Posts Tagged With: Disaster


DSC06718 (Copy)Yesterday, I drove to Mountain Ranch to the park on Whiskey Slide Road where Fema and the Red Cross have set up a fire victim recovery center. Mountain Ranch Rd. was filled with traffic with 3 major stops for road crews re-establishing power lines to the area; removing dead debris from the road, and cutting dead roadside trees with potential to fall on the road.  Mountain Ranch Rd winds treacherously through the canyon without much shoulder space to stop.  At each forced stop, I took a picture from my window. It always baffles me that one tree still has green leaves while the next one is almost completely brown and scorched.

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Somehow, when a fire goes through an area, I’m not alone in thinking that everything is burned down to the ground.  I’ve seen devastation like that. There is plenty of ash, and plenty of dead trees to come from my very limited view.

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In the foreground on the left is a small blackened pine. Pine trees will die in a fire like this, but many of the oak trees, if given a chance, will survive. I don’t understand fire science and what makes this a hot spot where big trees burned and other areas are islands of green. Recovery is better when trees, are left standing, and even some dead ones left on the ground to hold water and gather clumps of washed dirt against them to aid in regrowth and insect activity.

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At the park, I took this picture of mass, organized chaos when I first arrived. Then, it was a matter of slowly making my way around the park to drop off the carload of items I brought. Soap and shampoo one place. Black garbage bags another. Charcoal, boots, medications, paper plates, toilet paper, jackets, toys, pants, shirts, books, belts, scarves…

Before I returned to the site above the four pairs of boots I had left were already gone. One guy told me, “Oh, thank you. I have such trouble finding size 13.”

They aren’t accepting appliances or furniture until people have power and shelter to put it in.  Many have found places to stay. Some are camping on their property or are in Fema trailers. 545 houses burned.  State Farm has set up a Disaster Recovery trailer in San Andreas where people go to file their claims.

I worked hard; never getting a chance to take more pictures. I met a couple from Manteca and another from Modesto who came to help. The community of volunteers from Mountain Ranch was fantastic, practical and upbeat.  Then, late in the day, about 3:00, word came that rain was expected. Then it was a matter of getting tarps under all boxes of sorted clothing so wet couldn’t seep into the boxes. And covering them from the top with rolls of Visqueen plastic. I returned home late in the  day completely exhausted. Today, I’ll work on getting my own stuff back on shelves, that my kids removed for me. Sunday, my oldest son will bring back a van load of genealogy, family photos and records from his garage in Valley Springs.

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Yesterday, we drove south to Menominee, Mi. where two of my brothers were born, again looking for the old homesteads. Parked at the VFW, the bartender, Ken, turned out to be a distant cousin of mine.  It was close to lunch time and he pointed to Colonel K’s Pasty shop and we gladly indulged. DSC08534 (Copy)

The owner, Becky was making the pasty and wanted to know in detail how we liked her pasty. For me, it was missing some onion flavor. She shrugged her shoulders and said, some people think it has too much onion. We talked about pasty and what happens to all of us is we each have our favorite recipe from “mom” and nothing ever compares. The crust is so good, you feel quite happy to have a near perfect pasty. Above she is making a breakfast pasty with egg, cheese, potato and probably sausage. I couldn’t believe how fast and perfectly she rolled and pressed that crust.

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Anyway, the choices are many, our pasty delicious and Jim learned how to pronounce pasty.

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In Menominee, my dad worked at Lloyds, still going strong since 1906. The company makes wicker furniture.  My parents and two of my dad’s sisters and their families all lived within walking distance of Lloyds. No one could afford a car during the depression.  I came here with my oldest brother and sister in 2006 and we walked the area and found two of the places,  but like idiots, we didn’t take pictures. I decided to make up for that shortcoming, without any certainty of the addresses.

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My brother Bill was born at home with a mid-wife in this remodeled house that is over one hundred years old. It was Phillips Ave. then. The city changed to a numbering system about 50 years ago.  In 2006, you could  see some of  the names imprinted in the sidewalks. That’s how we found it. Now, much of that sidewalk has been replaced.  Without the names, it took awhile to recognize the place from an old picture. Phillips Ave is now 30th Ave. He was born here in a small apartment over the garage in 1938. My folks moved to Hardwood where I was born and then back to Menominee again in this neighborhood, working for Lloyds in 1943.

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The house we lived in on Broadway, (now 13th St.) had been replaced by this beautiful church. It was a big old house on a slight hill. I remember my neighbor digging a hole in his yard and throwing pennies in the hole and jumping in to fish them out for me and telling me he was digging his way to China. I picked wildflowers in the neighborhood with my aunt when my brother Dan was born here in 1943. People moved around to follow the work in those days. It seems we were all over the map. By 1943, my folks could afford to have a baby in a hospital.

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My great-grandmother Erieau was born here along with my great-uncles and aunts. My mother would sometimes make reference to the horrible Pesthigo Fire, but it wasn’t until I visited a Fire Museum in Arizona when I learned how horrific this fire really was. On Oct. 8, 1871, the same night as the Great Chicago Fire, Pestigo, Wi. was struck by a five mile-wide wall of flames borne on a tornado like vortex of 100 mile per hour winds that burned through 2,400 square miles of land, killing more than two thousand people in four hours. It obliterated Peshtigo in one hour and burned through, Oconto, Brown, Door, Kewaunee Counties and parts of Manitowoc and Outagamie.

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Only part of a building was left standing in Peshtigo. A tornado follows a swirling path and it indiscriminately killed people in strange ways. Families heard the fire coming, and hid down inside their wells.  Alll died. Survivors reported a family of six rushing away from the wall of flame and two people vaporized in an instant, even their ashes blew away while the rest lived with severe burns.  Areas of sand beneath a tree were melted into glass which takes 1,800 degree heat. A train filled with wood was left as  melted wheels and a blob of melted metal where the engine stood.

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Plaques in the cemetery tell a part of the story.

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A man sent his family across the river to a boarding house thinking they’d be safe as he helped others. He survived, the boarding house and all of its occupants did not. A man named Baggnall discovered the body of a young girl who looked perfectly formed, lying as though asleep. She was dead from one whiff of the scorching air but nothing was singed or burned under her.  He cut a lock of her hair and carried it the rest of his life. He never found out who she was. The heartbreaking story of fire was only the beginning. The many maimed and burned in makeshift hospitals cared for by volunteer and neighbors. The Press arrived on the scene after the event and heard such horrific stories, they didn’t believe them and claimed they were made up.  Thousands of people had no homes, clothing, food or tools.  The disaster began to be taken seriously. When the Governor of Michigan allotted money to help the relief effort, he was criticized by members of the legislature for not getting permission first. These people needed everything to make it through the winter and then they needed to rebuild their lives. No fire in the United States ever compared to the violence and destruction of the Peshtigo Fire. The Museum in Peshtigo is full of wonderful artifacts of the period, but very little of the fire since…everything burned. In those days, no Red Cross nor organized relief organization came to their aid. They had to build it from this horrific experience. I bought two good books about the fire, one I bought in 2006 that was written by a priest taking notes directly from families that lived.   Yesterday, I bought Firestorm Peshtigo, by Denise Gess and William Lutz. It is purported to deal with the causes and politics involved in ignoring this fire over the Chicago disaster.

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Jim chides me that whenever I get back to Murphys, I get political and suffer from political outrages. He is right! We taxpayers foot the bills when billion dollar corporations don’t have to pay much for their environmental impacts. Look at the mess in Louisiana and Alaska. The payouts were miniscule compared to the lasting damage.


Fracking a single well may require a million gallons of water. It has been known to dry up nearby creeks and deplete ground water supplies in the area of the well.


The wastewater from fracking has high levels of radioactivity, and secret chemicals that are a trade secret. We don’t get to know what they pump into the ground. The Halliburton Loophole, (thank you Dick Cheny) makes Big Oil exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act.. Isn’t that just too cozy?


In some places, the drinking water from private wells got so contaminated from fracking practices, tap water could be lit on fire. Gee, you don’t even have to heat your coffee.


Do you think it could be a rule that people who work for Big Oil don’t have children or grandchildren?  Maybe it is on the application. No children allowed.


Clean water should be a human right, like clean air to breathe. Clean air should be a human right, like clean drinking water. It is a real time nightmare for some people in the United States. The corporations have it both ways And, we better get re-united before it comes to a local well near YOU.


I’m not against the wonderful benefits of natural gas wells, of which there are many. But, fracking to get it is like blowing up cars on the freeway to clear the way for repaving. (That isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. Fracking can kill you.)


Well, back to the grind- pulling blackberry vines, fixing sprinkling systems and preparing for surgery. I have a new worker but he can only come two to three hours on some days after his regular job. My former helper doesn’t show up or call if he can’t make it. So, I changed to this new guy. Hope it all works out.


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The weather was a real brow roaster, so we decided to stay along the shoreline, just look around and stay cool. Our first stop was Chatham lighthouse, beach and harbor. It was still early and the plien air painters were out in numbers, kind of fun to watch them.

This lighthouse is the sixth one on this point. The first and second ones were smashed in storms. The the third and fourth ones were made of brick and the sand eroded around them until they were allowed to fall into the ocean. The fifth was a stationary light and replaced by this “cookie cutter” steel affair. It sits far enough back on the point to be safe. The double white light flashes every two seconds.

The beach here stretched for miles in both directions. Shark and rip tide warnings kept the bathers to a minimum. A monument to several major disasters that took the lives of sailors stands here as does the propeller of the Coast Guard Lifeboat Chatham 36500 that rescued 32 men in 60 foot waves during a ferocious nor’easter in 1952. The tanker Pendleton broke in half. The little rescue boat was too small to make it. No one expected them to rescue anyone, or make it back if they did. All were wrong about the 36 foot lifeboat and its courageous crew, who did it without a compass and with most of their rescue gear washed overboard. The crew received the gold medal for valor and the little boat is on the Historic Register. (Picture below.)

The Chatham Harbor, further up the road, colorful and beautiful, also had its share of plien air painters.

If I painted I’d choose the cluster of boats below.

We moved on and explored a number of little inlets. We just followed roads like Old Wharf Rd, Cow Pasture Lane, Landing Road. Actually it was hard to find a right turn that didn’t eventually lead to water. It was fun and we just poked around. Stopped at a couple of Thrift Stores and Antique places. Visited a cultural center and viewed some fantastic pastels, a juried show of real quality. Two that I liked especially, Sand Dune Light by Susan Hollis.

And this painting by Susan Kotler. It tickled me because I used to own one of those penguin ice buckets.

We moved on to Nauset Beach where you pay a toll to swim. The sunbathers were out in numbers, few in the water, though.

The walkway up protects the dunes.

We tripped on to Rock Harbor.

Rock Harbor was a fascinating place. Its home to mostly deep sea fishing boats, with lanes that keep swimmers separate from boats, and boats coming in separate from boats going out. The lanes are planted trees with radar plates on them to assist navigation in the fog.

We talked to a guy who had a beautiful 1930 refurbished Ford. A friendly guy, he offered to take our picture in it, but I was slathered with sun screen and declined. He explained what bad shape it was in before he had it done. He looked at the Bronco when Jim offered to trade, and he said, “Maybe…”  for the right price was implied.  The Bronco is a 1986.

Our parting shot was this buoy covered building.

Then we went to eat at Cookes in Orleans, voted by islanders as the best fried clams and lobster roll on Cape Cod. We ended up eating the seafood platter with fried clams, shrimp, scallops and cod. Delicious? You bet! (Fat city.)

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