Where was Moses when the lights went out?
I’ll give you a hint: It’s the same place Magdalena found themselves last week after a mondo lightning strike took out the co-op’s substation on First Street.
Answer? In the dark.
The old man’s riddle from Huckleberry Finn notwithstanding, crews got to scrambling, had a new transformer shipped in, and after two days, the lights came back on. Outages are not uncommon, especially once you get out in the county, and are usually weather-related like poles blown over or whatever, but hardly ever last more than a few hours.
Really, you got to hand it to the crews and linemen that get up close and personal with mega-voltage lines and not get fried. These are the guys who go out in any and all kinds of weather, sometimes in open country, when your electricity goes out. All told, they do better than the post office when it comes to rain, snow, sleet and hail. Not to mention gloom of night.
I was talking with David Montoya one time about all that. He’s the Safety Compliance guy at the co-op who oversees line construction and line maintenance.
According to David, it’s usually the wind that makes the lights flicker, but for out-and-out-outages, he says pigeons and squirrels are the biggest offenders, not to mention mice or other critters that manage to get into transformers or other equipment out there.
“We’ve had animals climbing the poles. Bobcats, mountain lions and bears,” David told me. “In Magdalena, we’ve got pigeons. When the lights will blink in Magdalena, that’s what it is.”
And then there are the bears. I remember some 15 years ago in Magdalena, a couple of dogs chased a little black bear up to the top of a power pole on South Main Street. One thing led to another, and it got zapped, not only frying the young Ursus but also causing a brief outage.
I don’t even think bears were in season then, but no matter.
Power outages in town are easier to track down, he says, than those that occur somewhere out there over the 12,000 square miles of hinterland the co-op covers.
I’m trying to picture all this. There are power poles and lines strung out to Fence Lake, Old Horse Springs, down to Beaverhead, over to the Santa Fe Diner and Fort Craig, up to Drippings Springs, almost to Mountainair and almost to Carrizozo north of the Valley of the Fires.
It’s crazy. Crazy good, that is.
Those linemen guys are kind of like those everyday unsung heroes, I guess.
But wait, they haven’t gone totally unsung. There was that Glen Campbell song that came out back in 1968, “Wichita Lineman.”
“Wichita Lineman” was a massive hit on Top 40 radio and won Glen Campbell a Grammy for Record of the Year, but I wonder if a song like that could come out today and be as popular. Maybe if they throw in a little bit of rapping? Don’t get me started.
May I digress? I don’t know if you knew, but last week – Saturday to be exact – was National Middle Child Day. We seem to have a need to designate every single day of the year as a national something-or-other day, and Saturday was the one for middle children, giving those of us stuck between the oldest and youngest a little recognition. A pat on the back, if you will.
You know how it works, the first-born is always the leader and the role model, while the youngest one is always considered the baby of the family and is entitled and special. This, therefore, leaves us in the middle without a definition. You know, like Jan Brady, we’re not first and not last. Just there, like a placeholder. Ho-hum.
However, one study says middle children are more artistic and creative. I don’t know the implications of that in the whole sibling rivalry construct, but there you have it.
Anyway, this middle kid is thinking of taking next week off. School is back and the weather is not as sweltering, and seems like a good time to maybe take a road trip.
It might be a fun way to spend some of my time off since I essentially have no hobbies to speak of. Nowadays, my favorite hobby is something I call “deciding.” That is, I’ll spend hours scrolling through the movie streaming sites deciding what to watch next, but before you know it, it’s already bedtime.
Whatever I decide, isn’t this the best time of year? Up and down the valley, they’re bringing in that luscious green fruit, and the chile people are starting to fire up their propane burners. Like a cartoon character sniffing the air, I would be virtually floating in the direction of the nearest chile roaster.
Time to get peeling.