Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Seriously Freak Storm & Sunday Story: The Princess and the Principal

Today I have a Sunday Story that accompanies a scrapbook page. So, I will post the story first and then some additional photos for the page.

The Princess and the Principal
by Bruce H. Mero

          We had suspended our search for a "place in the country" for the winter, but in mid-February decided to try our luck with a new real estate broker. Within a week they had lined up a number of prospective places. Most of these, however were well beyond our price range. We did find one falling down farm on a dead-end road that piqued our interest, since it looked to be the type of fixer-upper we were looking to purchase and the price was "do-able".  The folks selling the farm were elderly and anxious to move, so a price and conditions of sale were quickly finalized and we bought the place.

          We'd visited the farm a number of times before the closing date, but focused most of our attention on the house and barns and not noticed, with any clarity, the trees surrounding the main structure. That was to change soon.

          We moved in on March 21st, the spring Equinox and spent a rather restless first night as the winds howled and the house shook as a nor'easter passed. We awoke to the sound of breaking glass. The wind had loosened the latch on the front door, apparently opened it then slammed it so hard against the jam that the window shattered. As I investigated the damage and planned a fix, I also noticed that a huge part of one of the trees along the driveway had crashed to the ground and was blocking part of the road. The front door could wait a bit, we needed to get that tree off the road first. Luckily, the rotted tree had splintered when it hit the ground, so we were able to slide or roll the main chunks onto the lawn.  The snowplow that came by a few minutes later cleared the remaining pieces from the pavement. At some point, Gretchen looked into the crowns of the other trees in the yard and gasped. They were all dead, or most of them anyways. She counted sixteen Lombardy Poplar trees surrounding the house. There was one more in the center of the back yard. All of them were forty to eighty feet tall. Pieces of peeled bark and broken branches littered the snow at the base of each tree, another product of last night's wind.

          So, on our first full day in our new place, I fixed a broken window and purchased my very first chain saw.

          I practiced a little with my new chainsaw to gain a bit of confidence before I decided to take on the dead trees in the yard. What I gained in confidence, however, I lacked in experience. The first tree I attempted to cut down was so rotted that it fell backward as I made my notch cut...onto the shed that I was attempting to avoid. Gretchen was watching from the back porch and stifled a chuckle when she saw what I'd done.

          Quickly I removed the evidence of that foolishness and put my chainsaw into the barn. We had more important things to tackle in the house so the rest of the trees could wait...or so I thought.

          It wasn't two weeks later that another of the Poplar trees fell in the wind, this one towards the driveway, stripping the electric wires completely off the house. We were still negotiating with the telephone company about installing our telephone, so Gretchen went to our neighbor's house to call the power company to ask that they come to fix our electricity. They did and I got the chance to practice again with my new chainsaw. While the utility crew was reattaching the wires to the house, I chatted with the foreman about the remaining dead trees. He agreed that they were all a hazard, but only those in or near the wires were the responsibility of the power company. He told me he'd come back in the near future to remove those trees that could damage the wires. He didn't come back soon enough, though.

          The next storm a week later hit mid-morning and was ferocious, and costly for us. I was at work and Mitra was at kindergarten when the storm hit. Gretchen was home as events unfolded. The Poplar tree next to the mail box was the largest. It had multiple tops. The storm broke one trunk off about twenty feet from the ground. As the remaining forty or so feet of the tree fell, it sheared four large branches off the Tamarack tree next to it. The entire mess landed on our Volkswagen Rabbit parked in the driveway. It crushed that poor little hatchback's roof, blew out the front and rear windows, shattered the windows on the driver's side and passenger's side doors and dented the hood. The entire car was a foot shorter with the tree perched on top.

          The wires the power company had only recently reattached to the house lay on the ground once again, except those draped over that hapless Rabbit.

          We still were without a telephone, so Gretchen went back to the neighbors house to call to let me in on the morning's events (to get me home) and to call the power company     again.

          I made it home faster than I should have, parked along the road. A utility truck pulled up behind me. The driver of the truck was the same guy I'd spoken to the last time they were here. We shook hands. He had a smile on his face and said something about it being nice to see me again. It was raining, rather half rain, half wet snow. He went back to his truck for a raincoat. Gretchen brought me one as well. We all surveyed the damage, then the foreman made a call on his radio. He needed more help, he explained. The falling tree had not only ripped the wires off the house, but also out of the transformer across the road as well.

          Several more trucks arrived within a half hour or so, then a couple more. Two trucks with high-reaches arrived. It began to look like a carnival with all the orange trucks arrayed on the road by the house, all with emergency flashers blinking. Every guy emerging from the trucks wore a yellow rain suit and white hard hat. A fire truck from Lee Center pulled up. The driver asked if we needed someone to direct traffic. Since we were the last occupied house on the dead end of a dead-end road, there wasn't much traffic, so the guys in the fire truck got out, donned their turn-out gear and boots, leaned against their fire truck and watched.

          The first order of business was to clear the wires, tree trunk and Tamarack branches off the car. I got to play with my new chainsaw again. Once the tree was cut up we could move the car. Since both doors were damaged, I couldn't get into the Rabbit, so I steered through the broken-out window as the firemen pushed and we rolled it out of the way.

          One of the high-reach trucks pulled alongside the Tamarack tree. The guy in the bucket removed what remained of broken branches and cut the remaining top of the Lombardy Poplar to a level below where the new wires would go. When that was done, he and a second guy in the bucket of the second high reach removed the damaged transformer from the pole, lowering it to the ground with ropes. They then started to install a new unit that had just arrived on a flat bed truck. Several guys and I, with my new chainsaw, worked clearing tree limbs and the broken Poplar tree from the road and driveway. All watched as they let me cut the down the Poplar stump.

          In the midst of all of this activity, up pulls a mini-school bus in front of the fire truck. Red lights flashed on the bus as the door opened and the driver and Mitra emerged. I recognize the driver as Mr. Bedgar, the school principal. He was a huge man, three times as tall as the little girl whose hand he was holding alongside him. All work stopped. Not a workman budged as Mr. Bedgar calmly walked up the road and delivered Mitra to the burly guy holding a safety rope under the buckets on the high reach trucks. That guy delicately took Mitra's little hand. He carefully walked her through the mess of branches, downed wires and broken glass. Mitra's eyes said it all. She was in awe of what was happening in her front yard and more so, the royal escort she was getting as she passed through the rubble. She had a huge smile on her face. Not only had her principal driven her home (because there were some bad boys on the bus, she later explained) but all the workmen had stopped what they were doing and all watched her to the safely of her Mom's arms at the front door.  A half minute passed...then a collective sigh...everyone clapped. Then the chainsaws resumed, the guys in the buckets went back to work. Within another hour the new wires were attached to the house and the electricity restored. Still another hour passed before the glass shards and branches were raked from the driveway.

          The foreman's was the last truck to depart. Before he left, I showed him one last Lombardy Poplar tree in the front yard, next to the wires on the pole going to the transformer his guys had just replaced. He said he'd be back with a crew to deal with that tree the next day. He was. They cut the top of that tree off to just below the wires and I cut down the rest.

          Astonishing as it seemed at the time, the Rabbit was able to be repaired. One door stuck a little after that, but only once in a while. We drove that little car until it died of old age.

          Mitra still remembers that afternoon. It was at her request this story was written.


  1. Your dad tells a great story!
    Alison x

  2. I'm sure these events were stressful at the time, but the way your dad tells the story makes it sound so fascinating. The level of detail he recalled is amazing!

  3. WOW, what an event. Makes me shudder to think of home ownership. Perhaps the hubby will make Chief next and we can stay in base housing for a few years longer! Oh, but what a wonderful and hectic memory that is. I can just see Mitra walking through all that excitement at her new home.

    Amazing visuals and good laughs! It's okay to laugh now...LOL.
    Thank you for another wonderful Sunday Story.
    Lisa :)


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