Surviving for a few hours

Staff Writer
Ken Francis
When I sat down at my home computer to write this week’s column on Wednesday, I wasn’t sure what the topic would be.
Usually there’s a memory that gets me started. Sometimes it’s a current event. Quite a few of my columns have focused on TV - mostly the lack of quality programs.
But this week I had trouble deciding what to write about. I thought about writing about the winter olympics, but decided I hadn’t really seen much coverage this year. And I didn’t want to whine about the way the network focused most of their attention on figure skating and snowboarding. (I’m not a fan of either.)
Then I considered writing about a pretty decent reality program I found since signing up for satellite TV. The show is called Survivorman, about a guy who is left alone in remote places and has to survive on his own. He has to build his own shelter, start a fire, find water, food and fight the elements for seven days. 
I also considered writing about the weather. It’s been one of the coldest winters in years here in Minnesota. 
But I figured I’d written a few columns about that already, and the news was covering the weather pretty regularly.
Then my decision was made for me.
The power went out. 
I had no electricity.
It was late afternoon. 
It was about six degrees outside, with a wind chill of -15.
The wind was gusting at 30 miles per hour.
I was alone in an old farmhouse.
I became Survivorman.
My first thoughts weren’t about food or shelter. I was in a nice, secure house. My cabinets had lots of food and my freezer was pretty full.
My first thoughts were about keeping the house warm if the electricity didn’t come back on for awhile. The temperature was supposed to drop to 15 below overnight.
I already had an electric heater in the basement that I kept running constantly because the water line had frozen twice this winter. Now I had no water because my well pump needed electricity to run. And without the electric heater, I figured the line would freeze again by morning.
I could use the oven in the kitchen stove for heat because it runs on propane. But without the vent operating, I worried about carbon monoxide building up in the house.
My best bet was the wood stove I had installed about five years ago. I’d been using it a few times a week to supplement my regular furnace and cut down on fuel oil costs. Now it would be my main source of heat for however long it took to get the power back on.
But first I had to get some wood. There were two small logs left in the house, and I could burn that in less than an hour.
First I boiled some water for tea to warm myself before going outside. It wasn’t exactly the kind Survivorman made with pine needles or wild berries. It was Lipton decaffeinated green tea. But it did the trick.
Then I went to the shed to get some wood. That’s when I hit a roadblock. My neighbor who plows my property with his Bobcat had pushed the snow in a six-foot pile that blocked the route to my shed. So my first survivor activity was shoveling a path to the shed. 
It took almost 45 minutes to clear the 30-foot path. All during the time I was shoveling, the wind kept blowing snow back into the path. When I was done it looked very much like a tunnel, with the snow piled on the sides three feet or higher. In fact, it could have served as a small bobsled course (one of my favorite Olympic events).
Then I started carrying wood back to the house. After three trips, I felt there was enough wood for a few hours, so I started a fire.
I didn’t need to rub two sticks together or find some flint in the ground like Survivorman. I had newspaper for kindling and used some matches to get the fire going.
After a few minutes, the stove started warming the room, and I opened the cellar door to hopefully let some of the heat travel that way.
I still had my column to write, so I got out my battery-powered laptop to write about my survival adventure.
Before I had a chance to type one word, the electricity came back on.
I had survived!


(From left) Lexi Freund (Big Lake), Betsey Cornelius and Ben Cornelius (Nowthen), Gunner Dorweiler and Colton Dorweiler (Princeton), Ben Manning (Zimmerman), Bailey Dorweiller (Princeton) and Salene Krueger (Big Lake.) The county fair runs from July 16-19. (Photo by Ken Francis.)

Dr. Lola Sutherland is retiring from clinical practice after 33 years in the Big Lake community. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards.)

SMITTY’S AMATEUR FIDDLERS CONTEST drew 22 musicians to compete in Big Lake this year. They were accompanied by Gilmore Lee.

LEE GERHARDSON, 47, from New London, was found dead in Big Lake near the swimming beach in 10 feet of water Monday. Cause of death is unknown at this time but foul play is not suspected.

Adopt-a-Road participants volunteer for Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and work to clean roadsides that border and bisect refuge land. This spring, from April to June, approximately six individuals, three families, and seven groups, such as boy and girl scouts and 4-H groups, volunteered to clean countless miles of roads. (Submitted photo.)