1986, a spring and summer filled with one violent thunderstorm after another with very few weekends giving us weather good enough for regular maintenance such as mowing let alone bush replacement. And heat. Rain, humidity, and heat. That was the home improvement year that included the construction of our 10×18 screened in porch. In case you didn’t know, Minnesota is infamous for its mosquito infestation. The blood suckers are big enough for a social security number tatooted on their vicious little snouts, and mean enough to be demons from hell itself. Enlarging the deck and screening it in was the high point of that house. It was pure entertainment to watch the skeets cling to the screen and growl at us. (neener, neener) We had extra living space in the summer and a spare freezer for leftovers in the winter. The other big home improvement was pulling out the old bushes in front of the house and replacing with rose bushes and some other stuff on the corner. If you ask me what went out, you’ll get a blank stare. I have been and continue to be horticulturally challenged. And I don’t care. They were overgrown and green, okay?
Honey worked hard that Saturday getting the last of whatever it was planted. He was sweaty and pooped when he sat on the porch and declared that that was it, it, it for home improvement and he was done, done, done until next year, maybe the year after. And just in time, because we could hear the thunder rumbling once again in the distance.
And God said, "Oh, yeah?" He wasn’t out to punish anyone, He just knew something we didn’t know — as usual. Here comes another storm and the entire neighborhood is a victim of ground lightning. A bolt had hit a small tree around the corner. The ground being saturated by weeks of rain, electricity fanned out. Scullys’ microwave and garage door opener popped and Andersons’ 32-tune doorbell shorted, proceeded to play all 32 choices in the middle of the night and wouldn’t shut up. The lady across the street unplugged her whole house every night so she sustained zero damage. I guess being that … uh … careful pays off now and then. Stan checked out the ham radio equipment and sure enough, it had been fried. He shipped it off to Burghardt’s for assessment and submitted the claim to State Farm. Done.
A few nights later, I loaded the washer with towels about 10pm and went to bed, a system that usually works well for a working mother.
4:00 am. Honey marches into the bedroom and declares an emergency. I knew somebody had to have thrown up and without a beat, told him it was his turn to clean it up. "It’s not that." I rolled over. "Then, what?" He’d been wakened by a strange noise coming from the water heater and went downstairs and stepped in a foot of water. Our entire basement had been flooded wall to wall to wall to wall. The kids were sound asleep on their little bed-boats.
The washer’s timer and switch had been fried by the ground lightning. It was stuck on fill.
We must have had a sump pump in the basement as the drain was subject to backing up during the rinse cycle. It’s been 20 years, we can’t remember for sure. Stan sloshed over to that corner and after shutting off the washer, he opened the window to run the hose out and immediately a quatro-zam-badzillion blood starved, bug-eyed, vengeful mosquitos loosed their clutch on the porch screen and zoomed into the house. I swear they were laughing.
Do you know how much wet carpet weighs? Lots. Other than carpet, the wallboard was soaked, studs were wet, wallpaper peeled, and ceiling tile warped. We had stored memorabilia under the steps, much of which was now destroyed, things like books, reel to reel tapes, and more. Dad had given me the fiddle he had played at barn dances in the ’20s. The case was soaked, the fiddle itself was in pieces, veneer popped out like a starched 1890’s collar. Stan couldn’t save the case but he carefully and lovingly dried, glued and refinished Dad’s fiddle, beautifully restoring it not only for display but for use as well. Six years later, on Father’s Day, Laura Lund played it for him in church. He died later that year on December 23. His fiddle is perched on my fireplace mantle.
The damage list was long. $10,000 later we had a family room, 2 redecorated bedrooms, new carpet, new furniture, a platform under the washer and dryer, a refinished piano, a new Christmas tree, and a steel I-beam overhead where a wall once stood. There was doubt if our insurance company would pay the claim. But since it was a lightning damage claim instead of flooding due to a backed up drain, we were ok. (Whew!)
That was one bad experience. What do you want to bet that I’ll be neighbors with Noah in heaven so that I can’t complain forever?
Tune in next time for "Fun With I-Beams and Yellow Pianos."