After a large cracking sound
something like a giant rifle shot, there was a slamming of a tree hitting
the ground. This does not happen once but over and over again. To look out
at the horizon and see the top of a large tree limb coming straight down
was a new experience to everyone in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Even the old
timers had not known this to happen before. Evidently the extra dry
weather left the trees brittle and easily broken. The sudden ice storm
which coated everything with a glistening layer of frozen water was
unexpectedly heavy. In fact heavy enough to crack gigantic old trees like
toothpicks. Some of the trees were split down the middle, others were
topped, and still yet others were simply snapped off at the trunk as if a
giant hand decided to play in a destructive way.
Of course, power lines were
simply an after thought as the limbs came down with no respect for
anything beneath them. Without power a world only a day before lighted
with electricity now became a dark, cold, shock to everyone. On this
particular morning Sylvia arose with an innocence of what was happening in
her own house. There was an unusual quiet about her and like a child
unaccustomed to change she was not sensitive to it. As she walked down the
hallway toward the kitchen, she was not warned by the lack of electricity.
The battery pack holding lighted bulbs was working and lighted this narrow
passway to the rest of the house.
However, the unusual pleasant
glow like warmth of the house was different and she did notice this. It
was always her place to be in the kitchen first, making coffee, and
getting things ready for the approaching day.
"Oh! You have a wood fire
going?" She spoke to her husband who was surprising fully dressed.
"We are out of power!" He told
her. "I have lamps ready for when the battery pack goes out." Sylvia knew
he had pulled the lamps from their place on the top shelf of the pantry
along with the fuel oil she stored there. This was the fancy lamp oil,
colored and scented. She was hoping they had not found her stash of
kerosene in the barn, for the possibility this would be a long outage.
"No power!" Sylvia wasn't that
surprised. In fact this was the reason she had spent her saved pennies on
the very expensive but second hand wood stove setting in the middle of the
space of the room. "Hm!" "I wondered why the house was so deliciously,
toasty warm." The wood fire was a rare pleasant thing only to happen once
in a while. Always there, ordinarily, was the chilly waking up to a too
cool house made that way from turning the heat down at night. It was nice
for sleeping but, unpleasant to walk over cold floors into a shower in
order to get warm. Today this very pleasant feeling brought back memories
flooding through her mind of how her father was always up first and by the
time the children were around the breakfast table there was a radiating
glow coming from the wood stove. One might have had to break the ice on
the water bucket in order to heat water for washing with a hurried
"sponge" bath, but the surrounding warmth of the room had made this
Of course, too, the telephones
were out. Therefore, it wasn't until over a week later she received a call
from an old friend who married the boy on her folk's neighbor's adjoining
ranch. The woman as a girl had experienced living in the out of the way
spaces but, never knew a time there without electricity. Her sense of
humor was always refreshing though. This morning she chatted about how
they couldn't get the feed to the cattle because they couldn't get the
electrically operated chutes from the feed bins to open.
"We had to buy a generator!":
All the while Sylvia was
thinking about the generator operating her son's place and how she had
taken many a condescending look from both the men in her family, because
she insisted on him buying something as expensive and useless as an
Sylvia's friend continued.
"The hired hands laughed and said, "Don't go by Milly's café today." "She
is down right mean!" As her friend laughed, Sylvia too had to enjoy the
bit of humor involved with the women who were so well protected against
the rigors women of another day and time took upon themselves every day.
Sylvia told her friend. "I
remember Mother washing diapers outdoors in January on a wash tub setting
on a small wood fire." "She would have to break the ice on the first tub
where she had left them soaking the night before, lift them out with a
stick and drop them into the second tub of heated water." "I, too,
remember her dropping a bucket into the cistern to pull up water for
rinsing." "I guess Mother is too old to enjoy this respite as revenge,
although, she sure has been in a pleasant mood the last few days." With
this, both women laughed hardily and long at the circumstances visited on
their soft, younger sisters, who were totally unaware of what life could
really be like on the cold, blowing prairie lands.