There was a time when people lived without electricity, central heat and air, refrigeration, insulated homes. The list goes on. As an author of historical fiction and nonfiction. I’ve researched much about how people lived in America in the 1800s when none of these luxuries were available.
I’m old enough to remember visiting kin who lived in the Ozarks before electricity came to the wilderness in 1948-9. No running water or indoor toilets, no lights, a wood stove that burned down to coals at night leaving the house so cold the water in the water bucket froze. Those were just a few of the hardships that we in the city didn’t have to endure.
Life then was tough. I once asked my mother, who was raised under such circumstances, how they dealt with such hardships, and she smiled. “It was the way we all lived. We didn’t know any other way, so we didn’t think much of it.”
Oh, yes, we’ve all heard the tales from our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and we only half-listened, thinking, yes, but we don’t have to live that way anymore. And then Mother Nature comes along, as she did a week ago and throws millions of people into the “dark ages.” Not literally, of course, but they must feel that way.
And in the process she tears down all they’ve worked all their lives for. We who aren’t affected can’t even imagine how the victims of Sandy must be feeling. Unlike our ancestors, they have nothing to take the place of what they’ve lost.
Grandma and Grandpa had a water well and a bucket on a rope; they had an outhouse and a wood heating stove. Grandma could cook on her wood cook stove and grandpa carried his kerosene lantern to the barn to light his way in the dark. Kerosene lamps lit the house. With a dim and flickering light, that’s for sure, but light nevertheless.
Hearing a report that a woman had used her gas oven to heat her apartment over the weekend was frightening. Her expectations that someone should be there to help everyone in her position is understandable. I’m not an expert, so I can only write what I think, and having never been involved in such a terrible tragedy, even my thoughts are limited. But there probably aren’t enough people working in the recovery to help everyone whose lives have been all but destroyed.
Here in the Ozarks we’ve had ice storms that knocked out our electricity for a week or longer when all we had to heat or cook or light was powered by electricity, but that’s just a tiny taste of what Sandy’s victims are enduring. We live in the country and have full pantries, a small propane powered two-burner cooker, a propane powered lamp that fills our room with light, and last year we bought a small generator that will run the refrigeration, freezer, the fan on our propane heating system, and our lights and computers.
This is because we’ve been in several situations where one was needed, and from the looks of weather changes, we could need it frequently. I’m not foolish enough to think everyone in the world is able to prepare themselves for such a storm. Such preparation would do little good if everything we own was destroyed. And after the fact doesn’t do much good anyway.
My heart goes out to the folks on the Eastern Seaboard, but the only way I can help is donate money to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. I guess that’s the least any of us can do.