Those Were The Days: Don’t Go Beyond Lake McClellan


A really good friend of ours, John Cantrell, a true Texan and a true Pampian, wrote us a note telling us about a trip he and his wife took. To quote him: ““The Color’s of Maine”. It was a week cruise and we went up and down the Eastern coastline ending up in Boston. It was a small ship holding only 100 passengers. Great trip but 2 months after the cruise the dang boat’s hull split open and sunk off the coast of South Carolina! Moral to the story: Pampians should never venture beyond Lake McClellan!” Now, Lake McClellan which is a small size lake located south of Pampa, about 15 miles. When we were kids it was the oasis worthy of a great afternoon of fun. Now it is a dried up hole in the ground.

Such good advice could not have come at a better time. Have I got a story for you…

Year 2008, Sunday, July 27

It was July and we were helping a friend, and our grandson, move some furniture. Some things came to our garage until our grandson could get into his apartment that next weekend and then the rest went to a storage unit not far from our house. It was an especially hot day. We are talking about Texas in mid-summer where 110 degrees is not especially news. While unloading the stuff, I noticed Gary, my knight in shining armor husband, sitting in the U-Haul out of breath. But it was so hot; all of us were at the end of our strength. About an hour after we got through with this chore and had gone back home, Gary started having some pains like he pulled a muscle in his chest. With much bantering back and forth, we decided it was best to call the doctor and just check it out (I won the argument). The doctor was our former next door neighbor before we moved to the townhouse and is a very good heart specialist. Gary told him, “We-e-el-l-l-l, it is just a pain in my left shoulder. Do you want me to come in tomorrow for you to check it?” Doc suggested that he go to ER just as a precaution and get an EKG. It ended up that Gary was having a heart attack and after all the tests, etc., he had two stints put in the “Widow Maker” vein going in his heart. Gary ended up in the hospital for about 5 days.

The doctor also said that we could not go on the cruise that we had planned...which was scheduled for the following Monday. We were supposed to go with some others in the family to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. So the evening before our canceled departure, they came by and we all went out to eat… and then they went on to Galveston to go on the cruise that coming Monday to celebrate.

The very Monday morning we were supposed to be headed out to the Caribbean, about 10:00, I left the house to run a couple of errands; when I got back around noon I walked into the kitchen which was filled with a haze and the smell of burning electrical wiring. I searched around to see where it might be coming from, to no avail. Gary got home a few minutes later and looked around and couldn’t find it. He decided we might need the fire department come out and take a look; so he called 911 and asked that someone come out to see what was going on, saying, “just send a truck out without any fanfare or sirens”. The fireman taking the call said “Mr. Griffin, you and your wife get out of the house now and we will be there.”

I was in the midst of sautéing some shrimp for our salad for lunch and told Gary I couldn’t leave the shrimp just yet. But the fireman was very insistent that we get out, no excuses. So, the burner went out and the shrimp sat in the pan while we gathered up Maggie the Dog and went out to the front yard bench to wait on our fire truck.

In about two minutes we had 7 fire trucks, 2 ambulances, 2 police cars and the fire chief in his car all coming down the middle of the street with their sirens going. All the neighbors came out to watch what was happening. What a spectacle!! The firefighters were all over our house, taking it apart piece by piece, discussing out in the street the best way to get their 60’ ladder onto our little one story townhouse, going up in the attic, up in our neighbor’s attics. And still no one could find the fire. Every now and then I would peek into the kitchen from the garage to see how they were doing…until they threatened me with arrest if I didn’t go sit down outside. In the meantime the mystery fire continued to send this haze of smoke up and about our entire house. Finally a special agent went in and that’s when they found our refrigerator was on fire underneath...the compressor was burning slowly but steadily.

Because of that strange fire, we had to buy a new refrigerator, have tile replaced, new wooden floors put in the house, new carpet, have the walls washed down with something to get the soot smell out, paint the inside of the house, have our furniture cleaned, all our paintings cleaned, the air-conditioning system cleaned...on and on. In the meantime, our grandkids and others are out having a ball on our “anniversary cruise”. If we had been on the cruise, our house would have burned down.

A month later on a Monday morning around 8:15 the movers came. They moved all of our things from the kitchen, living, and dining room to make way for the tile men to come in and start the first steps to getting us back to normal…whatever that may be; what is normal???

Probably for six weeks, we existed living out of an ice chest in the kitchen and going out to eat every meal. The wheels of repair run slowly. During this time, Gary had a reaction to one of his medicines and his lips swelled up like a banjie warrior. So we had one day of sitting in the Emergency Health Care office to get a shot for him to counteract the medication.

By the way, on August 24, friends gave us a reception for our 50th Anniversary. It was really nice, and we had more wonderful people attend than I ever expected. Two days before the reception, we were expecting our son and wife down from Pampa for the weekend. They were to arrive around 11:00 pm, so Gary and I went out to eat while waiting on them; when we got back home the house was hot…the air conditioner went out!!! Can you believe that? But, luckily, I was able to find a repairman who made evening calls and he came right out and fixed the problem.

Now, today, as I sit here reflecting over the past month and a half...…woops, someone’s at the front door…Okay, I just found out the yard man from next door cut our phone line. Hummmm. What next?

John was right; Pampons should never go beyond Lake McCellan. I just have to keep thinking God Is in Control!!!


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