Friday, April 6, 2012
We ventured farther south today than we usually work, returning to help Shawny’s cousin Sara in Henryville, Sara’s daughter Jennifer, Jennifer’s husband Brian, and Jennifer and Brian’s sons Tyler and Conner. We had visited the property they all share last Sunday and promised to return today. As you read in our blog entry from that day, Sara’s house was badly hit (but not totally destroyed) by the storm and Jennifer and Brian’s house was largely untouched. The 200 acres of trees and farmland that surround them are a total mess, so we knew that our main task would be to tackle as many as possible of those trees and debris piles.
When we arrived we found another volunteer group already there. They were all high school students and staff from St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky, where Jenny teaches. They mostly took on the lower field and we concentrated on the slopes immediately off the lane that leads to both houses on the property. Our magnet men scanned the property for sheet metal in trees, found a lot of pieces and brought them down. The rest of us gathered around the humming chainsaws and got to work making burn piles.
With Chris, Justin, Scott and Josh sharing the majority of the chainsaw duties, we can really make wood fly. We used every strategy in the book, including cut-and-carry (grab the cut wood and deliver it to the burn pile individually), bucket brigades (line up and pass the wood along as it falls), front loader (put the wood in the bucket of a big tractor and drive it to the burn pile, and burn in place (establish a burn pile right where you are cutting).
Happily, Sara was not around for most of the work today, as she left for a long-planned cruise with some friends soon after our arrival this morning. Jenny was gone in the morning, as was Conner. So our main hosts were Brian and Tyler. Lucky us! Brian is HILARIOUS, with a strangely devious-looking way of doing the everyday tasks that life requires. He is always chuckling (unless he is shooting a professional level bow and arrow or lifting a several hundred pound piece of debris) and he is always warm and friendly (except maybe when he needs a stern look to reprimand Tyler for speeding in the ATV that is pulling a cart loaded with his friends from Saint X).
We made a big push on the hillside nearest Brian and Jenny’s house in the morning and a similar push on the slope by Sara’s house in the afternoon. We wrestled debris out of literal briar patches and removed severed timbers that were intertwined all over the place.
Our lunch was provided by the local relief coordinating team, who use the food that was already purchased for the now-destroyed high school and convert it to meals for relief workers and victims. Sara and her family had pre-ordered meals for their Friday team (including us) so we had some chicken noodle casserole, some peach cobbler, some granola bars and other snacks and plenty of water. We also got to taste some venison sausage that was the product of deer hunting by both Brian and Tyler.
The afternoon job was particularly ferocious, as the slope by Sara’s house leads to a creek that was mostly clogged (much like Joe’s), meaning that once we cleared our way to the water’s edge, we wanted to clear the waterway itself as well. Like all of the jobs we have done this week, we made exceptional progress but we also know that there is MUCH work still to be done.
We went out for some renowned burgers (and fried pickles!) in Madison tonight and walked a bit on (sleepy) Main Street to see what/where the action was. As it turns out, “action” was not the name of the game on this particular Friday night.
We are excited about our workday tomorrow as we are eager to see how much farther we can take the cleanup in Joe’s woods. When we all share the same unified goal, we can be a pretty formidable team. Be ready for a big progress report. We are!