Thursday, February 18, 2010
Just Shoot Me
Fourth in a series.
I stood shivering, staring down at the devastation of my yard. My large red oak with four trunks lay toppled in all directions, and the split rootball had left a huge gaping hole in the ground. Water from the severed line still gushed into the hole. (In the photo above, the arborist put his white helmet in the crevasse for perspective).
I asked the City crew if they were going to shut the water off. The crew chief said he wasn't sure he could reach the water meter under all the tree limbs, but agreed to try. I backtracked in his footprints in the snow to get into my house without falling.
Thirty minutes later a second crew arrived with heavy equipment. There was a Caterpillar backhoe loader and something I think they called a truss boom. The backhoe operator told me he'd been sitting around waiting for the day's "bad call," and I was it. They'd need the heavy equipment to move the trees off the water meter.
By 1:00 PM Friday, the water had been shut off to my home, and I'd begun my search for a plumber. Fortunately, my land line was now operable -- a good thing because my cell phone was finally out of juice.
Two plumbers agreed to come give me estimates. Neither made it to my house. Trees had come down during the night further blocking access into my neighborhood. One plumber made it as far as the foot of my hill. For twenty minutes, I watched from my breakfast room window as his truck labored to climb the hill before giving up and turning back. Both plumbers promised to try again on Saturday when the weather was supposed to be warmer.
At 4:00 PM, frustrated by the forced inactivity, I decided to see if I could move my Toyota into the driveway. The crunchy snow felt safe to walk on until you put your foot through it to the ice below. I fell twice on the journey to the car, and the second fall was no fun. My leg went out from under me, and I landed on my back with the left leg under me.
I finally reached the car. Although it started up immediately, I could not get it out of its nest of snow. I realized I should have brought a shovel with me--both to dig the car out and to help stabilize me as I walked. Another newbie error. Aggravated, shivering and wet, I returned to the cold house without having accomplished anything.
When my land line came up, I'd started calling my neighbors. On two sides (to the south and west), my corner house faces wooded lots. I am in immediate proximity to just three other homes. One of the three houses (to the north) is for sale and vacant. The couple in the second house (to the northwest) had been visiting their married daughter in East Texas before the storm began, and I suspected they'd decided to extend their stay. I had not been able to reach Ken, my next-door neighbor to the east, since our call the previous night. I wondered if he and his family had gone to stay with friends.
Friday night was long . . . and cold. It seemed a whole lot colder than Thursday night. When I couldn't reach Ken or Linda next door, I became worried about their dog Penny. After putting together a meal of roast beef and Havarti cheese, I made my way to the perimeter between our yards, using a old crutch to keep from falling. Penny crawled out of her doghouse, and I fed her by hand through the fence.
I now had the novelty of a cough to enliven the boredom of my sore throat. I heated a can of clam chowder and ate the soup with crackers and hot tea. Bob turned his nose up at the tin of catfood I opened for him. His periodic grumbling left no question that he held me responsible for his unlawful imprisonment in the house.
The cat and I had developed a routine. He would run to a door and stand there, whining to go out. I would open the door; he'd look out and slowly back up into the house. Then he would grumble for a minute or so before running to one of the other two doors and repeating the entire process over again--because, of course, the weather might be different out that door. His behavior reminded me of what an old boyriend had once said about cats: their brains are very, very small and filled with evil intent. Bob and I did this "door dance" a dozen times a day over the course of our confinement.
After dinner, I returned to snow collection. I was determined to keep a full supply of drinking, washing and flushing water available because I didn't know how long I'd be trapped or how long it would take to restore water to my house.
Around 8:30 PM, I was standing just outside my backdoor, scooping snow when I saw a flash off to my right. Before I even had time to turn my head toward that direction, I heard the retort of a pistol. Startled, I backed into the house and locked the door behind me.
Kids in Texas grow up with guns. Some of them are responsible about gun ownership; others are not. Last month, I'd had a roof leak. When the repairman came to diagnose the problem, he said the hole had been created by a bullet. The roofer speculated that a kid shot his gun into the air on New Year's Eve and the bullet had come down through my roof.
By now I was pretty certain that a fair number of my neighbors were not at home, instead decamping to alternate locations with power and heat. I couldn't help but wonder if the shot I heard came from a kid playing around or from a resident trying to scare off a looter.
I heard shouting and what sounded like shots twice more during Friday night.