Click Here To Learn More About John McDonald
As a kid I always enjoyed listening to my grandfather talk about life in the 1880s and 1890s when he was growing up on Penobscot Bay. I marveled at his stories of how people managed to live without cars and telephones and televisions and Saturday morning cartoons.
Sure, we could do without those things when we were up to camp in summer, but we always knew those essentials were still available to us back home.
Grandfather never tired of telling about bitter cold winters when the temperature would remain below zero - night and day - for days or weeks on end.
“How did you manage to stay warm,” I'd ask.
He'd say, “We managed. We didn't have to worry about what would happen if the power went out because there was no power to go out. The only 'power' we had came from our two arms and from horses and oxen, and as long as they were fed and cared for their power never went out, either.
“Then we had a giant Clarion in the kitchen that could pump out enough heat to warm up half the downstairs. The big parlor stove had to take care of the rest. All the downstairs' ceilings had vents so all that nice heat would drift up to the bedrooms and keep them from freezing.”
Life in winter in Maine sounded almost pleasant the way Grandfather described it. You worked hard all spring, summer and fall getting the garden planted and tended and then harvested and the firewood all cut, split and stacked indoors. Then came the winds of fall and the snows of winter when you could mostly relax - after making sure the animals were all fed and watered.
I was thinking of all this on a cool fall morning. I had already made a pot of coffee and was just building a roaring fire in the Queen Atlantic when the house went black. The power had gone out, and I had no idea when it would come back on.
I lit a few candles and by candlelight fired up a few kerosene lamps and dug out our battery-powered lights. long the kitchen looked pretty good.
Soon my wife was up and we managed to cook breakfast without much trouble. When that was all done we just sat there in the dim light.
Now, what do I do? I had planned to spend the day writing but couldn't do a thing without my computer. Couldn't watch television, either.
We found out later that a woman in an SUV took her eyes off the road to reach for her cell phone - one of the great conveniences of the our age - and she went off the road and snapped off a utility pole cutting off power and for about six hours making life most inconvenient for a few hundred people.
I don't know what the moral of this story is, but I bet my grandfather would be able to find it.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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