Heat, Hay, and HumanismPosted by Jim Newman on July 9th, 2012 – Comments Off – Posted in atheists, Personal Stories
Post by Jim Newman
We, our family farm, were without power for 8 days due to a “derecho” storm passing through and knocking down a power line in the “old, old orchard”. This storm followed closely the annual family reunion where 20-30 family members and owners of the farm, The Bower, gather for 3-7 days of fun, festivities, and fecal flinging–with a business meeting in there somewhere. The farm physically has 2 families (ours and cousin’s), some 30 or so horses, 9 hogs, 60 chickens, 8 geese, 1 cat–and a partridge in a pear tree…
In the midst of this is the need to hay. In West Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, hay has to be cut in May or June. I usually end up cutting in June as it is hard for me to get enough drying days in May for the hay to cure between afternoon showers. Those who can cut in May have better hay as it hasn’t seeded yet, which robs the leaves of some energy and protein. The hay feeds the animals for the winter and is a major source of my farm income. This year it was hot early and I could have hayed early but did not because getting The Bower ready for family took precedence.
We were at the end of the day’s haying when the radar showed a wall of red coming our way, with a thick band of yellow and green following–red being storm, and yellow, green, heavy and light rain. Indeed looking out we could see a constant shower of lightning on the horizon. It looked like some end of the world apocalypse coming at us. There never was black, just bolts of white. Unplugging everything and getting ready pretty much filled the 20-minute warning we had. Annoying that a 30% chance looked to be a major storm.
And yes, like out of Frankenstein, the old mansion on the hill was surrounded by lighting as the storm front passed over us, followed by straight rain and wind. The wind blew horizontally parallel to the ground–even deep inside the porch rain was blasted against the wall of the house. The wind raged like a blizzard where it blows across the plains unobstructed. And we could see branches being blown off. The house is made with several layers of brick so inside always seems calm and then you step to a window or door and boom it’s like you’ve changed dimensions. The power went out and then it rained for another hour. I went to bed thinking it would be another early morning of fixing hay equipment.
Yet, no power in the AM. No worries, I think. We have a couple of generators. One from the sail boat we used to have and the other from when we repaired our Florida house after Hurricane Charlie. The big thing is water. With all of these animals and heat, water is essential. We got power to the well pump and yes, after 6 years being idle, the generator started. Gathering power cords we gradually spidered out lines: two to the big house, one to the little house, one to the well, and later, one to the electric hog fence charger. One of the big impacts of no power would be keeping animals in. It was really only the hogs I worried about as they had been the worst for testing the fence to see if it is hot. Hogs have no sense of personal space, either with each other, humans, or even objects–they often keep their noses nanometers away from the hot wire and occasionally get a shock but it doesn’t sway them from getting close again.
At any rate. 1 day stretched to 8. We lost several trees including a giant White Oak hundreds of years old.
A friend of mine and I just kept on haying. As the temperatures hit the high 90′s we kept cutting, raking, and baling. We could cut in the morning and bale in the evening. If we left the hay two days it scorched. It was hard to imagine whether there was power or not as we were always working in the fields or under the mechanic’s tree repairing.
They say the south and tropics were civilized because of air conditioning. I’d like to back that up a bit. I think fans were the real change in technology that allowed hot areas to be inhabited. Haying in the fields wasn’t so bad because even in sun there is always a slight breeze from tractor movement. It would be when we stopped that we really suffered from the heat. Inside it was moving from fan to fan. The fans made life tolerable when not working. Fans use very little electricity.
On a farm there is no going to town or moving in with a friend. Someone has to be there to deal with animals and their needs. Yet, since my life has so little routine in it already, the need to adapt did not rattle me so much–I was already busy. We were also prepared and capable. As such I felt like I was on some primitive vacation where we weren’t allowed to have hair dryers, hot showers, and cooking stoves and yet it had its own style to it. It’s own peacefulness. We were working hard and being challenged but never in any great danger or over our heads. We barbecued and took rides down the creek on inner tubes.
I felt extremely lucky and a bit guilty for not suffering more as others were. It’s true I didn’t write for over a week and I did things differently but I did not experience “the atheist in a foxhole” moment where I feel cursed by nature, desirous of godly rescue, and sufficiently psychologically helpless that I needed the comfort of a supernatural care giver. We did drink a lot of beer. We also sweated a lot. I paid little attention to it. A kind of oblivious toughing it but not a blindness that would yield heat stroke. This is the real root of positive thinking benefits. The ability to overcome adversity by thinking. I didn’t need to think positively: oh, we’ll be alright–what crap is that? Rather it is, “I don’t have enough power cords, I can’t find any more, anywhere but I bet if I keep looking I’ll find one; I know I miss things so I don’t want to stop trying.” “It’s hot but I can jump in the creek at the end of the field.” Positive thinking would be better called creative thinking because the goal is not to accept the crap going on with a happy attitude but rather to expand the mind to find solutions present but not yet discovered.
I did have to laugh at folks who praised god of sparing them but did not curse him for harming others. It’s always the same bullshit. Thank you for sparing me and it’s god’s good will that we had the crisis in the first place. No matter what, god is kind. Truly I will never understand this delusion. It makes me feel more isolated and studies show that’s why atheists are sometimes more stressed than the religious. While we gain comfort in reason, we still stress for not being considered acceptable to a larger group called our neighbors.
Finally, at 3:00 in the morning, 8 days later, power came back on and air conditioning soon cooled the bedroom. Today I need to put the generators away, stack the gas cans, clean up, and return a thousand feet of extension cords that somehow “miraculously” appeared when I went looking for them–oh, wait, humans are bad with numbers and sizes, and I just wasn’t aware how many extension cords are used on this farm.
Jim Newman, bright and well