Sharing the Dark with Neighbors

By Joe Rector

The tree man dug in the apparatuses on his feet and began climbing the dead pine tree. It stood at least 75 feet tall with long, brittle branches from mid-trunk to the top. He cut whole limbs and let them crash to the ground below. His luck held as none of the heavy pieces hit houses or cars.

Amy and I watched this accident waiting to happen from our porch. Throughout the tree man’s work, I told Amy that the men I’d hired to cut trees never lopped off whole limbs. Instead, they cut them into pieces or tied them with a rope and lowered them to the ground. When the worker returned to the ground, he walked across the yard and looked at the tree.

Within seconds, he was kneeling and cutting a wedge from one side of the tree. I murmured to Amy that he surely wasn’t planning on dropping that tree in such a tight space. Professionals usually cut all the limbs from the trunk and then cut it in sections that were lowered to the ground. However, this expert did, indeed, go to the back of the tree and dropped it, limbs and trunk together.

It crashed to the ground, and the sounds of snapping of limbs and the thump of the trunk were upstaged by the electrical wires touching the ground seconds before transformers sparked and popped. The genius with the saw in his hand watched helplessly as this disaster occurred.

In a matter of seconds, neighbors exited their houses to see what had caused the power failure. We met at the top of the hill, only a couple of houses from the scene of the electrical assault on KUB’s equipment. Some were asking questions about what had knocked out the power; used a bit of foul language to discuss their displeasure; another group was visibly angry that such a stupid thing had even occurred. Our noisiness gave way to topics related to what had happened.

The impromptu neighborhood meeting brought together those of us who’ve lived here for years and newer neighbors to the small subdivision. Introductions were made; I met one man who has lived near me for several years. We’ve waved at each other, but yesterday was the first time I’d ever heard his voice.

After we’d watched the show in the yard for a while, folks moved back to their houses to figure out how they were going to prepare supper. Amy and I returned to the porch to watch the clean up. Before long, another neighbor came looking for the problem. I called to him, and he joined us on the porch. Tony, Amy and I sat there and rocked the time away as we talked about no electricity and the way things used to be when we were children. Diane Bremseth came back to check on any updates, and Gary, who lives on the street behind us, dropped by. At about 9:00 p.m. I told everyone that I was hungry and needed to eat so I could get in bed. The next morning I had to be up at 5:00 a.m. to go to work at the golf course.

It was aggravating to spend the evening with no electricity. However, having neighbors gather and others sit on their porches made me feel as if I’d escaped for a few minutes back to my childhood. So, as much trouble as the tree man poured out on our neighborhood, I appreciate the fact that his unskilled acts led to neighbors reconnecting for the first time since Covid reared its ugly head. Nothing brings neighbors and friends together like an emergency. That night was a good night, even without power.