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I think of days like this as “Joel days”

You know how Joel writes so entertainingly over at TUAK about those days when everything goes haywire? When mad bulls charge into his yard while he’s lying in the mud fixing busted plumbing and his homemade bread is in the house caving in while packrats are eating the wiring on his Jeep?

Those days. Joel days.

So I closed the computer earlyish this morning, pledging to work on the new RebelFire story.

But of course I can’t write until the house is clean.

So I start cleaning. And organizing. Which reminds me that since my second backup heat source is out of commission, I need to go out to the shed, bring in my third- and fourth-line backups and make sure they’re functional.

And I’m moving things in the shed to get at them when there’s a rustle and a thump and something hits my foot and I look down in time to see a rat scampering off my shoe and into the back of the shed.

That’s a shock. Mice we have around here. And moles and voles and all manner of other critters. Spiders the size of salad plates. And hairy. But rats? That’s the only live one I’ve ever spotted in these parts.

So I find the rat’s nest (an entire bundle of formerly perfectly good and only lightly used landscape cloth) and dispose of it. I figure the rat’ll probably make its own way out of the shed now that there’s no friendly nesting material, but I’ll worry about that later.

And now I badly need to clean myself up. But I still have those backup heaters to prep and check, which is going to be a dirty job considering how long they’ve been in storage.

So I get the heaters de-greased, de-cobwebbed, and working without much trouble and only a minimum of bad odors.

Then I go to wash up. And the pipes are dry. Not even a gurgle. Second time in the last six months that’s happened. Thank heaven for stored water. I change my clothes and clean up as best I can.

After checking with Neighbor J. I realize the water business is not just me. Turns out it’s a break not 100 yards from last summer’s, gushing like Old Faithful. Note to self: Get more water storage containers.

I occupy myself by taking Ava for a walk, running some errands, and otherwise avoiding writing and general household inconveniences.

About three hours after the water disappeared, it came back. I ran the faucets for five minutes or so to clear the pipes, then had myself a nice, fresh drink and washed the dishes.

Two hours later — in the dark now — there’s a knock at the front door, where no one but Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-Day Adventists ever come.

For some reason I decide to answer the door anyhow. And in doing so somehow manage to pull a curtain rod down and heavy drapes down on myself (don’t ask).

At the door is a man bearing a boil-water notice. Says they’ll try to get it lifted by tomorrow, but in the meantime, don’t drink the water.

Oh, thanks.

So. Then I settle back down to watch the Downton Abbey episode I’d been enjoying.

Half an hour later, the windows are filled with flashing red lights. And more flashing red lights. And more flashing red lights.

And I go out and the hillside above the house next door is aflame. In December. A forest fire. In the Pacific NorthWET. By the time I get out there, a “V” of flame has climbed all the way to the top of the hill. I have no idea how our humble volunteer department will manage to get their hoses up that high to put it out. The neighbors’ hill is also my hill and this isn’t looking good.

But if sheer volume of response means anything, we’re in good hands. Our little street, a dead-end on which two cars can pass only if one pulls to the side, is filled with every fire truck and every cop car for miles around.

And because one truck was able to go up the neighbor’s driveway to the base of the hill, they extinguish the fire remarkably quickly, then send a couple of firemen on foot up the slope. In the dark. To make sure they got it all.

It turns out that the neighbor — a volunteer fireman, himself — was burning boxes at the foot of the hill when the fire decided to march up the near-vertical slope.

He’ll never live this down. But house and family are fine.

It’s been sunny, dry, and windy for a week. But even so. A forest fire. In December.

I didn’t get a word written on the RebelFire story. But I did finally get to watch Cousin Matthew formally propose to Lady Mary in the snow outside Downton Abbey.


Tomorrow and Tuesday The Wandering Monk and I are going to try to get to all the home improvement that we postponed last week due to his truck troubles. Don’t expect to hear a whole lot from me. I’m going to be working the Monk really hard and I’ll be right there slaving with him.


  1. rochester_veteran
    rochester_veteran December 11, 2017 2:47 am

    Oh my, Claire, what a calamitous day! Glad the firefighters got the fire out before it did any serious damage!

  2. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty December 11, 2017 3:52 am

    At least you were not bored. 🙂 And yes, I need to do something about storing more water, wash type. I have plenty of the drinking kind. The fire would have scared me half to death. My sister lives near one of the fires in So. Calif, and I’m concerned with her casual attitude about it. But then, there isn’t much she can actually do unless it turns in their direction. Almost makes one grateful for days when nothing much happens. 🙂

  3. Joel
    Joel December 11, 2017 6:15 am

    Holy crap, don’t say “bad day” and then show me pictures of fire trucks without some disclaimer up front. Okay?


  4. Comrade X
    Comrade X December 11, 2017 10:40 am

    Now I know why you didn’t pick Boring, OR as your address.

  5. larryarnold
    larryarnold December 11, 2017 11:32 am

    So, all you lacked for a real circus was three rings and an elephant.

    Flashylights are bad enough when you encounter them out and about. When they home deliver it really gets the ticker ticking.

    I wrote an article about volunteer firefighters recently. They really are amazing folks.

  6. Shel
    Shel December 11, 2017 4:15 pm

    Many years ago, at a bus rest stop in rural Argentina, I was extremely thirsty. It was the kind of place where there were holes in the tile floor instead of toilets. I thankfully saw a sink and hustled over there, drinking until I was totally gorged, so much so that I virtually had to push myself up to get back to a standing position. When I did so, in large black print, in capital letters, about 12″ from my face, were the words “agua no potable.” Thinking “oh, well,” I got back on the bus. Nothing ever happened, but some years later a blood test showed I had hepatitis B antibodies and didn’t need a shot.

  7. coloradohermit
    coloradohermit December 11, 2017 5:12 pm

    I’m with Joel. The pics scared the calm right out of me. I’m glad all is well and you at least got to do the Downton Abbey thing. Loved that show.

  8. John
    John December 11, 2017 6:56 pm

    It is winter.
    Washington, Santa Barbara,
    Save some fuel for summer.
    You pyros!

  9. Claire
    Claire December 12, 2017 7:23 am

    I’m sorry to have alarmed you, Joel and coloradohermit! I just couldn’t think what to say about that fleet of fire trucks.

    Comrade — That’s hilarious. Yeah, definitely NOT “Boring.”

    John — SoCal is welcome to their wildfires at any season of the year, and more power to them. But I assure you that we here in the PacificNorthWET generally do not do forest fires in December. (I got a daylight look at it and it appeared that most of the burning was in the underbrush. Lucked out there; the trees were still wet enough not to catch fire.)

  10. Scott
    Scott December 12, 2017 4:17 pm

    Might want to drain your water heater, too..if a lot of gunk got into the pipes as a result of the pipe break. One place I lived in was like a mouse Interstate highway. The best way to control them is with old school mousetraps or “rolling” traps that drop the mice into a bucket of water. Never, ever set out poison bait! They will croak in the walls, and there’s a lot of stink in a mouse.
    I always thought the Pacific Northwest to be sort of a temperate rain forest…where wildfires would least likely occur.
    Lots of flashing lights is seldom a good thing….at least you had plenty of volunteer firefighters..

  11. Claire
    Claire December 13, 2017 6:09 am

    “I always thought the Pacific Northwest to be sort of a temperate rain forest…where wildfires would least likely occur.”

    It is. Exactly! The only “official” rain forest on the continental U.S. is in coastal Washington state. We feel quite immune from forest fires here despite our dense forests — and certainly wouldn’t expect one in December.

  12. Mike
    Mike December 13, 2017 4:01 pm

    That was very nice of your neighbor to start a fire so you would have something to write about. Next time you see this guy, ask him if he was trying to make a fuel out of himself… 😀

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