It’s embarrassing the things you learn the hard way – things you never knew and never knew you never knew. For instance, I never knew that Texas was the only state in the Union with its own power grid. I never knew there are only three power grids in the southern half of these United States. There’s the one that runs the Southeast, the one that powers the West, and then there is Texas.
Normally, a Texan like me would use this as a bragging point. The only state to have been a sovereign nation is the only state to power itself without help from the rest of you jacklegs, thank you very much.
Another thing I did not know but should have figured is that Texas is the number one state when it comes to wind power generation. (Some say Texans have been blowhards and windbags forever, but those people are just jealous because they live in silly places like Oklahoma or Arkansas…or worse, “up North.”) Texas generates 1/4 of the nation’s wind power – and that has nothing to do with the skateboarding blowhard Beto O’Rourke; it is all windmill stuff. The way Texas is so much bigger, geographically, than the 49 runts…and the way West Texas is flat as a flitter…and the way the wind blows like it has some better place to be and is in a big damn hurry to get there makes that make sense.
Now we learn that 17.5% of Texas’ energy is wind-power. Isn’t that wonderful and awesome and aren’t we cool because we are on the leading edge of renewable, clean energy? You Green Dealers ought to be delighted! Your president, on his first day in office, kills the Keystone pipeline, committing to a full-bore pursuit of the Green Deal, which is a sweet deal if you are, like him and his cronies, in line to have your pockets lined… Or, if you are China or Russia and anxious for America to sell her soul for a mess of international pottage under the guise of saving the planet.
All you fools with your fossil fuels are so 20th Century! Unless, of course, less than a month after Biden’s magic pen threw thousands into unemployment, drove gas prices upward, and flushed American independence down the toilet, there is an historic winter storm. That storm – this storm, from whose midst I now write – is the first ever to include a winter storm state of emergency for EVERY single county in Texas.
It’s like God said, “Oh, you’re so smart. Let’s test your theory.”
This from the Austin American-Statesman:
Republican Governor Greg Abbott blames the failure of the Texas power grid to meet the demands of the storm on the Green New Deal. Socialist and Green New Deal “co-author” (chuckle, chuckle, hiccup, fart) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says the Texas storm is what happens to flat-earthers who don’t buy into her vision of the future of energy and other supercool stuff.
The big picture is never as clear as one brush paints it, but you can bet your frozen tailpipe the Green New Deal is not terribly green, not really new, and no great deal for America or the everyday American. AOC and her posse are socialists, pushing for a Big Brother government that is bound to fail to deliver the utopian promise of its promoters and proponents.
The only thing Socialism does without fail is fail.
While pundits politicize and posturize, the rest of us are trying our dead-level best to thaw out.
At 8 AM Monday morning, the rolling blackout steamrolled us here in our little North Richland Hills piece of the American dream. I was preparing for my Monday morning work meetings when everything went dark. I read that the blackouts were supposed to last 45 minutes or maybe a couple of hours. Twelve hours in, I wasn’t buying it.
It was three whole degrees outdoors when our power went off. Things cool down in a hurry in that kind of environment. We are fortunate to have natural gas for our heat and cook stove. It did us no good in the heat department, except to light the fireplace, but it did mean we had the stovetop burners to use to warm our hands and cook our food. I scooted a sofa in front of the fireplace; got gloves for my hands, a toboggan for my noggin, and wool socks for my feet; and Monday night was spent a few feet from the fireplace – and the only warmth in the house.
It was just like Little House on the Prairie, only my particular piece of the prairie is smack-dab in the middle of a subdivision, surrounded by thousands of other subdivisions, and teeming with more than seven million urbanites and suburbanites – concrete cowboys and glass-and-steel prairie dwellers.
Also, we have remote-start vehicles with good heaters and seat-warmers. Oh, and cell phones and an open grocery store and gas stations within walking distance (but we needn’t walk if we have gas), and a place to buy tacos.
OK, it was nothing like Little House on the Prairie, but it was an adventure.
As hours shuffled by and the cold, gray sky turned to even grayer dusk, it became obvious 45 minutes was not happening and ours was not a planned rolling power outage. It was a power grid failure and it was here to stay awhile. Reluctantly, I drained my pool filter (again, nothing like Little House on the Prairie, where the pool is a pond and unfiltered), accepting that the pool would indeed freeze over.
Forty hours we were without “power.” Well, without electricity. We had the power of sound minds and scarcely-used survival skills. Three or four times, the electricity gods would tease us. Power would come on. We would sigh our relief. Two minutes later, it was gone, and would not tease again for hours.
Out on the west Texas tundra, frozen turbines were powerless. Here in North Richland Hills, my Tundra was idling, thawing frozen toes and charging dying cell phone batteries while we waited for life as we knew it to resume.
Cisco and the Kid
We have two dogs.
One is a St. Berdoodle – half St. Bernard and half Poodle. His name is Gus. Since both breeds are listed among the top breeds in intelligence, you would expect him to be extra smart, and he is! He’s big, too. He weighs nearly 100 pounds. The other is part Chihuahua and part rascal. We rescued him from the Fort Worth dog pound one Christmas about nine years ago and gave him to Lacey. His name is Cisco. He has an underbite and is built like a gel capsule with legs…short legs that barely help his belly clear the floor.
Gus is tall and beautiful with his black and rust-colored kinky coat and elegant frame. He is superbly athletic. He can flat-foot the sofa, run with the wind, and swim like a beaver.
He has rescue in his blood.
Did you know that St. Bernards were first called Alpine Mastiffs and that they came to fame as excellent work and rescue dogs in the Pennine Alps between Switzerland and Italy in the 1600s? They were work animals and watchdogs until their affinity for finding and rescuing mountain travelers in distress was discovered. Did you further know that Poodles originated in Germany and not France and that they were bred to be “duck dogs?” Before the powder-faced French made their fashion statements with them, Poodles were badasses. They are wonderful water dogs. Their limbs and feet are built for swimming and they wear a water-repellant coat. The name “Poodle” comes from the German word “pudel”, which means “to splash in the water.” Poodle. Pudel. Puddle. Get it? Poodles are also widely considered a top-five breed in intelligence Some rank them as high as number two, behind only the Border Collie.
Chihuahuas are known for their attitude. They are a small breed, weighing no more than six pounds (Cisco is pushing it here, believe me). They are alert and ornery and have a big dog persona. I read that if you do not get your bluff in on them, they will rule your house like a little Napoleon. I do not think Cisco is pure Chihuahua, but he is pure orneriness… Well, not pure. He has his sweet side, too. Cisco spends about a half-hour a day doing his Pancho Villa routine. He is all outlaw. The rest of the time, he spends in Siesta, unless, of course, there is a Fiesta to attend.
Cisco and Gus are pals. Actually, Gus is Cisco’s pal. Being the much younger of the two, he is always up for a game of chase and a play fight. It’s all well and good until Cisco gets out of sorts and goes Tasmanian devil on Gus’s ass. Though Gus could easily crush Cisco in his powerful jaws, he always backs off and yields to his elder. He even rolls over and lets Cisco pretend he is a master dogfighter.
Walking on water
The power returned at 1:30 AM Wednesday morning. At 7 AM, my wife let Cisco and Gus out to do their business and frolic in the snow for a few minutes. Their backyard time has never required supervision, so there was no thought of it on that frosty morning. Donya went about her morning chores and I was settling in to my work office to begin my day.
The pool had frozen over. A solid sheet of ice several inches thick covered most of it. Cisco and Gus always like to get a drink from the pool. Cisco will lean over the edge and lap at the water with his Gene Simmons-like (freakishly long) tongue. Gus wades out onto the steps to get his feet wet and his morning fill. Wednesday morning, whether for adventure or in search of a drink, the two of them ventured onto the ice and trekked across the frozen surface of the pool toward the waterfall.
“Oh my God! Gene!!!”
Donya heard the splash when Gus fell through the ice. She rushed to the back door to find Gus and Cisco in the freezing water, struggling to get free, Cisco’s face was pure panic. He is not built for swimming and he knows it. His coat is short and thin. He is old and frail. He won’t last long. Gus is struggling for all he is worth. Every time he gets his front paws onto the ice, it crumbles under his weight.
They are in front of the waterfall and almost beyond reach from the pool’s edge. I run like mad, slide onto my belly, stretch for all I am worth, and grab Cisco by the nape of the neck, hauling him from the water and handing him to Donya. Gus is swimming the wrong way. I call for him to swim toward me. He does and I am able to grab him and aid his struggle toward the steps.
It was terrifying – for the dogs and for us. Neither suffered permanent damage, however, and were soon dry and toasty. Cisco was done, though. He went to his crate, snuggled in, and refused to move until dinner time.
The worst was surely behind us.
The burst pipe dream ending
Then, the doorbell rang. A nice fellow who was just driving around the neighborhood, looking for signs of distress so he could render aid, made his way into our cul de sac. He informed us that a river was running from our garage, down the driveway, into the street.
A supply pipe had burst in the exterior garage wall. I rushed to cut off the water to the house and assess the damage.
We were fortunate. The water had only been in the garage. No harm done to the house.
We were unfortunate. Among the boxes stacked against the wall where the pipe burst was one that contained forty + years of photographic memories. The box was soaked and precious memories soiled.
My wife wept as she spread photos all over the house to dry them out and save what she could.
The moral to my story? When disaster strikes, the big picture becomes a talking point, a curiosity, a source of debate and blame-placement. Pictures of the event may cause you to wag your head and go, “Wow” or “What a shame.” Statistics might drop your jaw or make you scratch your head.
But it is in the little pictures where life is really lived, where loss is actually suffered, where help is most needed, and where hope is the spiritual buoy to which we cling until the sun shines, the snow melts, and the troubled waters recede.
Little pictures are big deals.