No Juice


Times Without Power

By Jeff Salter

Though some of us are remarkably resourceful, most of us Americans have become so dependent upon power – particularly electricity – that we hardly know what to do when it goes out for any length of time. But it wasn’t always that way.

When I was growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s, our lives didn’t revolve around electricity nearly as much as it does now. Except for our television and my mom’s radio, nothing else in our house used electricity except the ceiling lights. So, if it was fair weather and daytime, we were probably playing outside anyhow. And during the day while indoors – unless there was a dark storm – we probably didn’t even have the room lights on. All this is to say, if the power had gone out on our block during daylight hours, we might not have even noticed! Fact is, I don’t remember our house ever losing power when I was a kid.


Stuck in Death Valley Desert

In about 1963, on a trip out west, our VW bus died as we drove through an intense sandstorm in the Greater Mojave Desert, southwest of Death Valley. We finally flagged down a trucker, who had room for my mom, little sister, and cousin Deana — and drove them into the next little town of Trona CA so my mom could call AAA. But Dad and I stayed with our vehicle. Needless to say, there was no power in the middle of Death Valley. But the storm eventually stopped, the sand finally settled, and we had a few hours of daylight left. The desert was actually rather peaceful — in that desolate sense of seeming a million miles from nowhere. There was some food in the cooler chest and I had a canteen with water. When night came, our single flashlight was already dimming so we kept it off… saving it for when the next vehicle came by. After some hours – seemed like the middle of the night – the AAA truck rolled up, set about to get our VW running again, and (I believe) followed us into Trona. There weren’t any cell phones back then so we drove to the town’s little hospital and my dad set about trying to call places like the police station and wherever else he and Mom may have guessed could be alternative points of contact in that little berg. During our long wait at the hospital, one of the sweet nurses gave me a sandwich and something to drink. I’ll always remember her act of kindness. Eventually (somehow) Dad reached Mom – or Mom reached Dad – and we all hooked back up. Funny thing is, I don’t recall where we slept that night… or if the night was over by the time we finally reunited.


As a young teen, I had a small group of friends who often had campouts, the earliest of which were in tree houses on the property of David Dwight, who lived on a large piece of land with river frontage. When it got dark, all we had for light was perhaps a small campfire and later a few flashlights. That’s pretty well powered-down… and being so primitive was (of course) part of the fun.

Later on, we ventured to outlying areas, at times camping many miles away in areas accessible by boat. In those cases, we were even more primitive, using tents and lean-tos. No power out there except fires and flashlights. In the most memorable of those remote campouts, we’d had no group menu planning and four of the boys each brought only a large bag of Cheetos to share.

Modern Times

But the actual focus this week is how we cope – in home or business – when the grid is down for whatever reason. After Hurricane Camille, in 1969, Covington and Hammond LA were not in its direct path, so we didn’t sustain any more damage than a few trees down. I’m sure we lost power at least briefly, but when I got up the next morning, I drove to my job at the daily newspaper in Hammond and got to work.

In 1975, in that same area, we had a bad storm with at least one twister which took out several trees in the neighborhood where my in-laws lived. We jumped in our VW bus and drove out there — dodging fallen trees and limbs for much of the way. My in-laws had a tree trunk on their roof and branches poking through the ceiling into the back bedrooms. We heated coffee on a Sterno camp stove and opened all the curtains for light.

Conveniences that Became Essentials

At some point, I guess around late 1970s, things like air-conditioning had transitioned from a convenience to an essential. In Jonesville LA one hot summer, the HVAC of our rental house went out and we had all the windows open. Still sweltering, we opened the front door (no screen) and the skeeters nearly carried us away. Eventually, we hung up some mosquito netting which I’d been issued from the Army National Guard armory and we survived until our landlord finally got somebody over to fix the A/C.

Fast forward about a decade or so and we reach the point at which our microwave oven and home computer had become essentials. Power goes down and we lose our ability to cook (all electric kitchen) and there’s no entertainment because both cable TV and internet are down. We had some antique kerosene hurricane lamps and plenty of candles and flashlights. We had two young children — I no longer remember how we passed the time. I don’t recall it happening often during our 26 years in northwest LA, but it certainly did occur.


When we moved to the colder clime of KY and were planning the only house we’ve ever built, my wife insisted on a kitchen with dual fuel — no more all-electric. So when the power goes out, we still have propane to cook with on the stove top. And, knowing how much snow KY gets (compared to LA), we were equally insistent on having a propane furnace alternative to the electric heat pump HVAC system. I don’t recall any instances, here, where power was out for more than about half a day — and usually only for a couple of hours. But when it happens, it always seems to be when I’m in the middle of a writing project and I desperately need my computer and internet!

My Mom Adds Complication

Since my mom currently lives in her own cottage just down the hill from us – she’s age 93 and nearly totally deaf – when power goes out, it gets complicated. If only fending for ourselves, we could find sources of light and heat and food and just “chill” until power comes back up. But my mom tends to freak out, so one of us has to go racing over there to let her know that we know her power is out (and it’s being worked on). When power comes back up, one of us races over there to get her TV back in operation because she cannot survive without her TV. So what could otherwise be a relaxing change of pace in which I catch up on a little reading … instead becomes a bunch of running back and forth and trying to calm my elderly mom.


What do YOU do when the power goes out? Chill and cope? Or freak and frazzle?

St. Patrick’s Day

Today, folks, is also St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t know if I have any Irish blood, but I do have some Scottish and that’s in the same island group, so I throw in with the Irish and celebrate. At this time in 2012 and 2011, I had blogs which reflected my thoughts on Ireland. Here are the links, if you’ve got a few extra minutes:

[JLS # 271]






About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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16 Responses to No Juice

  1. LOL, hope and pray my Kindle is charged! If not, I do have keys to the truck and can keep it charged that way. We did live in Sevier Co (different house) during the blizzard of ’93 and lost power for one week. For a few days, we managed to cook using the kerosene heater, we had 2 fireplaces (this was a hundred year old farmhouse) the three kids camped in the livingroom. We did move to a motel on Tuesday until Friday.

    Now I am of Irish descent, my Heare line came from Ireland in 1776. My 5th great grandfather was 16, and came to America along with 2 brothers, sent by their parents to avoid conscription into the British Army. They started out in NJ, but Adam Heare married a girl of Scottish descent and they moved to Hampshire Co, WV (formally VA) in 1795. That is where my father was born and raised.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jeff7salter says:

      I’m jealous of you knowing your lineage so exactly. Of course, I also realize it comes with a lot of time and research effort. How cool for your ancestors to be part of America as its independence begins!
      Interestingly, my wife and daughter were stuck in KY during that blizzard of 93. What had been a visit over a long weekend instead involved over a full week, as (for part of that time) the public safety officials formally closed many/most highways.


  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Fun stories! I’ve never gone camping, and I’ve never been stranded on a road trip, but I’m sure that kids view them more as adventures than the adults accompanying them! The only thing Irish about me is my first name – but I did marry a Scot – so Happy St. Patty’s Day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Camping was fun (for me) when I was a lot younger. But with each new year and more aches and pains, I crave my creature comforts. I don’t see any camping in my future. My daughter and her husband have a roomy camper which we’ve joined them in a few times. It’s a lot better than sleeping on the ground, of course, but still not as comfy as my own mattress.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Joselyn says:

    Before I was married, I lived with my parents on the farm and we had a storm go through that knocked out the power for several days. We were without electricity for three days and it would have been much longer if there wasn’t a downed line sparking near us. It moved our remote residence up the priority list. Being a farm, we had a generator to run the kitchen and television as necessary and anything needed in the barn. I did use a bicycle pump every so often to keep the water in my fish tank oxygenated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      That downed power line sounds very dangerous. Glad they moved it higher on the list.
      On a farm, the animals don’t know when power’s out, so I’m sure they expect the usual feed and maintenance regardless. good thing your parents planned ahead and had the generator rigged up.


  4. I miss camping. It is so much fun to sit around the campfire and talk. Then of course you look up and see all the stars that are not visible with street lights and everything else that are on in town.

    I’m glad that you live so close to your mom that you are able to help her when the power gets knocked out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anonymous says:

    Entertaining, as always, Jeff. I love camping, and we have candles & kerosene lamps spread around the house for those times the power goes out at home. And portable chargers for our electronics, but they wouldn’t help for a long outage, and not for the tv. Also, this nifty makeshift heater:

    We lost my Mom and Dad in 2010, and they lived in Birmingham. She was blind, he couldn’t hear and had dementia, and we made a lot of trips to assist them. I know what you’re talking about. It got pretty quiet when they passed away 3 weeks apart though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Dianne. I’m glad you shared that link about the makeshift heater. I’m using a similar setup in a story I started writing sev. months ago… and people stuck upstairs during a bad flood.


  6. As everyone knows, my other was Italian but I come by the JOYCE naturally from my father’s side, so Happy St.Patrick’s Day and I hope you are all wearing some green!
    What a great memory you have in the sandstorm and the wonderful nurse.Very nice indeed. We never had A/C when I was growing up, but it has become essential.The more radiating/residual heat from all of the new buildings and pavement, plus, the lack of trees and open grassy areas, makes the heat and air quality unbearable in many palaces now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      I wore my green Wed. evening to AWANA (at church) … but forgot it today. Nearly got pinched, too.
      Yes, I wish I would have gotten that nurse’s name. Of course, I thanked her at the time, but would like to have contacted her later as well.
      Yep — A/C has become essential. I would never make it as a pioneer any more.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. jbrayweber says:

    Sorry I’m late. Was out in the country with no, gasp, internet.
    I don’t freak when the power goes out. Mostly. Unless I was in the middle of writing and had just lost words. Then I freak.

    We have a hurricane lamp and plenty of flashlights. That’s what we do when we live in the Gulf Coast. There is always, always a chance for a hurricane. Our last one was Ike. We were without power for 8 days. Not too bad considering a front came in afterwards to help keep the summer temps bearable.

    The longest I’ve been without power was a little over 2 weeks. It was after taking a direct hit from Hurricane Alicia. She’s the reason that I clean my house every time it rains. Yes, I’m OCD about it.

    Great post, Jeff. The sandstorm would be scary, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      wow — two weeks w/o power qualifies you as an official pioneer. I think I wouldda been a basket case. So what’s the connection between cleaning your house and experiencing rainfall?


      • jbrayweber says:

        My mother kept an immaculate household. But after hurricane Alicia and being without electricity for two weeks, the house—the kitchen and laundry, really—became messier than I was used to. Now, when it rains, it’s like I’m beating the clock. Getting the house clean before the electricity goes out, or something. It’s all psychological. :-p

        Liked by 1 person

      • jeff7salter says:

        that’s wild. I grew up in a messy house and I live in a messy house now. I can hardly imagine what it must be like to stay clean and orderly.

        Liked by 1 person

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