It was set to freeze again. A cold front was to blow in. Something told me to cover the plants that morning when i was getting ready for work even though it wasn’t supposed to freeze until two hours after my shift. I followed my gut and took the time out of my morning routine to cover the plants and the spigot. What i didn’t do was remember to turn the light on in the well house.
It was a crazy shift at work. There were several call ins and the store was flooded with orders from people panic buying because of the impending freeze. My favorite supervisor was on duty. She looked at me and said, Lauren, your shift is over. You can go.” I didn’t understand why she’d said it. We were drowning. She couldn’t afford to lose any one of us from the floor right now. She should have asked me to stay late, but she didn’t. I thought about the rapid rate at which the weather was coming in. The temperature was dropping more quickly than predicted. It was already 32 degrees. If i left right now i could maybe turn the light on in the well house before it hit 31. I looked around. The screen kept chiming with new orders. Everything was highlighted red. All around me what few employees were present raced from here to there with the baskets trying to keep up. I went through the motions of cleaning my electronic and plugging it in. I turned to my supervisor and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” I glanced again at the board. My supervisor shook her head, “i can’t ask you to do that. You work so hard and people ask you to stay extra all the time. I cant do that to you.” In that moment i made up my mind. I unplugged my electronic and signed back in. I was staying. I told her i’d stay to help on the board. She said actually we weren’t near done filling the orders and if i was volunteering to stay she’d send me back out. She asked me to do however much i thought i could in 30 minutes. I told her i’d do a full run, knowing that would take at least an hour. The well would have to wait. I did an hour’s worth of work in 36 minutes because we needed it and because it was my favorite supervisor and for her i’d lasso down the moon if it were on the agenda. Once i came back i could see we were no more near the finish line. I asked her how many orders left. She told me and i went back out for the remainder. I returned half an hour later. When we were out of the woods my supervisor thanked me for staying and released me. She said she felt that i had been a good worker and didn’t wish to change anything about how i felt towards the job and that’s why she hadn’t asked me to stay. I told her our loyalty to her for the way she treated us was the reason we would do that for her. Then my thoughts turned to the well house and i jogged to the car to hurry up and head back to the property.
When i arrived at the house it was already 30 degrees. This was not good considering that the light in the well house did more to keep the temperature from dropping than to warm anything up. I unchained the gate and pulled the car through in the dark. I parked with the headlights shining on the well house. I flung open the door and flicked the switch to turn on the light. There was a momentary flash of light followed by a loud pop. The bulb was out. ****! I stood there and let the realization of what had just happened wash over me for a second. ****, ****, ****! The forecasted low for the night was 26 degrees. The door was now open and the tiny well house was being flooded with 30 degree air. The pump was exposed and if i didn’t get a light on in this well house right quick the water in the pvc pipes leading to the pump would freeze, the ice would expand, cracking the pipe and probably busting the seal where the pipe attached to the pump itself. I would have to turn off electricity to the pump and order repairs. I’d be without water until it could be fixed. There was only one thing to do: get a new bulb up there. The problem with that was that i’d never had to change the bulb in the well house. The sellers, apparently much taller than me, had placed the light bulb an inch below the ceiling. Now the well house was full of precariously balanced elements of the incredibly expensive water softener that removed insane amounts of sulfur from the water to render it usable. I had not yet finished paying off this incredibly expensive softener and had no intention of destroying or knocking it over. There was no room in the well house for a ladder. I looked for something i could stand upon. There was nothing. Time was ticking. This had to be handled now. Amidst a string of profanities i took the lantern to the tool shed and dragged the rat urine covered heavy duty 200 dollar ladder from the shed in the wind and freezing temperatures. I dragged it across the property until i got it back up near the house where i managed to unfold it with frozen fingers and lock it into place. I stood the ladder up next to the well house. Now i just needed a light bulb. I went into the house. I knew i had an extra heat lamp. I always kept an extra heat lamp in the house in case i had chicks and an extra one for the extra in case it burned out. I moved everything around, searching furiously for where i would have put a box of heat lamps. How could i manage to misplace something in 384 square feet? How many places could it be? It ended up being on top of the refrigerator. I grabbed a heat lamp out of the box and set out across the yard. I set the bulb on the ground and went about figuring out how i was going to get up there to unscrew the old bulb. I got the ladder as close to the well house as i could but it wasn’t close enough. The framing wasnt sturdy enough to hold the weight of the ladder and me if i laid it out in a straight line and extended the height. I finally decided that my best bet was to place two of the feet on the concrete platform inside the well house and two of the feet outside in the grass, two inches lower than the concrete floor of the well house, stand on the top step, and hold onto the door frame for balance. I did this and was just able to reach the light bulb standing on my tippy toes. The ladder teetered this way and that but i had a firm grip on the door frame and kept unscrewing until the bulb came loose in my hand. I climbed down and set the spent bulb in the grass. I quickly climbed back up the ladder with the new bulb and screwed it into the socket. I climbed back down and flipped the switch. The well house was immediately washed in a beautiful red glow. The chick lamp was working. The well house had a light. The pvc pipe would not freeze and i wouldn’t have to cut power to the pump. Once the light was on i wanted to get that door shut as quickly as possible. There’s only so much one bulb can do for a space and i didn’t need any more of the cold drafty air getting in there. I dragged the ladder away from the pump and closed the door. Mission accomplished. Light on. Now i had to break down, fold, and drag the ladder all the way back across the property in the dark to the tool shed. Once it was back amongst the rats in their urine and feces infested territory i locked the shed up and headed back to the house where i gathered the old light bulb from the grass and began parking and unloading the car. I went inside the house, had a five minute breather, then got up and did the evening chores, tended to the dogs and chickens, took a cold shower while i still could, made supper, made breakfast and lunch, slept 30 minutes, and got up to get ready for the opening shift at the store. It was just one of those nights when what i wanted to do with both worlds didn’t mesh up but i wouldn’t change any of the decisions that i made.