Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

Being powerless in any given situation is a frustrating feeling, and being without electric power is no exception to that rule.

We’re lucky to live in an area that rarely loses power, and if there is an outage, it usually lasts just a matter of minutes. Maybe that’s why it took Dennis and me so long to connect the dots during a recent power outage at our farm.

We aren’t surprised when the electricity goes off during a blizzard or thunderstorm, but we’d had neither earlier this month, though other areas not far away did experience some severe weather. In our case, it was a windy evening, but we’ve had so much wind already this year, the strong gusts didn’t seem that unusual.

We were wrapping up our evening chores when I went to tend the sheep and goats. I flipped on the light switch, but nothing happened. We’d just had this small barn rewired a few months ago, so I was surprised when no lights came on. I looked up to see if perhaps our leaping goat, Bianca, had whacked into any of the ceiling light fixtures, but saw nothing amiss. With enough daylight to see, I just made a mental note to give our electrician a call the next day. Then I finished feeding the flock and headed for the kitchen door.

Along the way, something caught my eye. It was an odd, tan rectangular piece with holes bored through it, lying in the lawn next to a rock I’d never seen there before. They were located just outside the wash house. What were they and how did they get there? For some reason, I glanced up at the wash house roof, and realized where the rectangular piece — a brick — and the rock had originated. A metal plate was clinging awkwardly to the tin roof; it was the cap that kept rain from getting inside the chimney. The brick and rock had been anchoring the metal in place for over 20 years. Obviously, the wind had dislodged them.

I made another mental note about that needing repair and then completed my walk to the house. It was approaching dusk, so I flipped the kitchen light switch and was moving toward the sink to wash my hands, when I realized the light hadn’t come on. Oddly, my first thought was to look at the digital clocks of our stove and microwave. Seeing that neither of them were displaying numerals finally caused the light bulb in my head to come on: our electricity was off.

Meanwhile, back at the main barn, Dennis was arriving at the same unhappy conclusion. He’d been filling water troughs when the hose’s flow came to an abrupt halt. His first thought was that our water pump had failed, until he came into the house and we compared notes.

I used my cellphone to access the electric company’s website and report our outage. It said they didn’t know the outage’s cause, but estimated it would be fixed by 9 p.m., about 3 hours after our power had gone out. It was suppertime and we were hungry, and so were our canines Lizzie and Tillie.

Fixing the doggie dinners was no problem and the cattle had enough water in their troughs for now. That just left the two of us in need of attention. Since our farm’s electric feeds from the rural north and the nearest towns lie to the south of us, I decided to make a run for some food for our dining pleasure. We decided on stromboli from the local pizza shop.

As I crested the hill between us and civilization, I was relieved to see that the traffic light was working. My relief was short-lived as I approached the pizza parlor and saw that their neon sign wasn’t lit. A little farther down the street I was able to read the sign posted on the door of a small restaurant, “Closed. No Power.” I continued onward and soon found the dividing line between the electric outage at the convenience store and working electricity at the neighboring Dairy Queen. Deciding to forego ice cream for supper, I continued to the nearest fast-food joint, but couldn’t turn in because of the traffic backup in their parking lot. Apparently there were plenty of other powerless people.

I finally found another fast-food place where I could get most of my car off the road, but eventually realized the line wasn’t moving at all. My impatience unfortunately ruled and I got out of line to head in a different direction. To make a long story short, I drove six miles without finding any place that had electricity. After a 45-minute unsuccessful odyssey, I returned home to a disappointed Dennis, who then made hot dogs on the grill illuminated by his flashlight.

As the evening wore on by lamplight, the dogs stared at us as if they were being punished by having their television privileges revoked. We humans made small talk until Dennis finally turned in early. I tried to read, but the poor light defeated me. Nine o’clock came and went. Our powerlessness thankfully ended around 10:20 p.m.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.