THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Thanks to the Big Bad Southern Ice Storm of ’09, my home, Cloud Creek Ranch, went ten and a half days with no power.
Paradise County as a whole had electricity only sporadically. It would go on, then go off again as energizing one new line stressed another old one and the line went down. The situation was pretty much the same in neighboring areas as well.
On The Mountain, our main house had nothing.
No heat. No water. No light. No computer connection. No TV. No radio.
(Not-Quite-Son-in-Law Jeremiah and I tried using one of those wind-up radios to get information—especially local weather—but broadcast reception here on The Mountain has always been iffy. This time it definitely was “if not.”)
The trailer my wife Gwen the Beautiful and I call the Annex had heat of a sort: The gas range. Keeping the oven on all day kept the temperature in the comfort zone, and, of course, we could cook there.
Jeremiah already was ensconced in the Annex; he’d come to Paradise a few days before the storm to help me put up a new fence. I joined him, taking over the back bedroom with Emmy the Bold, Queen of The Mountain’s Dogs.
I enjoyed hanging with Jeremiah. We worked together from sunrise to sunset every day, trying to keep the property clear and re-do the fence.
The days were filled with jokes and laughter as we became foxhole-style buds, and when the power situation in Paradise became more stable we would go into town and eat breakfast or lunch at the Mexican restaurant every day.
Each of us even got a shower in Mountain Home courtesy of the The Baxter Bulletin’s Freudensprung family, Kelly, Amanda, and Bess, when their power returned.
But the nights.
Oh, those miserable nights.
Gwen’s escape from the storm was a Mexican cruise. I couldn’t see or feel her. And cell phone receotuib being what is in international waters we couldn’t talk to each other either.
Without my wife beside me, the darkness that hit at 6:30 p.m. was a strangling cloud of futility.
During the day I did nothing that I usually did. My usual patterns were impossible to follow. Still, I felt no sense of loss because the time was filled with physical labor.
But there during the night there were no options. I felt nothing but loss. And had difficulty sleeping. Because I was unable to breathe.
At first, I thought my nightly gasping for a full breath of air was adult-onset asthma. But asthma meds did nothing. Then I figured the sensation was a panic attack. Except I didn’t feel panicked until after the “Oh my Lord, there’s no air!” feeling began.
By the sixth night Jeremiah and I figured out what was really happening.
Every evening we made a big bonfire out in the clearing, to get rid of all the shattered tree parts we’d cut up during the day. The trees were covered with lichen and moss and mold, including a cornucopia of indistinguishable mushrooms.
I was breathing in the fumes of all this vegetation…and going into anaphylactic shock.
A little Epinephrine saved me on the night we figured it out. No longer having the bonfire saved me thereafter.
My morale hit its low point on the tenth night. Jeremiah and I were eating a dinner of turkey breast-and-onions (better than it sounds) and looking out at the forest through the wall of glass in the Annex kitchen.
Suddenly, the lights came on!
We turned to each other, and although I was afraid to, I started to grin—
And then the lights went off again.
Outside, however, the darkness was broken by dancing orange shadows.
We ran outside. I called 911 on my cell while Jeremiah raced into the woods. A power line had fallen and ignited the grass and leaves on the ground. Quickly, Jeremiah moved down the line, stomping the flames.
Luckily, they went out as quickly as they’d flared up, and we were safe enough for me to cancel the emergency call.
But I didn’t feel safe until the next night, when at almost the same time as before, the lights on ranch came on once more.
The following day we finished most of our work with renewed energy.
Gwen returned home the next morning.
As far as I was concerned, the Big Bad Ice Storm was over.
All was in readiness.