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Donna Flood
Pioneer's Revenge


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 possible.

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!": She complained.

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 "unneeded" generator.

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.


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