Monday, September 4, 2017

Emasculated by Harvey

We have a family friend named Harvey that we recently learned died this year.

He was a consummate outdoorsman and lover of all things natural, which included storms, but he was also a true northwoods-man that would greet us in the dark of a crackling, crystal winter’s night in his shirtsleeves despite the minus 20 degree temps as we arrived for a weekend campout, so I can’t say for sure if he would have been happy to have a hurricane, born of the tropical heat of an equatorial summer, named after him or not.

But then again, Harvey, the man, could have a wicked sense of humor and Harvey, the hurricane, certainly screwed with me, so maybe there was some connection.

I was minding my own business up in Michigan, doing the annual family campout reunion gig, not paying attention to much of anything beyond the relatives at the far side of the fire-ring, so it was late Wednesday before I even realized there was a storm lurking in the Gulf with its beady little eye on the homestead.

Now the homestead is not exactly near the coast so crashing waves,  storm-surge, and shredded palms are not an issue, but these storms can carry stiff winds and copious amounts of rain far inland, and the homestead falls within reach of that stuff.

But one thing I’ve learned in some 45 years of living within the reach of tropical storms is that regardless of where you are, unless in an evacuation zone of course, stay put until the storm is finished then leave if you must. (More people were killed in the pre-Rita evacuation in 2005 than in the storm itself!) And the reverse holds true as well. If you’re not already there, stay away until the storm has left.

But damnit! I’m the man!! I’m the one supposed to be there taking care of things! Except that there was some 1300 miles away and there was no way I could get back in time to beat the torrential rains and van-tumbling winds forecast to be soon pummeling The Wife. 

Since I couldn’t be there to perform my manly duties the best I could do was talk The Wife through preparing things. Throw a tie-down strap over the bins on the recycling trailer. Move all the loose stuff on the deck and around the buildings into the barn. Make sure the car isn’t parked near that tree with the 7 degree lean over the driveway. (It’s had that same lean for at least 15 years but no sense in taking chances!) Drop the lock-bar (a-la frontier fort gate.) down on the big barn doors.

And let me tell you, it was a poor substitute for actually being there and doing all those he-man, protector-of-the-family type things myself, especially since she had already thought of and done most of this stuff herself. . . (She even thought to lash a tall, straight-sided bucket to the recycling trailer to act as a rain-gauge since our 10” gauge was sure to be overwhelmed. Damn! Wish I’d a thought of that. . .)

On the one hand (He says bravely, trying to make the best of a shitty situation!) there’s a sense of vindication for all the times we sat around and discussed what to do in certain circumstances, and a sense of pride that The Wife, my partner, was stepping up and taking care of business.  On the other hand, where does that leave me??

I’ll tell you where, about as useful as tits on a boar, about as necessary as a urinal in a lady’s room. –  –  Oh wait! Actually there’s some hope there now that some myopic politicians, spurred on by masses of backwards-thinking troglodytes, are cramming these so-called bathroom bills down our throats and forcing transgenders to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate rather than the gender they live as. Maybe now, among the post-op female-to-male transgendered, there is some use for that urinal in the lady’s room!  (Personally I would like to see the transgendered community organize and start following some of these ‘pillars of the community’, these self-proclaimed ‘protectors of the innocent’, who are conveniently ignoring the fact that the transgendered are far more likely to be the victims of assault than any other segment of our population, into the bathroom en-masse waving their birth-certificates in hand. Can you imagine the horror and fear in the bigoted little minds of those holier-than-thous?!!!)

The hardships of riding out Harvey at the Blackwell Horse Camp
But back to Harvey who has left me uselessly cooling my heels in southern Indiana as I wait for the storm to do its worst without me.

While I’m hiking and just generally exploring the Hoosier National Forest in an unsuccessful attempt to quell the constant worry (If the power goes out will she remember how to switch over to the generator? – Of course she will. She’s practiced it a dozen times and besides, there’s a laminated, step-by-step checklist taped right there on the top of the generator.) Harvey pulls its second prank on me and slows down by about 18 hours. (The first prank was popping up suddenly in the gulf in the first place, but that’s actually not all that unusual this time of year.)

Turns out that if I left in the wee hours of Thursday I could have beat all but the outer feeder-bands back to the homestead and been there where I belonged during the storm, lashed to a tree and meeting it face on like a true hero, but by the time I knew that it was too late to make it back before the now revised land-fall. . .

Still riding out Harvey, now at Saddle Lake
While I inched my way a little closer over the next few days, but still staying well out of the way, Harvey loafed around dumping some 36 inches of rain on the homestead, just as both behaviors, loafing and dumping, were predicted.

But Harvey wasn’t done screwing with me yet!! Rain can be dealt with, especially if I don’t tell The Wife just how much of it is actually falling on me, (She has a thing about driving in the rain, or more precisely, not driving in the rain.) but the predicted winds, 35 MPH sustained, 50 MPH gusts, forecast for our area on Monday night/early Tuesday were not something I was going to mess with in the high-sided van!  So Sunday it was off on another hike under clear, sunny skies, followed by yet another lonely, worry-filled night all on my own under stars peeking through trees wafted by a gentle breeze, still 1000 miles from where I should be. (Oh Lord! What will she do if the driveway washes out and she can’t get out?? OK relax, she’ll just sit tight. We always keep the homestead well stocked for just such events as this so she doesn’t have to go anywhere.)

Except, true to the trickster that Harvey was proving to be, those winds never showed up! (Dude!! that’s just mean!) And it turns out, by approaching from the north and keeping a close eye on the web site for flooded roads, I could have made it home a full 24 hours earlier than I did.

Getting closer! A few hours after taking this photo I staged myself for a few hours rest at a particularly crappy rest area in order to make a pre-dawn dash through Dallas in order to beat the morning rush. (Have you ever seen the way they drive in Dallas? Cutting across lanes willy-nilly from every-which way?!!)
As I, finally, approached the beleaguered homestead under light and wispy clouds the only signs of a storm were some lakes where there are usually pastures and the cut-off ends of a few trees that fell into the road. I didn’t even have to divert to one of the alternate paths into the homestead! I was able to drive straight in on our usual route, wheels dry as I passed where the road usually goes underwater just upstream of the ranch who’s driveway dips through the creek and frequently becomes impassable, and over two one-lane, open-plate county bridges that didn’t even have the decency to be covered in flood-debris, and then, just outside the gate, over a 6' culvert that has washed out in the past but was clean and dry today.

But I could feel my manly juices starting to flow anyway, the mighty gathering of testosterone ready to course through my powerful muscles. (OK, I think we can all stop laughing now.  . .) If I couldn’t be the hero during Harvey at least I could be the knight in shining armor riding in to put thing to right after the fact!  The strong back, fresh and unwearied by storm, ready to step in and undo the chaos of Harvey.

Alright! Less than an hour to go!! But where the hell is the storm?
But the bastard wouldn’t even let me have that!

The reality is that my arrival wasn’t so much a triumphant fanfare as it was a quiet slinking. The harsh spotlight of truth illuminated, not the victorious return of a hardbodied savior, but rather the farting deflation of an old used up party balloon.

At the least I expected to have to stop shortly after passing through the gate and walk the rest of the way down to fetch the tractor (I could already taste the power of hydraulics at my fingertips!) to repair the washout we get at the bottom of a particularly steep section of the driveway before I could get The Van through, but it was more of a wet spot in the gravel than a washout, so I was able to drive right on in. And when I rounded the last corner no buildings were blown away, no trees were down, no debris was scattered. Instead the sun was shining, the pond was full and sparkling blue, the barn doors were open, and The Wife was wandering around outside quietly going about the business of feeding the cats.

There was nothing to fix, nothing to repair, nothing to put to rights. No need for the diesel stink in my nose and powerful rumble of the tractor under my butt, no need for firing up a snarly chainsaw with a manly heave of the starter-cord and cloud of oil-blued smoke, or even the bare-handed wielding of a lowly shovel. In other words, nothing more manly for me to do around the homestead than carry my laundry, my dirty underwear and stinky socks, from The Van to the washing machine.

Now I lost my man-card a long time ago so I’m used to doing without. I don’t think there was any one reason, just an accumulation of little things, like the time I crammed myself into the driver’s seat of a cramped rent car, backpack and all, and sped away because when I turned around after gearing up for a hike there was a bear standing beside the trailhead, or the numerous times I turned down an offer to ‘go out bar crawling with the guys’ in favor of going back to my room and reading instead, and I’m pretty sure the time a dog scared me so bad I completely froze up and maybe might-a peed myself just a little, didn’t help things, you know, man-card wise. (Hey! It was a big dog and in the woods it looked just like a grizzly stalking me!)

But I’ve been working on it and had just about accumulated enough points to earn back that coveted card of masculinity, that free pass to the raucous, trophy-lined, dark-paneled walls of that smoky inner sanctum of manhood where confidence, strong drink, and outrageous lies flow with impunity; then Harvey came along and neatly sliced off my balls with a high-speed water-jet, although technically I suppose it was more of a slow-speed deluge, but the results were the same regardless.

Oh well, guess I’ll have to start growing a new pair all over again. . .

(Now. Has anyone seen that coaster I crocheted? I certainly wouldn’t want to set my cup of sleepy-time tea directly on the end-table!)

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