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Telling Stories

Late one night I sat on my computer looking at pictures of old houses. In one of them there was sign of a fire that had occurred many years ago. I noticed my mom was online too so I sent her a link. She should get to enjoy the pretty derelict old houses with me.  We started talking about the cause of the fire and began concocting stories to explain it. I loved our story too much to let it go there, so here it is. A very fictional (maybe) story of a ruin. With pictures!

Me: How do you think the fire started?

Mom: I hadn’t noticed the fire. Maybe the fire place?

Me: No, the fire was by a window. Not to big of a fire but lots of smoke damage.

Mom: It does look like that. Wonder what happened. Your theory?

Me: Cigarette? Electrical outlet?

Mom: Mine was the fireplace…  Maybe someone hated them and threw a burning ball of rags through the window. Before it could do too much damage they found it, fought through the smoke, and extinguished it.

Me: (ever boring) Much more exciting. But the worst of the damage is directly between the windows against the wall, if they threw it through the window I would expect it to be more towards the middle of the room and in line with a window.

(I’m not completely boring though, just mostly) Still possible though. I say it came though the window to our left hit the side of the couch that was there against the wall and burned.

Mom: They didn’t throw it, they came on the porch. There were no screens back then, they poured the tar dipped rags through the window. No they didn’t pour it they pushed it through the window and to the side.

Me: Luckily the girl who had thrown him over heard a noise. When she awoke she laid there disoriented and scared until she came to enough to recognize the smell of smoke. She then woke up the rest of the family and they were able to put the fire out.

Mom: Sadly the man who started it got the burning tar on his hands. He was horribly scarred and disfigured. The girl did the only thing she could, she forgave him, married him, and loved him forever.

Me: She loved and forgave the physically and mentally scarred man and married him anyway, but the scars on his mind, the deep and insidious damage to his mind. From his difficult childhood, their tumultuous romance and the pain of his injuries continued to resurface. They moved into her house with plans to repair it but he would never let her touch that room. As his delusions grew worse he no longer let her leave the house. It slowly rotted into the ground around them. Their once beautiful love for each other collapsing into a rotting wreck taking them both down with it. Very symbolic all around.

Mom: Sadly their son and his wife bought a house in the country along a beautiful stream, in the hills, peaceful and beautiful. He had become so warped by his parents unhappiness that he lost his mind and, some say, killed his beautiful wife, burying her body in the basement. To this day no one wants to buy as they say it is still haunted by their spirits.

Me: Oh, I remember that one!

Me: (back to the original house) Then many years later the door to the house, normally sealed shut, was found open. Upon searching the house the lifeless body of a homeless man who had sought shelter within was discovered. He lay huddled in the pink room near where the fire had started. An autopsy revealed he had died of smoke inhalation. No new sign of fire was found.

It Happened One Night.

We were alone in the house, the children and I. My hard working husband was putting in a late night. He wanted to be home and was going to hurry back to us as soon as he could. Bedtime was near, children were tired, tempers flared. I may have yelled at them once or twice.

At the end of one yell the back door rattled loudly. Great I thought. He got home just in time to hear me yelling at the children. His hands must be full, he was going to bring us deserts after all, and he needs help opening the door. “It’s Lala!” I told the children “lets go let him in”! We dashed down the stairs, flung open the door, turned on the light.

No one was there.

I stood staring at the empty back porch in horror. I knew I had heard the door rattle. I knew it to the depths of my soul. That had not been my imagination. He, or anyone else, surely couldn’t have gotten out the back door already? Could they? The possibilities raced through my mind. None concrete, simple wisps of ideas, frightful and vague.

Then grasping for hope I thought of the cat. Where was that creature? Looking around I noticed The Goblin Child’s door was closed. Could it have been? I heard a door, not necessarily the back door. They are right next to each other. It could have been. Here I opened wide the door.

And there stood the cat, waiting patiently to be let out. Why had we taken so long. Hadn’t we heard it shacking the door off its hinges?

Small Set Backs

The Goblin Child fell off Princess Onna. It wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t either of their faults. A total and complete freak accident. The Goblin Child was zipping along, giggling and having a blast. She was happy as could be up until that exact second. Then Onna tripped over something and went down. She fell clear over on her side throwing T.G.C.  clear.

There was lots of crying but no real harm done. 8 was on Coyote behind me at the time and I had to get out from in front of him before I could get to her. Easier said than done. I left him there on Coyote while I picked her up and searched for injuries. Coyote stood wonderfully. So did Onna once she got up. We walked back to the corral from the hill by the windmill. Then she was settled down enough I thought I could put her back on. I couldn’t.

She was alright until I tried to set her on Onna then she started crying again. It wasn’t happening. I took 8 off Coyote and put him on Onna. She was willing to ride Coyote and I walked back to the house leading both horses. Once there I turned 8 loose to roam and took The Goblin Child off Coyote. And put her on Onna.

She was scared at first. Then calmed down as I led them around. She has been back on Onna a few times and they seem to be doing well together. I hope they can get back to their former level of confidence.

 

Quite A Night

We could feel it coming already on Sunday. The air turned heavy and sticky, the wind blew out of the East. No rain came that night. By Monday the air was heavy with tension. The heavy heat had only intensified and the wind blew hot and cold as the day was at once sticky hot and chilly.

By afternoon weather warnings were everywhere. The clouds were building in the west, small still. Soon the first sever storms were popping up on the Wyoming border, in the open empty country along the Wyoming border up to South Dakota and around Harrison. Still nothing here.

We covered the garden as best we could, made sure the horses shelter was in good shape. They came and helped, looked around a little then followed us back out. We repaired their wind break and picked up any loose toys in the yard, basically battened down the hatches. Still no storm although the sky was cloud covered and the radar showed red getting towards Chadron.

We sat down to supper and finally the storm hit. Big heavy drops first, slow to come, slow to cover the sidewalk. The weather radio couldn’t keep up with the watches and warnings, often interrupting its self to start the new before the original was finished. we debated unplugging things and decided not to worry about it yet. We let Daisy in to cower under the table. I went to see if I could spot the horses, I couldn’t, I did see lightening striking the ground in staccato beat. Each bright flash violently hitting the ground barely beyond the tree row, nearly in the pasture on the hill. Rushing back down to the kitchen I said that I thought we should definitely unplug. That was the end of watching the building storm on radar.

The lights in the kitchen fluttered, blinking on and off. Never all the way off, just enough to be distracting. Then, lightning hit a line somewhere, they pulled down, humming and dim. Then with a crash of nearby thunder they flashed back to full brightness. We were glad to have the computers unplugged.

As we finished eating, interrupted by constant trips up to look out the windows, the weather radio was going insane. Tornadoes on the ground, we listened carefully to hear where they were. Severe storms all around us, yes we could see that. The last of our meal forgotten on the table we watched the pounding rain turn to hail. Few at first, pea sized scattering across the ground as the wind blew it sideways.  Then more and larger. Fortunately the larger were few and the wind stilled. Managing to get some signal on his phone my husband worried for his garden and crops checked out the radar. The worst of the hail was going by to the south.

After the blast of hail the rain let up and the lightning slowed. I wanted to go check the horses. In mud boots and a sweat shirt I ran out into the still falling rain and closed the door on the chicks then down to find the horses. Of course they weren’t in the barn, dry with plenty of room. Instead they were squeezed under a fallen down roof, wither high and no sides. I had hesitated at first to even let them into a pen with such junk and hazards but checking it carefully for sharp protrusions I had decided that the extra space was worth the limited danger involved and now it’s their favorite hang out.

Wading out to the windbreak through ankle deep water and mud I called and called for them. If they would just come I could lead them to the barn with safer shelter and more room. They stood, huddled and refused to come out for me. I debated walking out for them and watched as lighting struck, hot and bright, to the ground over the hill in front of me. Looking down at the water surrounding me and at more lightening striking past the trees I called once again and went back to the house. They could have that shelter if it was what they wanted.

All evening the radio gave bad news, as we waited for the second round. Trying to keep children calmed and entertained and finally into bed, we kept half of our attention on the news. A large tornado at Chimney Rock, we have a friend right there. Large hail and high wind at the intersection of our highway and the Niobrara River, a couple miles south. Tornadic storms going through Fort Robinson and Whitney. Still hail and tornadoes stayed away.

The storm finally passed out of our area. The weather radio actually shut off between warnings, until the sound of it became startling instead of background noise.

The next morning we took stock. Nearly three inches of rain. The garden damaged as much by too much rain to quickly as by hail. The corn in the fields is still standing. Amazingly none of our little herd of cattle were hit by lightening. It was so bad and so much I couldn’t believe nothing would be hit. Instead we found full ponds and a nearly deafening croaking of frogs. They seem to appear out of nowhere and went straight to mating. Soon there will be tadpoles. Not all is bad in the aftermath.

Unfortunately everyone can’t say the same. Bayard NE received a direct hit. The nursing home was nearly? destroyed and the town hit hard. A feedlot was also in the direct path of the storm and many pivots twisted and flipped. A pivot repair company in the area is desperately looking to hire short term help. Many homes and barns were in the path as well as livestock, including horses.

 

 

 

Damsel In Distress

A brave knight errant and his trusty companions were out for a stroll through the wintry wood. Over deep drifts of snow and under low hanging trees they wandered in search of dragons to slay and noble quests to undertake. When, in the distance they heard a faint cry. Not sure of the sound they stopped, waited and listened to hear it again. Finally it issued forth once again, over the frozen meadow that split the deep dark wood.

The brave knight tromped through the snow in search of the creature that so desperately sought rescue. So speedily did he tromp that his troupe was left behind. He rushed on until a mere glimpse of pink was spotted above the snow, before it disappeared again. Making his way in that direction he saw it again peep above a snow bank and then gone. Finally the deep clutching snow of the meadow battled through, he made it to the crested drift of snow to find, there below, a fair and delicate maiden trapped in a deep dungeon.

“Oh, kind sir, I beg of thee, free me from this terrible fate to which I have been doomed. A great and fearsome dragon set a trap and caught me here in his lair. He goes now for his nap but will surely return soon, hurry, please and free me while there is time!”

The brave knight wasted no time but inched out onto the fragile ledge of snow holding her entrapped. His followers cowered back from the precipice watching in wonder of how he would accomplish the feat. Creeping, gently to the edge he held his strong arm out to the waif like maid. She grasped his hand, clinging to it’s safety and he wrenched her free of the clutch of the dragons lair.

Safe, away from the dungeon and free of the dragon, the brave knight and the fair maid went off to sled in the wintry wood.

 

Where There’s Smoke

My hard working husband had gone to water the cattle. I stayed home warm, cuddled on the couch. It’s colder out today than it was yesterday, even though the temperature is higher. He called and told me to look out the window, thick, black smoke was billowing up from somewhere not too far north of us. The cousins live up that way and although we knew for a fact that they weren’t home it was still concerning. He was going to look did I want to come with?

I did desperately want to come, I inherited the ambulance chasing gene fair and square from my grandma. But apparently my mothering gene is stronger, I declined stating that I was unable to leave the sleeping children. He stayed on the phone as he drove giving me a play by play as we tried to guess where it would be.

The cousins house and the church we were married in were quickly ruled out when he reached the highway. I was hoping for the house that is sitting empty waiting to go up for sale with it’s owners moved out of state. It seemed the safest, guaranteed that no one would be home or needing a place to go.

Instead it was the camper parked in the yard across the street. We had, it seemed, just driven past it coming home from town but it must have been about an hour before. Was the fire already burning then with no sign showing yet? We had looked at it as we passed, wondering why, if you were going to live in a camper in someones yard, you would put the camper right next to the highway instead of towards the back somewhere.

On the way into town we had been talking about this miserable cold weather and how it makes fires so much worse, water lines, hoses freeze making them harder to fight. And space heaters make them so much more likely. I’ve been seeing picture after picture of burnt, melted extension cords and power strips. How does one heat a camper made for temporary summer living through below zero temps?

Flames were visible nearly from where our road meets the highway. When he got to the fire there was nothing left of the camper but the frame barely visible through the fire. A handful of cars were parked along the road watching and calling it in. As he stopped a friend who is a sheriffs deputy pulled up. He said the siren in town hadn’t gone off calling the volunteers in to man the fire trucks. 911 had called him personally, he was working today. He and my husband began calling people on the fire department.

But the camper was already burnt. A fire truck and water was only going to protect the yard and do some clean up. As they stood there calling frantically, and only then, someone ran out of the house. They had only just noticed the fire. We can only hope and assume no one was inside, surly they would have done more than run back into the house if there had been.

With nothing he could do but watch and assured that it wasn’t the cousins house my husband returned home. The only thing we can take from this, two things really, is to be very careful with space heaters and any electric outlet really. Never plug a space heater into and extension cord of any kind! And shut things off when you leave home, or go to sleep. How much worse to be home sound asleep.

And love, but worry a little, about your small town volunteer fire department. The siren never went off. As the camper crumpled into ashes there was still no one even headed to the station. One would think in this age of cell phones that there would be an automatic call that would go out. Apparently there is something like that set up but word never got to the person who has to start it. Not sure why the 911 dispatcher wouldn’t be the one to send out the call? But they will get there and those guys will get out in the freezing temperatures and do everything they can to help. They are awesome, once they get there.

 

The Second Day

At grandma’s house that is. We had been on the road for five days now. Grandma had some errands she needed to run, then we got lunch at Steak and Shake. My favorite one that we went to when I was a kid with my favorite bridge next to it for the kids, young and old, to run over.

Poor grandma went back to the house to wait for the repair guy and we ran off to play. Mom has often told of coming to see her grandma as a child and how they could hear the lions roaring for their breakfast at the zoo. I assumed that it would be an old somewhat icky zoo because of the age I guess, so I wasn’t overly thrilled at our plans to go but, anything for the kids. We drove clear across town and they both fell asleep within minutes of getting there. So we did what anyone would do and went to Starbucks. With cold, and hot, drinks in hand we went for a drive and looked at stuff until they woke up. Then we went to the zoo.

 

I couldn’t believe what a great little zoo it was. Why does every zoo not allow you to feed the giraffes? They were SO cool. No upper teeth, just like cattle.

Unfortunately when we got home the repair guy had suffered from pickup troubles that had to be repaired. No new pan for the air conditioner. So sad, but we had a fun day at least.

Finally To Grandmothers House

She thought we were never going to make it. Our shenanigans that day added a few hours to the trip. By the time we got there it was dark and we were starving. So we ordered pizza and ate on her beautiful back porch. I was overcome with excitement when the fireflies came out. I tried and tried to show the kids but they were not enthused.

As we were getting ready for bed grandma pointed out the flooded spot in the middle of her hallway. She could not find the source and it was getting bigger. It was obviously not coming from the ceiling so we checked the bathrooms and washing machine but couldn’t find any leaks. Mom was on the phone with dad who was running out of patience telling us that it had to be coming from one side or the other, we kept insisting it was coming up in the middle. Finally we were standing in the garage about to admit defeat when we noticed another door. Inside was the heater and air conditioner coils. We checked to see that the drain wasn’t plugged which lead to the conclusion that the pan was rusted through. With nothing we could do the air conditioner was shut off until help could be found.

The next morning we went to one of grandma’s churches with her. The music was awesome and The Goblin Child was thrilled with “her new church”! That didn’t mean either one of them would sit quietly through the service of course. After lunch we got home and the preacher and another really nice man from the church showed up to take a look at the air conditioner and see what they could do to help. It was so nice of them, the mark of a great church. Unfortunately they couldn’t find any problems besides the one we found and were equally unable to fix it.

As they left it started pouring rain. We stayed nicely in the garage watching for a little while then as the lightning subsided we couldn’t resist any longer. We brought along umbrellas but they could only do so much and made it hard to play effectively. Our country raised kids have many benefits their city dwelling counterparts lack but playing in the gutters after a big rain isn’t one of them. I’m glad our kids get to enjoy the benefits of both worlds. The water was nearly knee deep and we watched, thrilled as it poured off the bridge into the culvert below, cheered as cars drove slowly by making waves and splashing. Finally the rain stopped altogether and eventually the water ran out, we walked slowly back to the house.

While we were gone grandma had called a repair guy, whose name she had gotten from someone at church and although he didn’t work on Sundays he said he would come by and look at it. He checked, again, to see if the drain was plugged, it still wasn’t, then came to our conclusion that the pan was leaking. He couldn’t get a new one until Monday but he would come out then and fix it. So still no air conditioning in the rain forest like heat. We spent the rest of the afternoon puttering in the garden, also very rain forest like.

That evening we had a little birthday party for The Goblin Child. She got to decorate her cake, eat ice cream  and open presents. It was hot and great and we loved every minute of it. We fell into bed exhausted.

Tornado!

My phone said it thought we would get storms about two o’clock. We scoffed. The sky was blue, the radar showed nothing. We went swimming.

 

 

 

When I drug the kids away from the water, just before two, for completely unrelated reasons we were quite shocked to see a large black cloud that had built suddenly just west of us. We rushed home and I got the kids to bed, then I went out and watched. And took pictures of course.

I can handle this type of tornado. I can see it clearly, it’s far enough away and didn’t look look it was touching the ground. From other peoples pictures apparently it was. One of those was by our neighbor to the south, the one from underneath it.

The weather radio said they were fourteen miles south of town, we are about seven miles south. That’s close enough. More storms are coming, radio is going crazy again. We’ll brace for another round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is hard to see, my phone would not focus and it’s little and sideways in the cloud