The Night the Power Went Off

2014-04-04_15-29-29I woke cold and shivering. I listened for the soft hum of the heat pump and the steady buzz of the humidifier. Silence. Darn! The power was off. Had the freezing weather split open a tree causing it to fall across a power line or, even worse, had a transformer frozen? Whichever, I couldn’t do anything about it. Then I wondered about my water lines. Was the sink faucet still dripping? It was too late to worry now. I pulled on more cover and imagined I was still a child sleeping in a cold, uninsulated room in a Madison Crossroads tenant house where the glass of water by my bed froze solid at night. Back then we drew our water from a dug well and heated the house with a fireplace. We “made do” back then and I told myself that I’d make do now. Soon, I was sound asleep.

Later in the morning when I woke, the room was much colder. A shaft of dull light edged around the venetian blinds and struck my face. I lay still for a long time pondering what to do and dreading getting up. Maybe the power would come back on in a few minutes. It didn’t. I decided to get up and make coffee. Then I panicked. I couldn’t brew coffee! I had no power. I remembered visiting my daughter, Shannon several winters earlier high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains when the power was off for days. She had made coffee and cooked our breakfast on a portable propane camp stove. I was impressed and purchased one at Walmart when I returned to Athens. Where was it? In my mind’s eye I saw it in the storage building still in the packing box. I rolled out onto the cold floor, dressed quickly and went to the fireplace where I pulled back ashes exposing hot coals, laid on kindling and soon had a crackling fire going. I trotted out the back door through the bone cracking cold to the storage building and located the camp stove and two bottles of propane. Now, where was my old camp coffee pot? I dug through pots, pans and skillets until I found it stashed in the back of the cabinet. It was dented and partially blackened, having seen honorable service on many camping trips in the High Rockies of Colorado and Wyoming. I grinned. Soon the old pot would be gurgling like a happy baby and filling the room with the rich aroma of Maxwell House. Life can turn on a dime. I ripped open the cardboard packing box, assembled the camp stove, connected the propane bottles and filled the coffee pot. It was then that I saw a skull and crossbones under big, bold letters on the stove instruction sheet. “DANGER. DO NOT USE INDOORS. POISONOUS FUMES CAN KILL YOU.”

My good friend (and sometimes redhead) Pat appeared. Sometimes she has good ideas.
“Why don’t you use the gas grill in the carport?” she asked.
Now, why hadn’t I thought of that?
“Good idea,” I said.

I fired up the grill and set the coffee pot on the grate. The wind blew the flames and the water wouldn’t boil. I lowered the grill lid, finally, after fifteen to twenty minutes and just before the glass bubble on the coffee pot completely melted, I heard the old pot gurgling. And what a wonderful sound it was.

I poured a cup of steaming coffee and I rested my feet on the raised hearth, feeling the warmth of a good fire on my face. Yes sir, life can be good.

There was no tv, no radio and no place to go. That was okay with me. I had plenty of wood stacked in the carport and a cup full of Maxwell House in my hand and a good book by my easy chair. I looked forward to enjoying a quiet day in front of a warm fire and reading a good book. Then the power came on. Darn!
Like I said, life can turn on a dime.
By: Jerry Barksdale