Sunday, September 4, 2011

Emergency at The Watering Hole

Monday, 29 August  2011 

The following is a short story(written in stages) based on a pub easily found in every one's imagination.  All characters and the places are in the imagination as well...

It was a normal Monday down at The Watering Hole, a place I tend to frequent more than I'd care to admit.  It's not a busy place,  all the patrons know each other, which makes for a cozy atmosphere, one very conducive to serious beer drinking. The bar moves at a much slower pace than it did 25 years ago when, on certain nights, when the moon was right, the crowds were so thick you couldn't stand sideways for fear of elbowing someone in the stomach, or the ear hole depending on their stature. But today there is no rush, as everything has changed to laid back.  Just an honest happy hour, where a man can wrangle up a cold draft for a buck and a sandwich still comes in a basket.   Surround the sandwich with a large handful of chips, topped off with a crisp pickle for good measure...  And all this for less than one Abe Lincoln.

The bar was a family hand-me-down, and over the last fifty years it had changed owners among family members several times before ending up in the hands of a young lovely named Audrey Apple.  Ms. Apple, had been lucky enough to be included in her grandmother's will, which bequeathed to her plenty of bar, just not plenty of money. Since Audreys' taking over five years ago, The Watering Hole had managed to stay afloat both literally as well as financially, surviving attacks from mother nature that included two floods, numerous tropical storms and even two full blown hurricanes.  Like Hitler's one thousand year reich, The Watering Hole was destined to survive the test of time and then some...

Every great character has a great sidekick and Audrey was no exception.  Rick Slade had been Audrey's 'partner in crime' since they were both in the eighth grade.  Some said their relationship went further than friendship.  They just seemed more 'touchy feely' than friends normally are.   So any time Audrey found herself in need of support or assistance, Rick was always there to make sure her needs were satisfied.  Friend, confidant and body guard, Rick wore many hats! 

Waterston, South Carolina, the setting for this story, is located on the South Carolina shore between Myrtle Beach and Charleston.  It is a sleepy, off the beaten path sort of town, that in order to get there, you have to be going there.  Waterston had that small town  flavor that one would expect to see in an old 1960's Walt Disney movie with white picket fences, beautifully landscaped lawns and clean white sidewalks with all the trimmings.  Scott Paper Company, employed over  half the town's residents, and the fishing industry, which most of Waterston had been influenced by, in one way or another, took care of the rest.  As the older towns folks liked to say, 'If the fish are running, so is Waterston'.  

Historically, The Civil War came calling in 1864 making a brief stop  near Waterston.  "The Battle of Three Forks", which started with such promise, quickly faded to a skirmish, and by mid morning a truce was declared, giving both sides just enough time to make it home for lunch.  Tailgaters, who were there to observe and watch a good battle, loaded up their wagons and left very disappointed. After that, most events with any significance(except The Barnum & Bailey Circus), seemed to slip by Waterston, on there way south to Charleston or north to Myrtle Beach.

The normal day at The Watering Hole began like so many others do...  It was on Monday afternoon when The Weather Channel first started running reports about a small tropical disturbance in the south Caribbean Sea.  The report hardly turned a head since this storm was thousands of miles away, and even if it were closer, storms in the Caribbean and the North Atlantic had plenty of time to change their direction, or in some cases peter out entirely.  Besides weather forecasters made plenty of mistakes anyway, that's why they should change it from 'chance of rain' to 'chance of getting it right'. That would certainly mean more to me.

The storm continued to blow and gain strength as it fed off the warm water typically found in the Caribbean.  To this point, it had chosen to stay offshore, missing the major land masses full of natives and tourists, which obviously, had the most to lose in the event of a direct hit.  It was tracking in a WNW direction, and with its winds approaching fifty miles per hour, by late Monday night  this storm had officially been named TS Cathy.

Tuesday, 30 August  2011

Cathy continued to intensify, and by Tuesday morning, had sustained winds reaching seventy miles per hour, ground speed up to thirty mph and landfall expected in less than a week, where wind speed was forecast to reach one hundred and twenty mph.  No small blow, not even for a town known for stormy weather like Waterston.


In Waterston, events in the North Atlantic were beginning to gain attention, as the town folks began to seriously consider their options. Storms were nothing new to Waterston, as I matter of fact, they were quite the norm.  The roster read like a who's who among hurricanes in the last half century from Bob in '42, Gladys in '51 to Fredrick in '64, and Cindy in '78.  Yes, Waterston, South Carolina had seen its share of storms, but the storm everyone remembers came knocking in the fall of  '56...

Hurricane Donna was not only the most powerful hurricane to strike Waterston, Donna was one of the strongest storms to ever hit the continental United States.  On September 1,  1956,  Donna slammed into the South Carolina Coast with winds exceeding one hundred fifty miles per hour. In it's wake it left a path of destruction miles wide, a death toll in the hundreds and a price tag of 600 million dollars for its trouble.  Not until Camille hit the gulf coast in the fall of 1969 had a storm been more formidable.

Meanwhile, in Waterston business at The Watering Hole was good.  Storms always did tend to bring people together, and 'hurricane parties' were responsible for as many death's during a storm as the storm surge itself.  But although the mood was jovial, there was a quiet caution associated with this storm, that was unlike any before.  So, to get the latest pulse, both Audrey and Rick met at the bar to chat with patrons, get the latest weather updates and have some beers.  It was Tuesday afternoon and Cathy's numbers were starting to get serious.     

Hurricane Cathy's numbers were becoming serious.  As of late Tuesday night her wind speed had climbed to ninety miles per hour, and with landfall expected in several days, people were on edge.  There was plenty of time to evacuate, problem was, evacuation routes ran north and south, not east and west, and this made it more difficult to move at the last minute.  Because of this, Audrey and Rick were staying put, at The Watering Hole.  There was a small  group of regulars that decided to ride the storm out as well, but this small group seemed to sense the danger that existed in struggling against mother nature.  But The Watering Hole  needed them, and it was time to stand up for this little bar and preserve the many memories that had been created there.  'Rally round the Hole', became the new battle cry. The Watering Hole needed protection and that is just what town folks aimed to provide.  There numbers increased from a few regulars, to several dozen people, all there to do whatever they could.  Besides, this was a local landmark that had been around as long as most people could remember, so Audrey and Rick just appreciated the help.

Wednesday, 31 August  2011

On Wednesday around noon, The National Weather Service declared hurricane warnings from Savannah, Georgia north to the Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.  Winds had reached one hundred ten miles per hour, and landfall was forecasted for late Friday afternoon.  The only salvation was the gulf stream, which may reposition the storm's direction, putting it on a more northerly path and cause Cathy to miss the east coast entirely. But the current path the hurricane was on had taken it out of harm's way, away from more populated areas and therefore casualties had been low.

At least the storm was waiting for the Friday to make its appearance, thus allowing people time to gather and help one another get ready for Cathy's havoc.  They needed the weekend recover both physically and mentally from the storm's assault.  But even with the growing number of helpful volunteers, Audrey and Rick felt overwhelmed by the work still needing to be done.  The windows needed to be taped, anything that wasn't bolted down needed to be moved inside(tables, chairs, umbrellas and furniture,etc.) and any openings boarded up with plywood.  But the biggest job (and the hardest) was protecting The Watering Hole from the storm surge.  The bar was lucky, sitting several hundred feet above sea level, helped to avoid some of the surge naturally and sand bags would do the rest.  The Watering Hole would be well protected.  Just bring on the sand!         

Finding sand would certainly not be an issue, but getting it to the bar quickly might pose a problem. They needed trucks, and the two things Waterston had an abundance of was pickup trucks and good ole boys.  Matter of fact, Waterston may have more pickup trucks, per capita, than any town in the entire state!  Subsequently, when good ole boys get together (a twelve pack in tow), things just seemed to get done. 

Cathy was bearing down on the east coast like a predator stalks it's prey.  Churning and feeding off itself, lapping up the warm water in the North Atlantic, the storm seemed to have a mind of its own.   It was a little over a day from landfall, and Cathy showed no sign of slowing down or changing course.  It appeared destined to strike between Georgia and North Carolina with a vengeance. 

Thursday, 1 September   2011

The good ole boy network reached out for for help, and help soon help arrived.  Sixteen more pickups, and close to fifty more abled bodies showed up to work.  Building walls of sand was a priority, and by Thursday afternoon, close to one hundred people were helping, or had helped, build these walls, board up windows and doors and help fortify the bar's defensive posture.  Audrey and Rick were both running on sheer adrenaline, but they had no time to spare.  They were both exhausted, but they had things the way needed them and the bar seemed well protected.  Though some people had returned home, many of the folks that had worked so hard on Audrey's property stayed behind to gauge the effectiveness of their handy work.  They would roll the dice and 'ride the storm out' hoping for the best, but expecting the worse.

Friday, 2 September  2011

The Weather Channel referred to it as the 'calm before the storm' when it began it's coverage of Hurricane Cathy early Friday morning, and although landfall was forecast for later that evening, there was little hint of things to come.  By noon on Friday, the rain had started, the winds had picked up significantly and the dark clouds had started to gather.  The regulars had also started to gather as well, and business was brisk at the Watering Hole.

Mother nature plays it's hand...

You know, just when you think you've got something figured out, the game changes, and that's exactly what happened.  The storm had found itself tangled up in the gulf stream that miraculously changed it path.  Just ninety miles out, mother nature had redirected this storm, complements of unforeseen high pressure system nudging it in a slightly more northern trek, taking Waterston completely out of Cathy's sites and redirecting its fury further up the Atlantic seaboard, and although Waterston had to deal with some bad weather, it had escaped the worst of it, as Cathy skirted the Outer Banks of North Carolina, up the east coast, finally making landfall near Nantucket Island, but by then the storm been down graded right off the scale.

These things happen.  This was not the first time nor would it be the last time Mother Nature would have the final say in Waterson's normally balmy climate. 

As you might imagine, the folks of Waterston were delighted, and although there was cleanup work to be done, it was much less than the town folks had anticipated.  The Scott Paper Company ramped back up to three shifts starting the following Sunday night and the trawlers went back to sea looking for that big catch that usually follow big storms such as Cathy.

Good Ol Boys
Whatever happened to The Watering Hole?  Well it is still there.  Management has changed and although it has remained in the same family, few things have changed.  While regulars have come and gone, and mother nature continues to deal storms from time, the bar still remains one of the focal points of this small southern town, good ol boys and all.


Anonymous said...

hurry up and write so more I want to know what happens.....

Anonymous said...

okay more please, getting excited to see what developes at the watering hole.

Anonymous said...

Perfect pan size we encourage you take them back to your hotel and have them prepared.

Depending on how you're going to want to do your fishing you'll want to find a boat to
rent for Michigan fishing. Most of the fishable water in the upper river is boulder runs in deep canyons and it is scenic.

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