• A Week of F’s: Floods, Firefighters, FFA, Friends

    by Debra DeAngelo

    Just as I was beginning to believe that the Winters Whopper Wars had redefined what it means to live down here on lovely Far West Russell Boulevard, life hit the reset button on that notion, and rather harshly.

    With all the divisiveness, ire and angst over our precious “gateway,” and whether it will be defiled by fast food, I was beginning to wonder if Winters was evolving into a town I no longer want to live in. It’s like when your jeans get too tight. It felt like I was outgrowing this town.

    The Burger King debate created a ripple effect. I was doing what I do — tell the truth as I see it. Period. My columnist’s mantra is taped to my computer monitor: “Never be afraid to be loud and unpopular — Edward Albee.” Sadly, the truth as I see it tested the bearing weight of some of my relationships. Not all of them held up.

    All these thoughts were swirling in my head on Tuesday, which is press day here at the Express, and laced with its own stress. I usually have a tension headache by about 4 p.m. every press day, amplified the last few weeks because I’ve been pulling double duty as the city reporter while waiting for the latest in a string of new hires to recover from giardia.

    Last Tuesday, everything was under control. We finished with 45 minutes to spare, and I actually had time to go home, feed my cats and get a bite to eat before heading to the city council meeting. I walked up to my front door and heard a roaring sound coming from inside. I opened the door and found water everywhere, my cats huddled wide-eyed on the top of the sofa.

    I followed the noise and found a gusher exploding from the bathroom wall There’s only one thing to do in times like this: panic. I called 911, and remembered that there’s a valve behind the toilet. I shut my eyes and fumbled through the blast of water, found the valve, turned it and then… silence. Just the sound of dripping water. There wasn’t a dry floor in the entire house, and water ran into the kitchen, down the hallway and out the garage door.

    The Winters Fire Department arrived in minutes and started vacuuming up water while I threw towels and clothing over my new indoor pond. It was my first time calling the Fire Department, and I discovered that they don’t just handle the disaster at hand. They handle wildly freaked-out panicked women too. They calmed me down enough to breathe and direct me to call my insurance company, and stayed with me until they were sure that if they left, they weren’t going to have to turn right back around and bring the ambulance for a heart attack victim at the same address.

    Winters Fire Department. Hats way off. I’m going to buy 10 pancake breakfast tickets from them.

    The Winters FFA has rescuers too. As the Express editor, I go back a long way with the FFA. There’s just something about those kids I like. Hard-working, honest, down to earth. I’d just done a presentation in their classroom the week before.

    While the renovation contractor was breaking the bad news about the extent of damage to my house, and how long repairs will take (months), I broke down. Not over the mass destruction, mind you, but cats. If you’ve ever been completely overwhelmed, maybe you experienced that one last little straw that sent you over the edge. For me, it was Angelo and Milo.

    They aren’t just little cats. They are huge, heavy rag-doll cats, who’ve never been outside and are old and spoiled. They couldn’t stay in the house, and needed a very large, strong cage. Who has large cages? The FFA.

    I called the FFA instructor (I actually know the phone number by heart), warbled my situation through tears and asked if I could borrow a cage. He said he could do better than that: The chicken project students could construct a six-foot square cage that afternoon. And they did. Two students pre-constructed the panels and assembled them in my yard in 15 minutes. My kitties weren’t happy, but they were safe. Whew.

    More hats way off to the FFA. I have a feeling the next FFA event may make the front page of the Express.

    Then there’s our local flooring company, Valley Floors. I’ve never had flooring put in by anyone else. As the reality of the floor damage started sinking in (haha, me funny), I called owners Lance and Gina (I know their phone number too), and they came right over. They had all my room measurements on file, as well as the exact type of flooring I had. I stopped by their store that afternoon and they’d already calculated the replacement costs, reassured me that everything would be fine, and then fed me lunch. Try and get that kind of service from Home Depot.

    One more shout out, to Edmund and Diane at the Abbey House Inn, the only “hotel” in town. They eased me into a room and took the sting out of this flooding ordeal. Nothing feels as good as a hot bath and a clean bed when you’ve had neither for a day or two. After staying at the inn, it occurred to me that I might actually survive all this. And just before turning in, my best friend replenished me with a burrito and beer. That really hits the spot when you realize that you were so stressed, you forgot to eat.

    Oh, one more detail – this all happened while my husband was in Spain. I had to turn elsewhere for support and guidance, and thankfully I didn’t have to turn far.

    Fire Department. FFA. Top-notch local business people. Strong friendships. Oh yeah – THAT’S what life in Winters is still all about, whether we get a Burger King or not.



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