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One Stormy Night

Nowhere in the Journeyman Lineman’s job specifications does it say we, as Journeymen have to do what you are about to read. I do thank god I was a Journeyman Lineman that night.

This incident occurred on a very wet and stormy night in a remote area outside of Umpqua, Oregon.

Dear Mr. Ryder and Family,

Thank you so much for the Christmas Card. It sounds like you are doing fine.

You know Arnold, I think about that night a lot. For about two years, I had nightmares about the incident. I don’t know if you know this but after we pulled you from the mud, I helped remove Rick Moons body from the entangled trees and the mud. Mr. Moon died hard that night.

He was crushed and stabbed by large trees and the branches from these same trees. I had to use a chain saw to cut the trees off of his body to pull him out.

His septic system washed out that night so we were at times waist deep in the unimaginable. I pray the survivors of Rick Moons family are doing ok in life.

What made the entire event, nightmares, and the pain of living through the thought of it all over and over is the fact we were able to get you out of that situation alive and I now hear you are enjoying life.

I remember that night. At the time I was working for the Pacific Power and Light Company. I was a Journeyman Serviceman. I was on Garden Valley Blvd. near Old Garden Valley. Other line crews were closing in a line fuse that kept on opening up. I positioned my Service Truck in an area so I could watch for the flash. It was pouring rain, cold and very dark outside.

Dispatch called me on my radio. They told me there was a house that slid into Hubbard Creek and the down power lines were preventing a rescue. The area this happened in was not in our service area. It belonged to Douglas Electric Co-Op. I was told there was too much trouble going on in their territory and they could not send a troubleman to the area. I was dispatched to see if I could help. On the way to the scene, the roads were almost washed out. Water was running across the roads with debris in the way.

When I arrived on scene, I saw fire trucks, sheriffs cars and a lot of people just standing around. They were all waiting for the power company to arrive.

There were all sorts of lights shining all over the place. The rain was falling and there was an eerie fog that hung in the area.

The road just disappeared, from all the logs, mud and large rocks. It just didn’t look real to me. It was a horrible sight. I could hear rocks sliding down the side of the hill that had just washed away.

 I could see power lines hanging down from the power pole to my left. I got out of my truck and was immediately briefed about the situation by a Sheriffs Deputy.

I was told there was a man down over the side of the bank. He is alive and he is yelling for help. He told me they were afraid of the power lines that were lying on the wet ground.

One of the deputies yelled out, ”Hey”. I could hear in the back ground a yell back in a very tired and scared voice,” Hey, hey!” I was also told they had found the dead body of a man just up from where the man was yelling for help. They told me the hill is unstable and we need to get that man out now.

I grabbed my hard hat, flashlight, a set of high voltage rubber gloves and my high voltage wire cutters out of the company service truck.

I told four firemen to follow me and stay right behind me; I was going to cut a path through the high voltage lines. We walked and hopped over downed trees, waded through foul smelling mud and water until I could reach the first downed high voltage wire. It was #2 ACSR and the voltage in the area was 12,000 volts. I put on my rubber gloves and cut the wire with my cutters.

I yelled out to the man just behind a stand of trees. He yelled back to me. I knew we were close so I moved forward. I had to cut one more set of down power lines before we could make our way to the voice.

I had one fireman stand near the opening in the wire I had just cut with a pair of bolt cutters. He held a flashlight so others could find their way with the first aid kit and the stretcher. I yelled again, “Hey!” The voice yelled back, “Hey, I’m over hear.” I had my flashlight pointed right towards the voice and this time I could see his breath since it was so cold out.

I ran over to the man and I immediately noticed he was going into hypothermia shock. He was shaking so hard, uncontrollably. His hair was full of mud and sand. I took off my raincoat and covered him. I told him, “Hang on, we will get you out of here.”

 I remember the cold, muddy man asked me in a shaky and tired voice, “Is my pants up, I don’t want any body to see me with my pants down.”

I figured the rush of water, mud, rocks and trees must have just about torn the cloths off of him. I told him, “ Your pants are up, your looking good man, and we will get you out of here soon.”

The firemen arrived about 20 seconds after I was there. We put the man on the stretcher and carried him out to the ambulance.

Then we went back to recover Rick Moons body.

It wasn’t until the next day did I realize that the man I had just rescued was the very same man that had been delivering my newspaper to my house for many years. That man was you, Arnold.

When I receive a letter from you telling me you are doing fine, it some how heals and eases the trauma I feel every time I think about that night.

Take care sir, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Robert S. Kirschenmann - Lineman

Adapted from  Forums

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