The Barbed Wire Fence Is Down

It’s nine degrees in Austin. We’ve had half a foot of snow in the area, says the KXAN webpage. I haven’t looked out, so I don’t know if we’re in the area. I do know the electricity is out, so it must be our turn for the rolling blackout. And I woke before six a.m., couldn’t go back to sleep, and so got up so I could be bored here instead of in bed.

I’m not used to this. Few who’ve lived in Central Texas any length of time are.

In extra-cold weather,  my mother used to say there was nothing between us and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence. Somebody took the fence down.

When I was a child and the electricity failed, we used kerosene lamps. But we don’t have those, and our lease probably prohibits them, although not specifically. It prohibits candles, but I doubt anyone thinks about kerosene lamps anymore. I don’t know if you can still buy kerosene. I guess you can. I haven’t had a use for it lately.

David left a while ago ago for Home Depot (we pronounce it Dehpot), pushing a dolly (we pronounce it doily) for firewood. (Someday I’ll say those words in company where I’d rather not say them and be thought strange, but what else is new.) HD is in walking distance, if you like that kind of thing. I couldn’t dissuade him. He said firewood will be in demand so he’d better go as soon as they open (six a.m.). He didn’t mention that he never gets cold, or that’s the way it appears to me, but he’s from Illinois so this isn’t a big deal to him. I guess.

It’s a big deal to me. I worry about hypothermia and slipping on ice and breaking something and not being able to get up and a myriad of other possibilities. I suppose worrying keeps me from being bored. Writing a blog post keeps me from worrying.

After he’d been gone several minutes, he called to tell me to call HD and ask if they were open, weather conditions being what they are. I had to google for the number, and I can’t see the keyboard, so that took a while. Then I found his phone wasn’t on. He called a few minutes ago to say he might have to cut some firewood and so he’d be gone longer than planned.

I had visions of him having to buy a saw and find a tree, but the cutting would be done at HD. I still have a country mentality, for which I do not apologize. Sometimes it comes in handy. Country folk aren’t as dumb as is sometimes depicted. We just have a different concept of firewood.

David built a fire last night, our first in this apartment. Practicing, I guess, since we already all toasty. It’s working fine, if you’re sitting in the fireplace.

My father didn’t like fireplaces. He said when he was young and fireplaces were the main source of heat, there was always a dog lying right in front of the fire and everyone else froze. I can imagine my grandfather thinking that’s where the dog should sleep.

So far the cats are ignoring this one. Last night there was a fire in the courtyard outside our living room. I was about to sound an alarm when I realized David had just built one in the fireplace behind me and it was reflecting in the window. Ernest the Cat, sitting in my lap, was just as concerned as I was, about both. He backed away from the real one and ran to the bedroom. William seems unconcerned, but that’s his usual attitude.

We had a similar situation at our previous apartment. David got the fire going, the living room filled with smoke, our fire alarm went off, and Chloe the cat marched up the stairs. I met her when I was coming down. She was the only cat I’ve ever seen who could purse her lips in disgust.

We have nine hours of logs after this one burns down, plus embers. I like to think we’ll be in line for electricity by then. I thought David was  crazy to go out in the cold but smart to stock up on firewood. In Texas, you never know. As they say, if you don’t like the weather here, just wait a few minutes.

This time it’ll be more than a few minutes. According to the forecast, this will last for a while.

David and the wood have just returned. Scrap pine. Looks like boards to me. It doesn’t look like it’ll last that long, but it also doesn’t catch fire quickly. It does pop, as pine should. He read the thermostat and said the fireplace is working well–it was sixty-nine degrees in here. Not where I’m sitting, I thought. He reread and said it’s really fifty-nine. I think it’s thirty-nine. He also wonders if we’re part of the rolling black-out because it’s gone on so long (he gets up early). I’ve never been in a rolling black-out, so I wouldn’t know.

He also raised the blinds. Yes, we did get snow. A significant amount. No dead grass is sticking up through it. The local news website says six inches in “the area,” but we might not be in the area. I’m not going outside to see how much we got, and heaven forbid I should build a snowman. It’s pretty. It’s also time for it to go away.

When we were in Alaska, I bought a sweatshirt at Denali. It was summer–and amazingly comfortable to this Texan–and I thought the purchase an extravagance. When I went through my closet, tossing unnecessary clothes before last year’s move, I considered getting rid of it. How glad I am that I didn’t. I wish I had kept the huge, baggy turtleneck I gave away. The one I’m wearing is okay, but I could use more coverage. I wish I had some wool slacks. I wish my sweats weren’t in the wash. I’m wondering if I could get some flannel pajamas over the slacks I’m wearing. I wonder if I can fit into that heavy wool coat I bought in 1992. It’s sitting in the pile that needs to go to the dry cleaner after Covid lets up, but I’m willing to make allowances.

I wonder why I don’t wrap up in several of the throws David has given me, plus a couple of blankets. I wonder why I don’t get on my stationary bike and generate some heat. I wonder why I don’t retrieve the blanket that’s covering it to keep Ernest from chewing the foam rubber off the handlebars.

I wonder why I don’t take my Kindle and go back to bed. I could pull the covers over my head and read.

It’s fifty-nine in here.

It’s nine outside. I’m lucky. I hope everyone has shelter and warmth and everything else they need to make it safely through the cold.

16 thoughts on “The Barbed Wire Fence Is Down

  1. Having lived in Texas for over a decade, I can certainly empathize. There is no earthly reason for it to get that cold where you live. Good grief, get under those covers and don’t come out until the power comes back on! Great post, Kathy! 🙂


    1. You’re right–there’s no reason for this. I got under the covers, but a cat had taken over and I couldn’t get the blankets straightened out–never want to hurt his feelings by moving him–so I was still cold, but I did get a nap. Was wishing for a dog to cuddle with until I saw the dog walkers passing our window. I’ll go with self-centered cats that don’t have to go outside. Thanks for the comment and the sympathy. We’re beginning to think this is an outage, not deliberate, so my husband reported it. Fingers frosty but crossed.

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  2. I really feel for you! I remember leaving our house for the neighbor’s place when our power was off 3 days in MN and the house got down to 55. My son just texted that he thinks it’s 4-6 inches, and they have power. My granddaughter does not. (All in Austin.) But about that bobwire fence (I grew up pronouncing it that way, in N. IL, BTW), when we lived in Montana, that was literally true. We used to say there wasn’t a tree between us and the Arctic Circle. But then, cold weather there was -40. You’re having the equivalent, for Austin, though! Stay warm!


    1. Thank you for sympathizing. I think most people who know what really cold weather is are probably laughing. Four to six inches sounds right, judging from the how much of the shrubs outside our window are visible. Bobwire is the correct pronunciation. Or bobwar. Going back to bed didn’t help. I’m in front of the fire. My shins are getting warm, but I doubt anything else will. David has made another wood run. I can’t believe they don’t have firewood, like some kind of log. Walmart does. When this is over, I’m going out and buying a Yule log. I don’t know where you get them, but people in books have them, and I want to be prepared.


    1. The ban on candles is an assumption. We couldn’t have them at our old place. Smart, because if I lit one and left the room, a cat would knock it over and there would go everything. This is a good fireplace, doesn’t smoke, but I think most of the heat goes up the chimney. The dog is better.


  3. Our niece, Sheri McMahan, is living in my house in Fentress. I was up there Thursday to check antifreeze levels in my antique tractors last Thursday, and I made all the outside faucets drip enough to prevent freezing. I also had her drip the faucets inside the house beginning yesterday. Everything was fine until they lost electric power today at 3 AM. Now the water is running at a trickle with the inside faucets wide open, because the water pumps at the water company can’t run to replenish the water in the elevated tanks. Anyway, it was 4 degrees this morning, with about 6 inches of snow. I’m so glad I sold my cattle in 2018 and don’t have to worry with them anymore; I feel for those who do, but I can’t quite reach them. I’m sure I’ll have busted pipes to fix when everything thaws out.

    Have you ever heard the vulgar-sounding phrase, “Colder than the balls on a brass monkey”? According to what I’ve read, this is a perfectly legitimate saying, but it should have been, “Colder than the cannon balls on a brass monkey.” Seems that three-masted warships in the 18th and 19th centuries had a square, brass frame bolted to the deck adjacent to each cannon. The sailors would stack cannon balls on the brass monkey in pyramid fashion, and on very cold days, hence the phrase, “Colder than the balls on a brass monkey.” Now you know where the phrase originated, but I doubt you really cared to have this little bit of antiquated knowledge.

    Stay safe and warm. Later gator. cmd


    1. I’m glad your house is inhabited. Did Sheri live in our house in the late ’50s or early ’60s? I thought Alice Ann’s brother lived there briefly when we were in Del Rio, but now that I think of it, maybe that was someone else we knew. The only one I really remember was a Mr. Farr, a widower who served Dad and me coffee and cookies on a tea cart. That’s when Dad told him stop signs cause wrecks, because if you stop you can’t build up enough speed to get across the street and somebody will come along and hit you. I knew that was crazy, but Mr. Farr was polite and agreed. Dad usually didn’t stop anyway. Sometimes he didn’t have brakes. I got that into a story. I use a a lot of family stuff in fiction. It sounds like fiction. I haven’t gotten Uncle Cul’s ruler in yet. When Daddy (reluctantly) wore his gift of Bermuda shorts to town, your grandfather took out his folding rule and measured the length of leg showing. We did have an interesting family. But I’m sure Uncle Cul stopped at stop signs. In Fentress, we turned off the water and drained the pipes every time it got close to 32 degrees. Mother and went to Houston one Christmas and came home to a cracked toilet. We let the apartment faucets drip until the water disappeared entirely.

      I’ve heard that phrase but had no idea where it came from. Thank you. We were without electricity and water for six days. If anyone comes at me with a granola bar, I won’t be responsible for my actions. If Rick Perry comes at me with a granola bar, please address my correspondence to Huntsville. After the first day, I wanted the federal Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines to rescue me. Our car was towed Saturday night, but that’s another blog post. We burned 2x4s; David went down every day and bought 10 (rationed), which lasted 24 hours. We spent the week with our feet in the fireplace. I piled three blankets on me; David doesn’t seem to get that cold. I used to wish for snow, but I’m finished with that now. Enough. My neighborhood was chosen for blackout because we didn’t have enough medical facilities or fire departments. Sensible, I guess, but I was a little sorry we’d moved to a non-critical area. It’s good you don’t have cattle to deal with. One year Linda was here from California in the winter; she’d become very political and complained that all Donald was interested in was watching the weather report. I had to explain it was to see if he had to go to the farm at 10:00 p.m. to drain the tractor radiator.


  4. Hope all is okay and stays that way! My problem has been with email – NONE!! Finally got on today – just wanted to write this one before it goes again! Stay warm!!!  “Hi” to David – he’s a good guy!! Hope this will now send – Adios con mi mor – thanks corrcectly Tia Barbara  


    1. Did you have cold and no heat and all that? I was totally selfish–cold and thought only of myself and my blankets. We are okay, Thawing. I wrote you a note but then couldn’t find an envelope, so note is at home Under Something. Most everything is Under Something. My handwriting is so bad now, you probably couldnt have read it anyway, We were without Internet, TV, and phone for the whole snow thing, and had to save cell phones because they wouldn’t charge except from the computers, and the computers wouldn’t charge at all because electricity was out. An experience I would not care to repeat. The snow was beautiful but a pain, and I don’t want any more, at least that much. Just the kind where dead grass sticks through and looks horrible. David really is a good guy. I worried about him; he went to Lowe’s every day and carted back 2x4s to burn in the fireplace and carried buckets of water from the swimming pool so the toilet would flush. I was a little embarrassed about the pool water thing until he told me he met three other men there doing the same thing. Well, what else were we to do? Thanks to hiding from Covid for 11-1/2 months, we had a store of food but with the water out, we couldn’t cook or wash dishes, so we age granola bars mostly, and raw pop tarts, which are horrible. As soon as I’m sure everything is okay (we had a couple of extra temporary outages), I’m going to buy the biggest chuck roast I can find, followed by chicken and pork chops, and a Whataburger hamburger. Maybe the hamburger first. I’ve wanted one for a year. Doctor appointments are the high point of my social life. I’m sitting in the infusion room now. They’re going to make me go home in a few minutes. I really enjoy it. Recliners, computer and wi-fi, nice nurses, and no adverse reactions. I’m supposed to do this as long as I’m stable, so I hope to do it for a long time.


  5. I hope your power is back on by now! I don’t know about barbed wire, but there’s definitely the Canadian border between you and the North Pole, and from the amount of snow we have right now, it might as well be the North Pole. Take care and stay warm!


    1. Power is back on (although I don’t trust it yet; should but don’t). The amount of snow we get is nothing to what y’all get north of here–even Dallas sometimes gets real snow–but we had a cover like I’d not seen before. Didn’t mind the snow–it’s beautiful–but the lack of water and electricity for si days was little wearing. I put my head under the blanket and read my Kindle until it gave out, then read books with the flashlight. Chose the nearest book, the worst one Colin Dexter ever wrote, and he was not known for writing bad books. But it passed the time. There is only so much staring at the fireplace that one can stand.

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        1. Yes, The Secret of Annex 3. I’d read it before and not cared for it, but it was close at hand and I was cold. I think I’ve read all the other Morse mysteries and liked them very much. They’re some of my comfort reading books. I generally prefer the British mysteries.


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