I has been a wet summer in Atlanta, unseasonably drippy with rain coming when it darn well pleases, dumping as much as three inches of rain in forty-five minutes. Farmer Billy and I have endured this, watching helplessly as seedlings rot, as a river of muddy silt cut a path through the garden, as the pages of the calendar turn from May, to June.
Enter into this unpredictable season, storms that are so severe they smack the life out of trees, pull roofs from houses, cause severe damage. On Thursday, June 13th, the beloved and I were sitting in the office when it suddenly turned dark. We are accustom to this now, darkness at 6 pm., a time when the clouds dip low, heavy with rain.
“Best cover the porch,” I said.
We’ve been working on our porch since April. It should have and would have been finished by mid-May had it not been for the aforementioned weather.
The beloved is a storm watcher, the kind of man who stands on the porch ignoring the whine of the tornado siren. He did so last Thursday. Stood watching the rain fall sideways and fill the muddy front yard. From the corner of my eye I watched him, knowing better than to urge him inside. He never comes in. Then the rain stopped, the wind stopped, all fell silent. The sky took on a sinister hew. Mother Nature sucked the leaves back, pulling them close, inhaling them toward her. The beloved came inside. Said, “Get to the basement!”
Rushing to grab my shoes, the beloved pulled the dog with him. I crammed my feet into already-laced shoes and hurried down stairs just as Mother Nature exhaled hard. The power flickered. We heard a crash, all became dark.
By 6:30 the storm had passed. Without power, I trekked to the street to see if one of our pine trees had fallen on the line. Thankfully, it had not. Instead, a magnificent oak next door crashed to the street, one of its limbs hitting a car in the process. The driver had thrown the car in reverse, high-tailed it out as fast as possible. Lucky. Very lucky. Power lines sagged across my hedge bushes, hanging chest high, blocking our exit. My neighbors assembled quickly, checking on each other, reporting of trees just missing houses. We were all lucky.
We began directing traffic, flagging people, begging them to turn around. Warning them of danger, we all, every one of us shocked as time and again drivers ignored us. Even though we stood in the road, even though we yelled STOP! Drivers swerved around us, speeding up until they encountered the oak.
Thus began my observation in the de-evolvement of mankind. I’m not sure that de-evolvement is even a word. I only knew our intentions were to keep everyone safe. Obviously with leaves strewn everywhere and a dozen people standing in the road, a reasonable person could imagine that there had been (at least) an accident. As night fell and the police still hadn’t arrived, one of the neighbors drove to the police station. We need something to keep people from running into the fallen tree.
Obviously, we had no phone coverage. Even cell phones didn’t work.
Upon learning that Hardscrabble Road had also been hit, I could only imagine what Billy’s farm looked like. I would later learn he lost several trees, a fence, and experienced more flooding. In addition his church three doors down, lost three oak trees. His cleanup began at God’s house. Farm cleanup will begin next week.
Friday morning, the Department of Transportation had installed barrier fencing. The fence blocked both lanes, but did little to stop those who had pre-determined that the signage was not meant for them. Yes, power lines still hung in the road. Yes, the tree still blocked the road. It would not be removed until Saturday.
By Friday afternoon the Department of Transportation determined their barrier sign wasn’t sufficient. They placed a “Road Closed” sign further up the street. Now those who refuse to obey signs had to go around two barriers.
And go around they did.
Deeply concerned for the safety of these people, I wrapped caution tape around the first barrier, so that people couldn’t drive through. Three minutes later (what else did I have to do but watch traffic), someone drove through the barricade; and once one person drives through, the rest follow.
Enter now, the television station. Storm chasers, known for sharing shots of storm damage, also provided the exact location where the damage occurred. This opened the gates for a variety of people who were, shall I say, not-so-reputable.
It seemed that every meth-head within a fifty mile radius threw a chainsaw in the back of their vehicle and hit the road, hoping to find someone who needed a tree removed.
“You mean no one has tried to cut down that tree?” One particular addict asked. “I bet I could cut it up for you.”
I said, “Honey, the fire department cut on it for two hours. The tree is as big around as your car. I don’t think you can move it. You need to turn around and look for someone else who needs help.”
By the way, you can tell when folk are on meth. Their teeth give them away every time.
After the news crew (who also passed through the barricade and filmed from my driveway) reported the tree down, a slew of tree crews jammed the road only to turn around when they found no one willing to expense the removal.
I used this as a teaching moment, “You see, all of these people. They believe the rules do not apply to them. They are the type of people who will pass on through (while gabbing on their cell phone, with their children in the back). They are the ones who will get injured and then sue the City for lack of signage. When you are driving, do not cross a barricade under any circumstance.”
My daughter nodded.
By now it is Saturday. When my dad worked for the power crew, they kept a chainsaw, or three, in the vehicle. They didn’t need to wait for someone else to remove a tree. Apparently, this tree was the City’s responsibility hence the delay, the days without power as my food thawed and dripped from the closed freezer.
Disclaimer: After all was said and done, we suffered minimal damage. Nothing compared to others who have lost it all. Being without power for four days is nothing when compared to loss of life and loss of property. I am not trying to diminish the loss of anyone. Merely report that people have lost their minds and aren’t paying attention when driving.
I live in an area where most of the residents are college graduates, and (in theory) believe they are more “intellectual” than those who live in the rural area I once called home.
That’s bull hockey.
After people watching for a short time I can state this as a fact. The people who shot through the barricade either believed the rules of the road don’t apply, or they are not paying attention, or they didn’t give a tinker’s you-know-what.
Had an oak tree fallen across the road in my home town a group of good old boys would have showed up with a wench and six or ten chainsaws. They would have yanked that tree off the line in no time. They would have restored the power in record time. They would have done it all not because they are college graduates, or because they needed someone else to remove the tree, but because they knew what needed to be done.
Oh, they also would have blocked the road with their vehicle and dared another human being to cross their barricade.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com