Since I was scheduled to preach on Sunday, I was spending my Saturday evening in an effort to work myself into a suitably benevolent and nurturing mood. As an aid and prompter, I’d been reading emergency med tech and ambulance driver blogs and trying to picture the insertion of breathing tubes down throats and IV lines into veins. Then, just after dark, the village siren began to blow.
The siren blows every Tuesday at 7PM to remind the firemen (so far as I know we have no firewomen) to come to the monthly meeting where they all study how to save people and do a bit of bonding. If pizza and beer seems natural afterwards, well, that’s good for business. But this was Saturday. It was great weather -- had been good weather for the entire day, which is a little unusual since our weather tends to pass through at a high speed and you have to catch it on the fly, so to speak.
By now the robins are back and I even heard a meadowlark today, but the poplars haven’t gotten past those little purple twiddly things full of pollen and the prairie looks green only where it is overgrazed enough that there is no dry grass to hide it. Very often in this season someone gets carried away with the Spring ambiance and the human equivalent of little purple twiddlers by overindulging in beer when they should have stuck to pizza.
Then the lights went out. Stuttered back on, went out and stayed out. The last time this happened a house burned up. Though I had been in my nightgown and a jacket, I went out in front of my house to see if I could spot the fire, which was pretty easy since the whole town is only a few blocks wide and the fire was on the main highway two blocks away. Loretta, my neighbor, was out in her yard as well, also in night attire.
“Wanna go check it out in the pickup?” I asked her. She did. So we two matrons of heft and girth climbed into the pickup, drove over and sat in our nighties at a respectful distance to watch what was a vigorous conflagration that had engulfed the attached garage. “At least it’s only the garage,” I said. We knew the old lady who had lived there alone had died the week before, so we assumed that the house was empty, but still...
Loretta looked sad. She always knows the inside story. “The family went over to sort through furniture and valuables yesterday,” she said. “They put all the good stuff in the garage where it would be easy to load up after they emptied the trash out of their farm truck.” The farm truck was parked far enough down the driveway that it wasn’t even singed. All the trash was in good shape.
This Saturday I was also in my nightgown but judiciously put my jeans back on to go look for the fire. I could hear sirens in the distance. I’m just a block from the fire truck garage but the door was down. Then a couple of law enforcement vehicles came swirling around the corner with lights flashing, parked with a screech and went on-the-double into the garage. In a minute the fire door shot up and the truck was rolling. It stopped for another few minutes while pickups drew up quickly on both sides of the street, doused their lights and ran for the truck. Their equipment was hanging ready for them to struggle into as the truck took off.
With the door open, I could see that the ambulance had already left earlier. I wondered whether the driver had been electrocuted when he (must be “he,” right?) hit the power pole. I followed the truck at a respectful and -- I hoped -- legal distance. When I got to the livestock corrals, I was about a half-mile from the scene of the accident where the truck had stopped in the middle of the highway. I couldn’t see any flames or smoke. Maybe they needed the truck for the Jaws of Life.
I watched a while and went on home to get to bed so I could get up at 5AM. The lights were back on and with them the electric alarm clock which has a battery backup in case of power failure, but I never have bothered to put a battery in. How often do I have to get up these days? I reset the clock, took an aspirin and went to sleep. At 1AM my carbon monoxide monitor shrieked. It’s on the house circuit and if there’s a power failure (or restoration) it shrieks. The power was off again. When I took a peek outside, there were a million stars and a completely black village.
So I found my flashlight first and then rooted around in drawers until I finally located my travel alarm, which winds up. I bought it when I used to sleep in the pickup while on the road. I got it set and wound. At 2AM the power came back on and the monitor shrieked to let me know. I got the electric alarm set up again.
At 5AM both alarms went off, but I was already awake. Both cats had been walking up and down on me to let me know this would be an excellent time to go out and look for mice or, failing that, for me to open up a can of cat food, hopefully not poisonous. Then the paper came. Nothing in it about the accident, but it was too soon. I got out the door at 7AM, on schedule for the hour and a half drive to Babb. At both services we were careful to pray for the driver of the car and any passengers that might have been involved.
When I came back, I drove up the highway to see if I could tell where the vehicle hit the power pole, but I couldn’t see any signs of charring or splinters. I was really too tired to care very much, so I came home and took a long nap until 5PM when the cats started their routine again.
The next morning the paper didn’t mention the accident but when I went to the post office, I knew I’d find out what had happened.
“Oh, some goose ran into a power line and brought it down. Shorted out the whole town.” Just as I suspected. “What was the guy’s name?” A silence while the postmaster thought and then smiled.
“It was a goose.”
Then I had to “shift my paradigm,” so to speak. “A goose?”
“Yup, a Canada goose. Wings just wide enough to touch two lines at the same time. Electrocuted itself. Started a little fire but the guys put it out almost instantly.”
No EMT necessary, I guess. “The goose?”
“Too cooked to eat. Totally charred.”
There are a dozen stories every weekend in this little village. You’ve just heard one of them.