Monday, November 14, 2005
This was yesterdays task.
Slept well and awoke with only minor stiffness. We went out with termites (tree cutters) again. Yesterday our driver was Richard. He was once a teacher in South Africa during aparteid. He tought people who were under house arrest/confinement. I also met Jose', who hails from California once worked in the dot com boom but burned out on it. He works with Habitat for Humanity. Doyle operated the tractor. He's a good ole boy. He proudly displays a GW Bush sticker on his pickep and thinks he knows everything. Considering we didn't destroy two houses yesterday he may be right. He's also replaced 13 tires on his tractor since getting here. Each time it's $100 to get fixed, and he pays for it himself.
Today we were with a different crew. Ted, Ozuna and Patch are with the airforce but since their jobs don't exist at the moment they have been working with Hands On a lot. They are highly motivated. Ted is the Seargent and has a John Wayne thing going. Whenever we have to move on he shouts "Regulators! Mount up!" (Someone tell me what movie that's from)
We were rounded out with Diane, Steve, Jose' and Jake. Our first job went like clockwork. We cleared out a tree that had damaged a house. Tree removal is crucial. FEMA will not move in a trailer unless the area is fairly safe. Once it's in the trailer is hooked into city water and power. I don't know how long people will be allowed to stay in these trailers. I assume you have to have had flood insurance and are planning on rebuilding to get one. I'll check into this.
We rolled up onto our second job and I had to get a picture, since it completely blocked the house behind it. This thing was a monster.
We didn't have the tractor and our chain was short making this one bitch of a job. The tree is basically a tripod. Stable as hell and very thick. We cleared what we could and tried to pull it over but were'nt having much luck using the chain with a Ford Explorer.
Eventually Jose' and I came up with a plan. We tied the chain to the bottom of one of the legs and notched it out about half way up. This gave us more leverage and was safer for cutting. The afair was kind of like braking someones leg with a baseball bat. (Not that I've ever done such a thing.) It worked and the tree rolled over. The hardest work was cutting and hauling the sections. We had to drag the largest using the chains and th Explorer. This was one time when a big-ass, gas guzzling SUV did something that they advertise it doing in the commercials.
It took us most of the day to clear this property. We got lunch at a Salvation Army food distribution point staffed by Southern Baptists. They were friendly and very efficient. No evengelizing or hard sell. I will say now that the Red Cross and Salvation Army have a noticable presence in Biloxi. We have seen three Red Cross trucks serving meals. There are several mobile medical units here including dentists.
The one dissapointing thing I learned is that illegal immigrants are not counted towards the official body count. The real count may be three times as high as officially reported
We finished at about 4 and went back to base. The volunteers were holding a birthday party for a young girl and her family from once of the houses we've worked on. Since I've already served my time with kids so we cleaned up and joined Vlad and his wife for diner out. We drove through Keesler AFB and you would hardly know a hurricane had tried to wife it off the map. This base had narrowly avoided the last round of closings and when Katrina hot the brass seriously wondered if it should just be shuttered. The base personell worked thair asses off clearing and repairing the site and it seems they are not at risk now. Many buildings are damaged but it is up to full operational status. This base is huge and its closure would seriously damage the local economy. We saw Vlads old off base house and while it was solidly built it had succumbed to the massive storm surge that put most of this area under 20-30 of water.
The house that stood on this foundation is the one across the street now behind the red pickup.
The First Termite Crew.
Off to bed now.