A simple man


Just listen to The Wife. Do what she says and nobody’s going to get hurt. After over 18 years of marriage, you’d think I would’ve learned that simple lesson. Hint: I am, if nothing else, a simple man.

And if there were any question as to which one of us is the more intelligent one, what happened last Monday at a little after 2 in the afternoon should remove all doubt. That’s when the full fury of Hurricane Irma hit our house and Simple Man here leaped into action.

During a fire-fighting career that spanned 28 years, I drove trucks in the worst Mother Nature could come up with: blinding rainstorms, pounding hail, snow thunderstorms and even tornados. When it comes to driving and working in bad weather, as a firefighter I’d been there and done that and never once got hurt. It was as if I wore Superman’s clothes.

So last Monday when The Wife said, “Don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go outside during a hurricane,” I simply smiled. Little did she know I was really Superman. Little did I know my Superman clothing, and my ability not to get injured, was left back at the fire department when I retired five years ago.

Just listen to The Wife and no one gets hurt. Truer words have never been spoken. When the winds hit our house, loud crashing sounds shook the floors above. But huddled in the basement, our family was safe inside -— all except for Simple Man. I had quickly donned my fire department boots along with yellow fire helmet and thought it a good idea to go outside and investigate.

Wind gusts were over 60 miles an hour, but to Simple Man, such a hazard was just part of the job. True, I no longer had all the special equipment and tools that we carried on a fire truck, but I did own a chainsaw. And a lot of damage can be done to fallen trees with a chainsaw. A quick investigation discovered three trees down in our yard with one having hit and now leaning on the front of our house.

The Wife pleaded for me to call for help. Just listen to The Wife. Do what she says and nobody will get hurt. I didn’t. But in my defense, the last thing a retired firefighter wants to do is call the fire department for help. It’s a pride thing. Misdirected, but still a pride thing.

I didn’t listen to The Wife and cranked up my chain saw. For those of you who do not know, the sound of power tools starting is like a dog whistle to guys in the neighborhood. More so when a storm is raging and it’s a chainsaw. I knew all I had to do to call for help removing the fallen tree from our house was simply to start and rev the chain saw. Simple Man may be simple, but he’s smart.

Within a minute, the World’s Best Neighbor came running through the storm. Wearing a black slicker, knee-long basketball shorts, and white high tops, he’d left his family in their basement to help out others in need. Just so happens the others was me. Neighbors across the street also heard the call for help and came trudging through the rain.

As the storm raged, I was giving direction to our neighbors about what limbs to cut and what pathway to walk in order to drag them safely to the top of the hill and eventually to a growing curbside pile.

Suddenly, a powerful gust shifted the tree off the roof and on to Simple Man here. Seems I’m not as nimble as I was during my fire department years. That, and it’s really hard to dodge a falling tree. Don’t go out into the storm, The Wife said. Listen to The Wife and no one gets hurt.

Soon the tree was removed, the roof was repaired, and all were safe once again with their families. After a hot shower and well-earned adult beverage, I gazed out the basement window to survey the backyard. The damage was more extensive and problematic than even I expected. I now need your help, Dear Reader. A decision has to be made.

The hurricane force winds that toppled over trees in the front yard also toppled over a huge oak in the back. Uprooted and tossed around as if it were a straw, the tree now perches preciously at a 45-degree angle against three others. Removal is way beyond the skills of this Simple Man. Where the oak once was firmly rooted, a large crater now resides.

The 100-year-old oak will provide firewood for years to come, but what to do with its crater? Should a small koi pond be built or the crater filled in and a hot tub place on top of it? The answer is obvious even to Simple Man.

The Wife says sitting in the middle of a pond of cold water with fish nibbling at your toes isn’t as enjoyable as reclining in a spa of warm water while sipping a glass of adult beverage.

Listen to The Wife and no one will get hurt. I didn’t during the storm, and I did. Operation to repair Simple Man’s right knee will be scheduled soon. Story to follow.

Here’s hoping you, Dear Reader, and all those emergency responders out there made it though the storm safely.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]