My body was screaming so I shut it up with a vicodin. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2007 THE CALM AFTER THE STORM
The wind came howling in, gale force. A pitch black night. Tree debris was slamming the house, banging on the roof. Then came a crash. "That went through the roof," my wife said. We went into the spare bedroom and saw the mess.
Tree branch sticking through the ceiling. Bark, chunks of dry wall, pieces of insulation littering the floor. "Gotta git that tree limb outta there," I said, "or the rain will be pouring thru." "You going to go up on the roof?" my wife asked. "Got to." I put on my rain gear and went up to check it out. A huge branch had come down and taken a bunch of smaller branches with it. The roof was deep with branches and litter. The tip of the big branch had slanted into the roof and punched all the way through.
I climbed down, got a long extension cord, plugged it in and threw it up on the roof. I went back up with the electric chainsaw and cut my way into the mess until I had the big branch isolated. I cut it into small chunks and then cut it off just above where it went into the roof. I yanked and pulled and got the piece out. Didn't leave much of a hole, about a six inch gash.
Back down for the can of roof patch and a piece of ninety pound roofing paper. Cleared off the area around the hole and laid down a layer of tar. Stuck the patch on top and stapled it to the roof. Covered all the edges and, with debris falling all around me, the wind howling, got the hell off the roof.
Came back in the house to find my wife watching Desperate Housewives on the tube. A twister was flattening Wisteria Lane. Soapoperatic imitation of Life. During commercials I cleaned up the mess on the bedroom floor. The wind howled all night and while we were sleeping the power went out. Good thing we set the alarms on the cell phones, woke us up in and we had to do the morning routine in the dark. We'd filled the bathtub with water so we had plenty for washing and making coffee and tea. Woodstove kept the place warm. Propane cookstove boiled the water. Candles gave us our light.
At ten in the morning the power came back on. I flipped up the circuit breakers for the hot water heater. Went outside and saw, over by the power pole, a dead maple leaning on the electric line. I went over to take a look and saw the wood was smoking where it was lying on the wire. The tree was so wet the current was grounding through the wood. I decided not to chainsaw the tree out of the way. Called the power company instead, telling them to bring out a small truck with a bucket, cautioning them about the bridge.
So, what happened?
They brought a big truck and the driver cut the turn too close and his back wheels crashed through the timbers right in the weakest spot on the bridge. Those guys were pissed. My fault, I told them. I should have had you go down the road and turn around and come back on the bridge in a wide arc so you could go straight on in. Too late for that.
We had to wait for another truck from the power company to come get this one out. "You want some cofee?" I asked the two guys who were standing by, stiff lipped. "I just want my fucking truck off this bridge," the head guy said. "Well, that's going to happen," I told him, "so you might as well relax." He gave me a look. "You know, I got in a fight the other day," I told him. "Got beat up real bad." "Oh, yeah?" "Yeah, I ran into another guy with my car. When he got out I saw he was a dwarf. The dwarf said to me, 'I am NOT happy.' 'Then which one are you?' I asked him. That's when the fight started. He was one mean fucker, kept punching me in the balls, had them banging off my legs and ass like he was hitting the light bag in a fighter's gym. You heard of blue balls, probably had them a lot. Well, I've got black and blue balls.." The power company guy gave me a dirty look and walked away. I was going to tell him he wasn't holding his mouth right but I figured he wouldn't appreciate it.
Made me wonder if he was a vet, back from the Iraq mess, the power company crew being just like his platoon, wanting to do the job and do it right and then these fucking civilians have to screw everything up. Just a thought. I decided to get my tractor and haul some of those new bridge planks out to the bridge, put them to work. Once the back end of this truck was raised in the air high enough, we could slide the planks under the wheels and they could back the truck off the bridge.
Help at last. A totally cool guy, completely unfazed by the whole thing, gets his truck in place, hooks a cable from the boom to the back of the other truck, hooks a cable from his winch to the other truck and the boom operater lifts the back end of the stuck truck while the guy up front works the winch, ready to pull the stuck rig back.
Nothing to it. And who should show up to lend a hand but Dave Barton, the tree cutter, the torchdown man, the sawmill ace. He helped slide the planks under the wheels so they could back out over the hole. Before they left I apologized to the power guys and shook their hands and the taciturn guy gave me a nod and said, "It happens." As soon as they were gone, Dave helped me rip out the old wood at the end of the bridge and replace it with the new planks.
Needless to say nothing was done about the tree leaning on the wire, but when I went back to look, the wire had burned through the tree top and the tree was lying on the ground. It did take out the neutral wire so I called the power company to tell them someone was going to have to come out and fix it. The lady said, "No one will come over your bridge now." "We're fixing the bridge," I told her, "and one of your small trucks can do it. They've come over the bridge before." She laughed. "I know. Everyone here is razzing those guys, taking their pictures. We'll get back out there in a day or two."
I got it. Back in the bullroom after the tussles of the storm, tellling war stories, oh the humiliation, the disgrace, to be stuck, to go through the bridge. No wonder they weren't happy. They knew they were in for it when they got back to the shop.
Here's the pile of old planks and there's the new ones, a quick job well done.
That will suffice but now there is that long end down onto the property that has to be done. "Gonna need some more planks," Dave said. "Well, we have that other tree that fell over," I told him.
It was right next to the picnic tables in the Fourth of July BBQ area. Gotta limb the tree and clean up the mess, get everything in position for the portable saw mill. Meanwhile, plunge on, using the existing planks to repair the old bridge. But first, mayhaps, a nap, the wind has cooled and the rain is massaging the roof, a sleepy sound.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2007 THE TALE GOES ON
When last seen, the ol' Kapn was wallowing in his cups, all worn out from the big storm and the broken bridge and the downed power line, but after a day or two of naps and tiger balm rubdowns, he was ready to attack the fixup and cleanup jobs.
And who should appear on the scene but the power guys, a whole new crew, come to reconnect the downed neutral line, this crew very merry, they all had a good laugh at the expense of the crew that got stuck on the bridge.
Didn't take long for them to finish up and they got ready to head out, but first, a group shot.
Thanks, guys, now go easy on the bridge, okay? Ha. They crunched it good, left another gaping hole which I covered with a piece of plywood, something to last through the day because the next morning a bridge repair party was showing up, compliments of Dave Barton who rousted up a crew.
It was ripping out the old and putting in the new. Also sticking new uprights underneath for greater support. I was dragging the new planks from behind the house out to the bridge, using the tractor.
Here's the crew: Ferrell, my daughter's friend; Greg, old buddy from Eugene; Dave Barton, whom we all know; and Jenna, Dave's sister-in law.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2008 MORE PLANKING
Dipping back in time, before we got snowed in, who should appear one morning but old friend, Dave Barton, wondering if I wanted to cut up that tree that had fallen over in the big windstorm.
Well, yeah. We were six planks short when we last worked on the bridge and had to use old planks to fill the gap, so, sure, let's cut more planks. We got into our logging duds, got out the chainsaws and the tractor and got to work. Limbed the treee and cut it into ten foot lengths. Hooked the logs to the tractor with a chain and dragged them over to the sawmill.