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Power Lines, Fire and Mayhem
By Melissa Crosson
Friday, February 24, 2006
Not rated by the Author.
A little more mystery from my life and once again since there is no weird category this goes under mystery. It's a little long but enjoy.
Growing up, watching the world evolve technologically and always feeling a step behind even though I wasn’t, I always wanted more. I didn’t understand that we were technically poor. Both of my parents worked their butts off to provide a home, food and clothes. I never actually lacked for anything that was needed but I still wanted more. I didn’t know until much later in life that we were a very low income middle class family but if you say that to my mom she’ll deny it.
I didn’t really have a childhood, circumstances made it so that I had to grow up quicker than I liked but my mom will, once again, say different. There have been many bumps in my life that caused me to think about life in general and who I wanted to be when I grew up. I have done everything I can to make myself better but sometimes I wish I could just be coldhearted and get back at all the people that ‘wronged’ me growing up.
Life is hard enough as it is but kids have to be cruel. Personally I think it’s a combination of bad parenting and bad school systems. I remember, pre-school, kindergarten and then second grade. I don’t remember third and pick it back up at fourth grade. Unfortunately for me I remember everything after that.
It’s weird how the memory works. Traumatic events are ingrained in your brain for eternity, unless you get a massive case of amnesia and have to make new memories.
When I was 3 we moved into the house on Kings Road. Before that we lived across town in the townhouses, that look like slums today. When you walk into the house you can either take a slight right and go upstairs to the bedrooms, and I would assume the bathroom, or you can go forward through the small living room and into the kitchen. They were 2 bedroom townhouses, and my older brother and I shared the room at the top of the stairs.
Now I don’t remember much about the living room or seeing any other rooms upstairs but what I do remember is that the kitchen was yellow, had the washer and dryer in it and falling down the stairs.
My mom’s best friend was over and I wanted my coloring book and Tupperware of crayons so I asked my mom if I could go get them. She told me I could and to be careful not to fall down the stairs. I don’t remember going up the stairs or actually getting my crayons and coloring book. What I do remember is standing at the top of the stairs with the Tupperware and my coloring book looking down and having my eyes go out of focus. I’ve had that feeling since then and it’s like your eyes try to bug out of your head and then retreat into your throat. You get a little dizzy and your heart starts to beat a bit faster. It can be scary even now. Well there I stood with my crayons and coloring book, looking down the stairs and feeling a bit dizzy, but I didn’t know what dizzy was then. Next thing I know I’m at the bottom of the stairs, screaming and crying. I think I had a few bumps and bruises but otherwise fine. I know my mom and Nana (what I have always called my moms best friend) came running to get me but I don’t remember it. It’s weird because I remember doing bumpy logs (sit down on the stairs and bump down them, step by step, on your butt to avoid falling) down those very steps so what happened that time?
My life continued with it’s many ups and downs since then and I have searched for an exact date for the one thing in my life I would like to make sense of and can’t find any newspaper, archived, articles on it. Having a year to go by would help greatly…
It was a beautiful day, I can’t remember if it was summer break or not but it almost had to be. I’m not exactly sure why I was in Eli’s (the Caterer’s) back yard, maybe I was bored and just waiting for dinner but I was standing at the 3 foot high wooden fence that kept the Desimone’s yard from spilling into Eli’s yard.
The Desimone’s lived with their grandparents and had an above ground pool. It was a beautiful day and they had been in the pool. Now like any good parent they weren’t allowed in the house while they were wet, not even Gramma or Grandpa! Gramma was strict and I never saw her as overbearing, mean or anything like that. So Grandpa had been the last one out of the pool and was still wet so he got his dinner plate, a lawn chair and a tv tray table and ate out in the driveway while he let the sun and beautiful weather dry him off.
I remember ‘sneaking’ up to the fence and popping my head up and then dropping back down so Grandpa couldn’t see me anymore. I remember having a smile the whole time and him smiling and laughing at me. I remember seeing the puddle of water under his chair, him using a steak knife to cut his dinner, and me putting two and two together to get ‘wet and not allowed in the house until dry’. I don’t know how long I was playing hide and seek with Grandpa but my mom called me in to dinner so I ran home.
We were having pigs in a blanket that night. Take hot dogs and wrap bacon around them. Stick a toothpick through at the start of the bacon and one at the end to keep the bacon on and then nuke them till the bacon is done. I used to love them!
So anyways, mom just put them on the table when the lights went out and there was a blue flash of light from the back yard. Mom uttered some form of “What the hell?” and opened the back door to see what was going on. The dogs were happy to go out and they tried to muscle each other out of the way to be the first one out the door. I’m not sure how but Carly was the first to the door and the screen door could be opened if pushed hard enough from the bottom, and even poor stupid Carly knew that. I looked out the screen door and I still don’t know how I didn’t wet myself.
Flashes of blue light were making it hard to see but the reality that the power lines had come down hit home very quickly. My mom went to open the screen door, at least that’s what it looked like to me. I screamed no and grabbed Carly by the tale to keep her in the house. My mom quickly slammed the back door shut and told me and my brother to go to Eli’s. I don’t remember going the 8 or so steps to the front door, I remember being on the front porch and bending over for a small stick after stepping off the porch. I don’t remember if my brother was before me or after me and I don’t remember actually going into Eli’s house.
The next thing I remember is me, my mom, my dad, my brother, Mr. Caterer, Mrs. Caterer and Eli all standing in a huddled circle in their living room, at least I think Eli was there and not over at someone else’s house.
I’m not sure who I was crushed in between except Mr. Caterer. I was being protected by him with his left arm holding me close to him. I remember looking up into his eyes and just knowing I was safe. There was no doubt in my mind that he would pick me up and carry me to safety, if needed. Just like I had no doubts that if I deserved it he would put me over his knee. Times were different back then. Everyone watched everyone else’s kids, yelled at them and swatted them on the butt when needed. Well most just threatened the swatting but we knew that if we had done something bad enough they would! And then tell our parents so we would get swatted again! But I remember feeling safe with Mr. Caterer and my dad being there. I knew they would rather die than see us hurt, I could see it in Mr. Caterer’s eyes.
Standing there in a huddled circle not knowing what exactly was going on outside in our back yard, but feeling safe. Then the power went out at Eli’s. Well the plan was 1 Get out. 2 Go to Eli’s. 3 go to Saundra’s across the street. This was ingrained into my head from a young age but I don’t actually remember being told any of this, even though I know I was!
The power goes out, I scream, Mr. Caterer holds me closer, a flashlight flips on, we all scramble for the door, my mom goes to our house to get the dogs which she had locked into their crates, my dad yells at her to leave them and my brother and I barely pause to look both ways before crossing the street, well before we ran across hell bent for election.
Since the dogs were well trained to follow us my mom only carried one of them, not sure which one but I remember her being about a step behind me as we raced across the street to Saundra’s.
Saundra’s house sat up higher than our house did so from her front yard you could see over our fence into the back yard. I stood there in horror as I saw flashes of blue light and something black whipping around in the back yard.
As the power lines came down some broke apart while others just fell. Some retained power while others remained lifeless. Pieces broke themselves off and whipped around our backyard until their energy was spent but not until killing the grass that was in their wild paths. Some pieces had been spent since before we were out of the house and had already left their mark on the lush grass while others continued to whip around like they were possessed.
I need to go forward a bit to go back. For those that don’t know Illinois has their power transformers up on the poles, not like here in Kentucky where a good percentage of them are on the ground. There is a transformer every so many poles (can’t remember ever counting the distance between), well it just so happens that the pole in Eli’s back yard has one. Now I’m not entirely sure what these transformers do but I do know that they can keep a broken power line live for at least an hour. Now to understand the rest of what happened I have to tell you a bit of the aftermath and how the lines went down.
In order from left to right, if you were in Saundra’s front yard looking across the street. Desimone’s, Caterer’s, ours, then Mrs. McCaffrey’s. The lines came down after a piece of branch fell across Mrs. McCaffrey’s lines. The branch hit right where the lines are connected to the pole and broke the lines furthest from our yard. Yes that’s right, all this mayhem that I will soon tell you was caused after the lines broke and didn’t even break on our side of the lines!
Okay so the lines in Mrs. McCaffrey’s yard are broken off at the pole and are ‘dead’ on the ground. They didn’t even ‘burn’ the grass! They are still connected to the pole between our house and Mrs. McCaffrey’s but are laying in a crescent shape because they are still connected to the pole closest to our house.
One of the 2 power lines snaps on Eli’s pole (the one with the transformer) and goes shooting towards our back yard. With the charged line shooting blue flashes as it goes. The energy flowing through the line is strong enough to cause the line to break into 3 pieces about 2 to 4 feet each. As these pieces are whipping around while they lose their energy they are ‘burning’ the grass and causing it to almost instantly die. Surprisingly there were no actual black marks, the grass was just brown and dead around the pieces of power line.
It’s still up in the air if the initial blue flashes we saw in our yard, that caused us to run for it, were the complete line whipping into the yard or if it was a piece that had already broken off but I think it was the complete line.
So then we’re in Eli’s house, power goes out and we, once again, run for it. Eli’s power went out because the other line connected to the transformer broke off and started whipping around. Well remember that above ground pool I mentioned? Water and electricity don’t mix, especially 500 gallons or so. It was a pretty big pool, 4 to 5 feet deep all the way around but I can’t tell you exactly how big it was or if it had more or less water in it…Proportions are different to a kid after all.
Well this live line starts whipping around and lands in the pool. It blows the side out of the pool and sends all the water into Eli’s back yard, into our yard (which is still to this day the lowest piece of property on the block and has the driest crawlspace), into Mrs. McCaffrey’s yard and however much further it traveled before its flow stopped. Luckily the lines in ours and Mrs. McCaffrey’s yard were dead by then!
The live line continues to whip around. It hits a gas can in the Desimone’s garage, blowing it and the contents of the garage sky high. When it was all said and done, there had been a car with a full tank of gas, 2 lawnmowers with a total of a full tank, and about 3 gas cans with varying amounts of gas in them. So you can imagine someone finally thought to call the fire department.
The line continues to whip around and manages to catch the Desimone’s house on fire. While this live line is whipping around the fool that lived behind the Desimone’s is spraying his house down with water from his garden hose. Yes you read right. There’s a live wire whipping around and this fool is using water to spray his house down so it won’t catch fire! And keep in mind that the line was long enough to have gotten into his yard and killed him!
So there’s a big boom from the pool blowing out, an even bigger boom from the garage blowing up and the fire department isn’t far behind. When they get there the line hasn’t moved much but since most people are electricity stupid I can’t tell you for sure that there was absolutely no power in them, that and I was little. What I can tell you is that my mom and I are sitting on Saundra’s porch, watching the fire department hook up their hoses. One of the firefighters is on the other side of the fence, behind the Desimone’s house. He’s trying to carefully get as close as he can to determine what damage there is and what equipment might need to go around the block, et cetera. When he slips down the wet hill because the fool sprayed his house down. So now there’s a potentially live wire mere inches away from this poor firefighter who is now sitting against a metal chain link fence with a broken leg.
My mom hears the Chief tell them to get the hoses ready to put the house out and my mom hits the roof. She pretty much throws me to the side and screams, “NO!”
The Chief looks towards her and that’s when I see it. We still have power going to our garage! The bug zapper was still glowing blue!
My mom yells that we have power to the garage and the Chief goes white! He gets on the horn and gets the grid shut off so they can safely put the house out but by then there was very little to save.
So now let me fill in some gaps that were told to me by the neighbors.
My mom called me to dinner. I go in and my mom sets dinner down on the table. Power lines start whipping around and Grandpa starts to look for me. Me! He gets down on his hands and knees and grabs for my hair a couple of times and finally gets down far enough to look along the whole wall and see I’m not there. He gets back up, jumps the whipping power line, while still wet, and races to the house. He crashes into the house and screams at them to go across the street. As they’re running across the street we’re headed to Eli’s house. The pool blows, Eli’s power goes out and we race across the street to Saundra’s house.
I was, later, told by the neighbors about the fireman that had gotten hurt, I never saw him. I was also told by Mrs. McCaffrey’s neighbor that the kids that lived behind her had hopped the fence right around the time the Desimone’s garage blew! Talk about insane! Luckily the fence wasn’t charged!
After the Desimone’s house was extinguished, the firefighters went house by house to check for ‘brush fires’. The Carterer’s had no dead grass in their yard because they had no lines actually go down in their yard.
When the firemen were in Mrs. McCaffrey’s yard longer than they were in the rest we got worried and started to walk across the yards (across the street) to see if they were okay. They came out of Mrs. McCaffrey’s back yard shaking their heads the whole time.
It turned out that the branch that caused the lines to go down was from a non-existent tree. Yes you have once again read right. There was no tree! There were also no records of a tree ever being there and Mrs. McCaffrey had lived on that section of the block the longest, about 30 or so years, told them that there was never a tree there! Then they asked us kids if we had ever climbed a tree right there and when we told them there was no tree they just walked away shaking their heads!
The electric company came out and ‘capped’ the lines so the grid could be turned back on. They worked all through the night to get our power lines put back up. That night there was one hellacious thunderstorm! The lightning was blue, frequent and made the air feel charged. Needless to say I slept in my brother’s room that night! I’ve been scared of the dark ever since that day! Blue lightning is, still, the worst for me to handle!
From lines going down to the Desimone’s house being extinguished wasn’t more than an hour and it felt like an eternity!
As a safety precaution I wasn’t allowed to play on our swing set for 3 days, just in case it was charged, so I spent time carefully walking around it and digging in the back yard by the big tree. Two days later and about a foot deep I found a gas cap from the Desimone’s car. It had apparently been shot pretty straight up into the air and arched down and embe dded itself a foot into the ground. Almost three weeks later I was digging in a different spot by the tree and found another gas cap. It was the spare Grandpa kept in the garage just in case one got left at the gas station. It was about a foot deep as well. I’m not entirely sure which was the spare and which came off the car but both were in perfect shape. Maybe he kept 2 spare’s in the garage…
For the next 3 months we had ugly brown reminders until the soil finally let the grass seed my dad had thrown down start to grow. It was hard to mow the grass in the back yard. I kept trying to go around the spots even though the Electric company assured us that the grass would grow back and that the ground was safe to walk on.
As long as I live I will never forget that day, I just wish I knew exactly what day it was!
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