Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter 5


Life Starts Anew


The rain is famous for falling on the just and unjust alike, but if I had the management of such affairs I would rain softly and sweetly on the just, but if I caught a sample of the unjust out doors I would drown him. – Mark Twain

“Rain, rain go away, come again some other day.”

I’m not too sure but that might have become the new national anthem by then.  I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell what I know – which isn’t much – on why we are getting flooded out.  Posterity will have to pardon the gaps; Uncle Jerry didn’t think it proper for women to be involved in politics and the school thought the truth would freak us kids out and create too much work for them as they were already scared enough for us.  Mr. Harkins told me what he knew but the honest truth is the powers that be bottled up the truth and was stingy on letting it flow freely.

This is how it started … seems there are those on the earth that don’t think America was paying her fair share of things to keep the world turning for everyone.  We have so much while others have so little.  They also feel that all that we have we stole from someone else.  Granted some of that may be true to a certain extent, but wondering why things are like they are is like wondering why God gives so much to some and so little to others and “deserving” one way or the other seems to have so little to do with it; at least in human standards.  So a coalition of mostly foreign forces – though we had a surprisingly large number of traitors on our own soil – got together and basically said that since America wouldn’t give it up willingly, despite some johnny come lately nut jobs running the country almost doing just that, they’d move things along a little faster. 

The thing is they knew they couldn’t overcome our military in a traditional war so they picked the cowards way and chose terrorism.  But it was a newfangled terrorism … not blowing up buildings or cyber attacks, but using our own environment and dependencies against us.

It started with the volcanic eruption of Mount Rainier and the subsequent cataclysmic earthquake down the West Coast of the US.  Or maybe it was the other way around.  Kinda like the chicken or the egg question.  They happened right on top of one another and from what everyone heard on the radio the scientists were in hot debate on whether they were separate events or parts of a whole.

No one knew which was worse, the volcanic explosion and deadly mudflow the consistency of wet concrete that travelled at 40 mph befores slamming into Tacoma and wiping out thousand upon thousands of people within moments, the ash field that spread across Seattle choking the life out of folks and then flying across the stratosphere causing even more problems for folks hundreds of miles away, the resulting chain reaction down the twelve other volcanoes in the Cascade Mountain Range; or, the chain of earthquakes across multiple land faults that sliced off huge slivers of California sending them into the Pacific Ocean taking a goodly number of people with them and what didn’t fall into the ocean being basically flattened, even the so-called quake-proof buildings.

That little ditty backfired on some members of the coalition.  It was a rallying point for the people in our country; real suffering seems to draw the best out in us for some reason. 

Then there was the sudden landslide on the Canary Island of La Palma that sent a megatsunami to batter the Eastern Seaboard of the US.  DC and Philadelphia, those bastions of American history, were washed clean like rocks in a polishing tumbler.  There was time – about 8 hours from the landslide – for the to government and military to evacuate most of the “important people” but tens of thousands of people still died or were injured in those areas alone as a wall of water 150 feet high swept inland for several miles.  Added up, the casualties were in the millions all up and down the East coast from Maine to Miami.  And still it didn’t break our country the way most would have thought it would.  Oh we were hurt, and suffering, but we weren’t broke which really got the giblets irritated for some that thought we would – or should – be.

So the Coalition of Terror tried the last bullet in their arsenal and that was mucking around with our weather patterns.  Not too long ago people would have considered everything that has happened science fiction, just like people looked at some of Mr. Harkins’ books that way.  But it has proven to be science fact instead.  Of course that doesn’t mean that people should exercise that knowledge.  And when they started monkeying around with things the initial results were huge storms with rain clouds that seemed to anchor themselves all up and down the Appalachian Mountains.

You’d think that rain would just run off a mountain and flood the coastal plains or the Great Plains instead.  Some of that was obviously happening – and added more woe to those caught between the tsunami destruction to the east and the Appalachian Mountain Range to the west – but the problem is that there are lots of places where the water dammed up and “pooled,” lots of valleys that became like the Great Lakes as more and more water poured in before the previous deluge had a time to leak out.

Huge storms battered the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf Coast as well.  Storms that didn’t make any sense swept across the Great Plains as the storms on the West Coast washed away what the earthquake hadn’t destroyed or turned the volcanic ash into a plaster of paris like substance that coated everything.

But the US wasn’t the only ones taking a beating.  Canada and Mexico also suffered from their proximity.  The Caribbean islands were nearly swept clean except for the mountain tops that were like an ant mound surrounded by water as those people with a little warning had climbed high to avoid the tsunami; and when they died of starvation or thirst they were given sea burials.  Central America suffered as well.  The Panama Canal, that marvel of human enginuity has all but been destroyed.  Further away there was obvious backlash as well.  So was its competitor, the one built by money that came out of Asia and Eastern Europe.

The volcanic eruptions and near simultaneous earthquakes had set up a tsunami the likes of which had never been noted in human history.  It swept out in all directions and unintended consequences occurred to some coalition members.  It also destabilized the Ring of Fire and suddenly new volcanic eruptions were a daily occurrence in the news.  It is no joke when I report that Reverand Jacob wasn’t the only person that thought the last days of the earth had arrived and that God was about to do some mighty smiting.

Those Coalition of Terror members suffering from their own actions turned on their former allies but by then it was too late; there was no stopping the harm that had been caused; the patterns that had been put in motion. In addition to the ash floating around up in the atmosphere that would have altered earth’s weather for a season or two even without help, the Jet Stream became truly messed up which meant the whole world’s weather got more messed up well beyond the original intent.  Lush, tropical rainforests were drying up or freezing over.  Deserts, already hot, became giant Death Valleys … or started flooding and turning some areas into pools of quicksand.  Snowcaps were melting in some places and forming in others.  Water intrusion caused landslides.  Droughts caused huge sink holes to form.  The oil fields of the Middle East became a toxic swamp full of sludge.

I’m not sure if the idiots are still in charge of the insame asylum or what but the weather is still way out of whack.  So-called experts say it will be a year or three before the earth’s rotation and magnetic something or other spins things back to where they are supposed to be and even then it could take decades to get back to something that people remember normal looked like.  The radio is brimming with everyone blaming everyone else.  No one will admit to belonging to the coalition but it is too late to hide, the bad guys had their black hats on too long.  Now they are running for cover as their people turn against them … not for the horrific thing they created but because the cost of winning was more than “losing” would have been.

But even though all of that stuff is obviously affecting me, the cause of it is too far away and too out of my control.  All I can do is deal with what I am faced with every day same as I did that first week.

I got my new home as neatened up as I could but was quick to realize that as the water rose, the damp and humidity did as well.  Before a rain would make things damp but the altitude would have it evaporating before too long.  Not so’s you’d notice now. 

The cave is a dry one.  Daddy said that in his granddaddy’s day it had been wet but when they dug out huge chunks of the mountains to put in roads they changed the weight of the land against the seeps and springs so that instead of flowing into a cave pool, it burst from the ground and cascaded down into a new waterfall some distance away.  During normal times, after the land got used to the changes that had been forced upon it, the fall would slow to barely a trickle during most of the year.  But while snowmelt came down or during a wet season the fall could be spectacular.

To give myself some outdoor time and keep from feeling cooped up, at the end of that first week I took a hike.  That water fall had gone from trickle to spectacularly scary.  I’ve never been to Victoria Falls over in Africa but I’ve seen pictures.  That unnamed waterfall was easily its sibling.  That first time I saw it I watched as parts of the mountain broke off and tumbled down from erosion.  The boulders bounced so hard I could feel the vibration in the pit of my stomach … and it was doing flip flops in response.

My stomach continued to roll as I noticed all the changes going on around me.  The rain and resulting erosion were changing things.  I wasn’t scared … but some forboding was setting in.  My first question was just how high was the water going to go? 

My cave was at just over the 4300 foot elevation mark.  Not on the tallest mountain in the Appalachians but one of the higher ones.  Mr. Harkins had some internet buddies that had run the topographic maps six ways from Sunday and they were almost certain that the water wouldn’t crest any higher than 4000 simply because of how the land lay; if it got that high it would pour over the tops of smaller mountains in the rang … like one of those overflow drains in a bathtub or sink.

So if the science worked out I was safe.  However, there were other things to consider.  My propane supply wouldn’t last forever.  My solar cooker was pretty well useless.  I had some charcoal but ain’t no way would I burn that inside the cave unless I wanted to choke to death on fumes.  That left wood and I wasn’t seeing too much of the dry around for me to use.  And if my mountain became an island I would wind up cutting it bald just to make it through one or two winters.

My cave averaged a fairly constant temp of about sixty degrees give or take a few depending on where in the cave you were standing.  It meant wearing a jacket or light pullover year round but that was OK.  That temperature also kept the humidity level down, but not always enough to dry things out in a timely manner.

The night after the hike to what I began calling New Victoria Falls, after looking around and doing some thinking, I knew I didn’t have any choice.  My idea of having a real bedroom was going to have to wait for a while, maybe a long while.  I moved everything out of there and into the storage annex and turned that area into a drying room. 

But I found just sticking the wet wood in there wasn’t working so my next project was to figure out how to get some heat in there.  I didn’t have any dry wood so I couldn’t keep a low fire going so the next best thing I figured out was to set up a 100 watt lightbulb.

The trick was setting the 100 watt lightbulb up with no electrical utilities.  I fixed that – no, not with solar since the sun was on vacation behind the clouds – but with a bicycle generator.  I’d made one for a science fair after I’d been working at Bruno’s for a couple of months and still had all the gadgets and gizmos that I needed like the fuses and wires, and converters all of which I had scavenged from the salvage yard and discarded things at the storage lot.  I even had deep cycle batteries on the off chance that one of these days I am able to have solar power. 

Basically what I did was use the bicycle generator to create power and then stored that power in batteries.  I attached the battery to the inverter and then plugged the lamp in.  Of course there is more to it than that.

I started with a 55 amp hour battery.  My inverter was about 80% efficient so the total watts coming off the battery was about 120 watts or about 10 amps of current.  I did more math and some blah, blah, blah but in the end, after keeping the battery to only 50% discharge so that I got a long shelf life out of each one, one 55 amp hour battery gave me about 2.5 hours of running time for the 100 watt bulb.  I had about a dozen batteries in storage so I started using the bike to give them energy to store.

But boy does pedaling that bike take a lot of oomph.  After some more math – one of my favorite subjects anyway so it was no skin off my nose – I figured I was spending about 334 calories for every hour of bulb time.  The book I was using to find the right formulas for conversion said that I was using about a slice of pizza of calories an hour.  Crazy; but boy are my legs toned these days.  Now if I could be bothered to shave them I’d look like a Sports Illustrated model … at least from my thighs down.  But who the heck is around to notice whether I’m hairy as Sasquatch or not?

 And to be honest the bulb didn’t really do a good job; I’d need too many bulbs to really make much of a difference.  I didn’t need to heat the air up so much as I needed it to move around.  The only floor fan I had used 125 watts which was more than the bulb but I did have an old ceiling fan and it only used 80 watts.  It was two weeks before I had everything arranged to my liking and working the way it was supposed to.  I spent a lot of time on that bike but then again, I didn’t exactly have much else to do and I was used to staying busy; not to mention being tired helped me to sleep at night.

Ultimately the trick has been to make sure the air can circulate around the wood which I arranged by salvaging some metal shelving from abandoned houses and sheds along the edge of the flooded out areas.  I also got a nice flat bottomed bass boat to help get me from area to area without having to get wet.  I had to be careful though because the water was really rough in places while in other places it barely moved … at least on the surface.  There were … things … floating down in the water and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what they were.  There were also snags and eddys that made my life more interesting than I wanted it to be on occasion.

I think the saddest I was during that time was when I took a chance and went back to Uncle Jerry’s.  I knew there was trouble when I ran into deep water much sooner than I had expected to.  I put my boat in the water and then rowed until I realized the house I was seeing was actually the second floor of the old farm house we had lived in.  I looked inside and the place had been ransacked; at least the upstairs had.  I don’t know if it was the boys and Uncle Jerry or not but it made me terribly depressed to see it all.  It may have been my home in name only but I took pride in keeping it neat and clean.  There was about six inches of water above the upstairs floor boards so I didn’t risk going through the window.  The floor could give way and then I would be in for a world of hurt.

The thoughts that sprang to my mind are too complicated to put down on paper.  There were a lot of “what could have beens” and remembering how things really were for me in that house.  There was a smidgen of revenge that I felt really bad about but couldn’t seem to stop feeling.  Then there were the worries of “what might be.”  Just looking at the place made me sad and depressed for too many reasons to count.

But then the saddest day also turned out to be one of the happiest.  As I was paddling away I kept hearing this weak noise that sounded like “rrrrooooooooo”.  Curiosity won over caution and I was so glad that it did.  I paddled towards the sound I realized it was coming from a barn about a football field away.  It was behind the house of some people that Uncle Jerry didn’t have anything to do with because of something that went on way back before I had come to live with him.

As I got closer the noise got frantic but then stopped when I pulled up and tied off.  I’d gotten real good at getting in and out of the boat and it wasn’t really hard at all to climb into the hayloft through the open bay door. 

Well, long story short the “rrrrroooooing” was a small hound pup that was all ears and feet.  He was a sweety despite being weak.  The pup was so young he never should have survived on his own but he’d been adopted by the she-cat that nearly had me for dinner when I bent down to pick the pup up.  But even that cranky thing let up on her attitude when I realized she’d been scratching at the boxes set up over in a corner.  I opened them … and had a hissy fit when I startled some mice that promptly dove into the water and swum away … and found cans of pet food; the wet kind you have to pop the top on.

The mice explained how the cat had survived a month without its people.  She’d probably been hunting for the pup as well but I don’t imagine mice are very good fare for dogs.  As soon as the cat saw me loading the food into the boat the silly thing shooed the pup into a largish pet carrier, climbed in with it, and then just looked at me like she was daring me to leave them behind.

“Oh for the love of mike,” I sighed and then looked up in submission.  “This must be what Noah felt like when you led the animals in two-by-two.”

About the time I was ready to shove off there was a voice calling “Rufus!  Rufus!!”

I thought, “Oh no, someone is still around and they are going to think I’m stealing their pets.”  But no people ever came.  And it was a good thing I hadn’t actually climbed into the boat because I would have surely fallen out.

A large Raven landed right on my head.  “Rufus!  Rufus!!”

If I was a swearing person I would have been doing some of the fancy kind right then.  The blasted bird then hopped off my head and flew off and landed on some metal drums that I hadn’t seen in the gloom.  Three drums; one labeled “Rufus T. McGillicutty,” one labeled “Beauregard,” and one labeled “Mischief.”  Well it didn’t take a genius to figure out which was which as they each had a different kind of dry feed in them as well as a zip bag of other animal kind of stuff laying on top of the feed.  Mischief and Beauregard I could understand but why would anyone call a female cat Rufus is beyond me. 

“Well, someone cared about your fate and meant to come back for you.  I wonder why they didn’t?  Maybe I shouldn’t take you if someone is going to risk life and limb to find you.”

I jumped as I hadn’t expected an answer but the Raven gave me one.  “Out!  Out!” then “Fly away!  Fly away!”

I’ve heard people call their boss bird-brained but I never figured that it could be taken literally.  Mischief is just all kinds of bossy but also likes to bring me things … usually shiney things or a snip of greenery.  I put the shiney things in a bowl up on the top of a bookcase that he has taken as his roost and make approving noises before laying the greenery in what passes for his nest which is in reality a big box that I cut holes in for him.

Getting the animals back to the cave and settled in was a lot easier than it should have been which leads me to think it was another one of those Providential things.  And the fact that all three very different animals got along so well was even more so.  Maybe I was the answer to someone’s prayer that their pets be looked after when they couldn’t do it themselves. 

I got used to the animals coming and going just as fast as they seemed to train me as their new “master.”  During the day Mischief came and went but he was always in before dark.  Only one time was he late those first two weeks and that’s because he came back with a lady friend.

“Now listen here you.  This is a cave, not the Ark.  I suppose you are going to want me to feed and house her as well.”

My only answer was a caw but that is exactly how it turned out.  It took about a week but the lady Raven figured out the rules.  No baiting Rufus or she’d take a good size swipe at you.  No picking on Beau or Rufus would take a swipe at you.  Don’t make too much noise or Rufus would take a swipe at you.  Don’t snitch the cat or pup’s food or Rufus would do more than take a swipe at you.  And no eating out of the dish the human thing was eating in or Rufus wouldn’t be the only being taking a swipe at you.
And that’s how my first couple of months passed without being lonely.  At first I was too busy and then the animals came and gave me someone to talk to.  Overall a win-win for all concerned … at least for those of us living at the cave.  In other places, not so much.

3 comments:

  1. This is such a good story! Thanks!!!

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  2. The animals made me chuckle. Looking forward to seeing developments.
    Thanks.

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  3. This is better and better. Must agree on the animals.

    ReplyDelete