*The Texas storm that just occurred compromised the power of over 4 million homes. The current death toll of the storm and its effects is 80 people, though this number will likely only go up in coming weeks and months. At the end of this article, we have included resources where you can help those who are affected by the storm.
Always trying to “one up”
We’ve all been there more than once. The company’s “topper” walks into the break room and sees you rummaging through the first aid supplies and asks, “What’s up?”
“I’ve got a splinter.”
“A splinter? That’s nothing! Last week I had quintuple pneumonia and they had to remove all my internal organs.”
You’re thinking, “apparently the brain was the first one removed.”
It seems there is always someone around who is determined to outdo anything and everything, that has a personal story of tragedy or triumph that is light years better or worse that “tops” whatever the triggering situation is.
To some extent, I suspect that we are all guilty of this at times, particularly that our own suffering is much worse than someone else’s. Maybe it’s a result of our natural competitiveness, just a propensity to boast of our accomplishments. And surviving a dire situation is something that may naturally lead us to asserting our superiority. So much for my dime store psychology.
Survival was priority
In my personal circumstance, I’m just coming off one of those “surviving a dire situation” occurrences. The Texas storm that T-boned the state was past the inconvenience stage. I had no power, no heat, no light, no water, no phone, no internet, no communications in or out for a number of days. It got down to 3ºF outside and 34ºF inside. The wind chill hit -24ºF. I made it through mostly by staying bundled up under everything I could think of to pile atop the bed and tunneling my way under the blanket/comforter mountain.
I stayed warm enough to survive, but even I can’t sleep 22 hours a day. That left a lot of time to shiver in the dark and think. One obvious thought was just how bad it was going to get and would I in fact survive? I was cut off from all outside information, but I knew that there were going to be people that would die from the storm. The last figure I saw was I believe that 60 in Texas did in fact die. I was concerned whether my truck would make it- did I have sufficient antifreeze for 3ºF? If the inside temperature dropped below freezing, would my clothes washer, dishwasher, refrigerator icemaker, and all the interior plumbing survive?
The power is back on
But – here I now sit back as the same desk and computers as before. The power is on and I’ve got heat and light again. It never got to freezing inside, so my appliances and pipes are fine, and other than needing the battery charged, my truck is again running and healthy. I’ve got water again although we are still in a boil water stage for the rest of the week.
It was a scary time for me and many other people, but it wasn’t the first time I’d thought that “my number might be up.” I survived before, so I figured I’d likely survive again. But there was still that self-pity “woe is me” lurking there in the cold and darkness.
Someone had it worse than me
And then I encountered a “topper” – a REAL topper that had it much, much worse than me.
My little friend in the picture above comes by my apartment most evenings a couple of hours after sunset, making the rounds of her five to six acre range, (about 3 square city blocks for you non-rural types), looking for dinner. Last summer and early fall, she had a pair of pups trailing her, but they have likely moved out and taken up with other coyotes in the area closer to the creek adjacent to the golf course.
Her world is mostly the brush stretching between and along the 12th through 16th holes on the adjacent golf course. I’m fairly certain that she is the only one inhabiting her range. I’d guess she is 3 or 4 years old as I’d lived here for a while before she first appeared. The pups may likely have been her first.
An unknowable fate
We had snow in January but it didn’t last long and the temperatures weren’t as extreme. The previous snows before then in our area would have been years before she was born. Now she was faced with unknowable cold, unknowable bleakness, and an unknowable fate. I took the photo about noon – the relative warmest time even though the temperature was barely into the teens. I’m sure hunger had forced her out into the daylight.
The photo doesn’t do justice to the despair of her body language as she wove her way slowly across the ice and snow, walking slowly, stopping often to scan hopelessly in every direction. In hindsight, I should have been shooting video. She kept looking around in desperate despair at the forbidding landscape, looking for anything moving that might provide a meal.
Her normal hunting techniques were tossed aside, she just kept staring and staring in total incomprehension at the totally strange surroundings. She didn’t have my experience that the snow and ice would stop, that the temperature would again rise and everything would melt, that her dining bounty of rats and mice would again be available.
To her, she was staring at the end of the world.
With no power, the elevators were out and there was an inch of ice covering the rarely used stair treads. I’d have been risking a broken neck, but if I’d have had anything at all to feed her, I’d have made the attempt. Instead, I was forced to retreat from the cold and wind after taking a few photos – leaving her to her fate.
The end of the world
Her plight brought back some memories, very painful and tragic memories of times that others have been “staring at the end of the world” and found a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” I’ve been there as a survivor after people I cared for dearly took their own lives – when despair and hopelessness became too much for them to bear. I’m sure a thought of suicide would be as alien as the ice and snow to my coyote friend, but that was the feeling of total desperation I imagined for her.
Afterwards, you wonder and asks yourself a thousand million times, “Could I have helped them?” “Could I have made a difference?” and most of all, “Could I have prevented it?”
No one ever said life was easy. Some days are good, some are OK, some are horrendous. We’ve all got to do what we can to survive – and to help others to survive. You never know what will make the difference, but when you see the signs of the distress, you need to make the effort.
Even if the effort is nothing but a can of Alpo.
PS: My coyote friend made it through the storm and was back last night earning her living by eradicating rodents.
Resources for providing disaster relief in Texas:
Austin Mutual Aid– booking hotel rooms for unhoused individuals. This organization is also accepting food, water, and toiletry donations locally.
Para Me Gente– San Antonio based mutual aid that is providing housing and other emergency supplies.
Feed the People Dallas– A mutual aid collective that is accepting cash donations and dry goods items. You can find up-to-date info on mutual aid needs on their Instagram page, or donate items from their Amazon wishlist. Residents can also volunteer locally.