write a paper detailing what they did following Ike’s visit. I’ve proven to myself how I enjoy living in our day as opposed to the “good ole’ days”. Those little conveniences like cable television, air conditioning, microwave ovens and internet have become part of my life and I miss them.

I found the once buff version of myself no longer exists; having been replaced by an older less efficient model that tires easily. I worked in the back yard with the chain saw for about an hour or so trimming limbs that were leaning on the telephone lines and the power line that runs to the house. I figured the safest time to do that was when the whole neighborhood was without power; the idea of becoming a ground wire didn’t set well so I worked quickly just in case power was restored. I then loaned out the chain saw to one of my neighbors; only then did I realize that I’d missed a whole section of limbs resting on the telephone line that went along the back of the garage area, a place I hardly ever visit.

That’s when I came in and took my first shower of the day; thank goodness we have natural gas to heat the water instead an electric water heater. I changed clothes, started up the generator to keep the refrigerator and freezer nice and cold and sat down at the computer so I could start recording my thoughts, along with catch my breath. The cable line that connects me with the internet was part of the tangled mess brought down by the tree limbs which is why I can’t get my email or blog yet.

My friend brought back the chain saw and looked a bit worn so I offered him a glass of ice water, with real ice; having a generator has its advantages. He then offered to stick around and help with the remainder of the trim work; much more than I’d figured on. We wrestled with limbs that were woven together, cutting the knots with the saw and then dragging the limbs to a huge pile which later would be hauled to the curb. This lasted at least another hour; but we did get to take a break when a huge crane arrived to lift the tree, the one which landed on my neighbor across the street’s house.

Half the neighborhood came out to watch them lift a seventy five foot pine tree like it was magic; should have sold pop corn and soda to raise a little money since the locksmith business went into hiding last Thursday and might stay away for who knows how long, at least until some semblance of normal returns to the Houston area.

Bonnie, my Harry Potter fan club, wanted to see if her Latin spell casting worked, “Leviosa”, or something like that, pointing her make believe wand at the tree. The crane operator must have proven his worth as the tree was returned to its upright position while a crew with chain saws sliced the base to separate it from the stump and root. I wondered why they would cut it that way instead of chopping the top off first. Pretty as a peach that tree floated perfectly upright in the air, hanging from the harness which then held the whole tree while the platform of the crane turned and laid it perfectly on the edge of the yard while the chain saw crew removed the branches on its way down.

My grandfather used to have little sayings he’d share with me, some of them I can even share in mixed company. He told me that watching a professional apply his skills to a given job was one of the most entertaining events and well worth the price of admission; the only thing more fun to watch, he’d smile and give me a wink, was to watch some fool who hasn’t got a clue. He’d give me a big old belly laugh for having shared his wisdom and most times he’s been right. The crew with the crane and chain saws was smooth as glass and had everyone’s admiration for a job well done.

I helped put a blue tarp over the hole after the tree was removed, some clever use of bungee cords to hold the edges in place. We used some two by fours to anchor the edges down to the roof until repairs can be made. I don’t like getting on ladders or climbing on roofs; but sometimes you just gotta’ do what you gotta’ do to get the job done.

The rest of the day was spent hauling the pile of chopped limbs from the back yard and putting on the curb where we’ve been promised a large claw truck will come by “soon” to take it away to the dump. Bonnie and I finished as the last of the day’s light was about gone and the mosquitoes were in full swarm. I think I used the rest of my energy getting that done, panting and lumbering with each successive trip.

Lucy used the camp stove to cook corned beef hash, mixed vegetables and dirty rice for dinner. We really are prepared for this kind of back woods life style, even though I’d prefer doing it while camping instead of making do until our regular amenities are restored. We shared our other cook stove with some other neighbors; they come over each evening with to plug their coffee maker into the generator and to retrieve some coffee cream which is stored in our refrigerator. It’s nice that we are able to make life easier for our friends; sure was nice of my other neighbor to help with the tree trim work, it all comes around.

I went out thinking I’d pick up some more of the leaf debris only to find my back refused to bend from all the extra work I’ve been doing; kind of the way folks feel the day after a bad automobile accident. I then decided I’d do some more pruning along the back of the house near the telephone and cable lines. I used one of those extension pole limb trimming things that has a rope that you pull once the small limb is secured. That worked fine until the little spring that returns the cutting blade to its ready position jumped off and got lost.

I then used the curved saw blade end, not near as efficient, to work on one last branch that was still resting on the telephone/cable lines. It was giving me a challenge and I was returning with as much energy as could be found; at least until I tugged down really hard and forgot where the top of my wrought iron fence post was in relation to my fingers.

We have very sharp pointy things ( I’m from Texas so they are called “floure de le”, how you spell that is anyone’s guess ) on the top of each post to keep the bad guys from hopping over the fence. One of them bit off a piece on the side of my left index finger and reminded me how stupid the human race is about staying focused.

While the finger was in a state of being relatively numb, I decided it would be better to snip off the flap of skin rather than let it remain and become something to get hung up on. A little water to run over the top, a couple of band aids to keep the dirt out and I returned with “resolve” to the task of removing the last no good rotten tree limb.

My finger will survive, not very pretty to look at or use at the moment; but this is one of those “war wounds” from Hurricane Ike to show that I was there; that and all the little nicks and slices on my hands and arms from doing battle with the other tree limbs that will fade with time.

We had a neat feast at another friends last night, a thinning out of their meats and vegetables which needed to either be used or tossed. Steak and potatoes, mixed steamed vegetables, boiled shrimp with spicy sauce and Dutch oven cobbler; that’s hard to beat. We sat next to their swimming pool which had a collection of leaves at the bottom since they have no power to run the pumps and filters; a nice mess that will be fun to clean once power is restored.

Speaking of power being restored; they tell us that by September 23rd most of the area will have electricity. The gas stations are just now getting power since they are along the major roads where it’s been easier to restore the lines and replace downed poles and it’s slowly getting back to normal.

Yesterday I ran my first locksmith job since last Thursday and saw a line of cars spilled out onto the freeway service road. I thought it was for gasoline and had to laugh when it became evident that these folks had found a fast food chicken place that was open for business. Most of the traffic lights on my side of town were still out in the morning. Watching folks without a clue as to how to use these intersections was a challenge; those talking on their cell phones and not paying attention should have been shot and left as a warning to other idiots as they followed the car in front of them through as if the light was green, never noticing the mess they almost caused. ( omit next word )

Last night most of those same intersections had their light systems working and with each day we get closer to being a working city once more. I’ve missed watching and listening to my Houston Astros; although it appears from what I’ve read, that the Astros must have had their bats damaged by Hurricane Ike as they were shut down completely their last three games. Enough for now, I’ll post this and follow later with pictures.

No comments: