Editor’s note: This column, which originally appeared in a slightly different form Sept. 22, 2004, in WND, is a tribute to the late, great, irreplaceable Beverly Drummond Mowbray of West Palm Beach, recently claimed by lung cancer at the age of 69. Loved, adored and admired by those who knew her, she’s an absolutely unforgettable original who will be desperately missed. She read five newspapers a day, and especially when it came to politics, she was eerily prescient.
I was worried about my friend and former boss, “Hadleigh,” an artist and retired science museum exhibits director who lives in Florida right in the heart of hurricane country. We hadn’t spoken for a while and then I realize she’s smack in the path of 2004’s Hurricane Frances. When I dial her and the line’s busy after the killer tropical storm recedes, I get a sinking feeling.
“Hadleigh” and I have been through a lot together, and I didn’t want to lose her.
Naturally I imagine various disaster scenarios … from the extreme (she’s decapitated by a fallen tree) to the poignant (her power lines are down and she’s sitting there all alone in the soggy darkness except for her three cats).
The next day, Wednesday, I call again, and she answers the phone on the first ring. What a relief! “Hadleigh’s” her usual feisty self, reciting her personal triumph of finally, desperate after several days without coffee, making a credible pot of French roast on one of those small aluminum camp stoves.
No, she hadn’t evacuated, because of her cats, plus she didn’t relish being trapped in a mass stampede on a highway to nowhere without gas, food or shelter.
Instead, the resourceful widow installed protective metal storm-shutters on her house all by herself. She had paid nearly $7,000 for them nearly a decade ago, grousing at the time she was taking money out of her beloved bull market.
Which as it turned out wasn’t a bad thing.
This was the first time she used the shutters, and they worked well. Fortunately, her concrete blockhouse withstood the storm. She even constructed a “safe room” with “a kind of A-frame” barricade she made out of a cot and a desk, in case the roof collapsed. It didn’t, and she’s delighted she and her property withstood the challenge.
Sure, uprooted trees are everywhere, and the screening around her pool’s history. The day she removed two trash-bags of leaves from her pool, she noticed hordes of tiny tadpoles swimming around, the size of a baby’s fingernail. She’s hoping they don’t grow into those poison frogs, “big as a dinner plate,” deadly to unsuspecting animals who try to lick or eat them.
Actually she dunked in the chlorinated pool several times a day during her sojourn without electricity. No lights, no air conditioning, no telephone, no refrigerator, no computer, nothing to do besides, yes, just sit around inside the clammy darkness. Scary, she admits. After warnings about the possible contamination of drinking water, she felt a lot safer using her pool than taking a shower.
Without power from Friday until Monday or Tuesday, she had to dump the contents of her refrigerator. But over the years, she had assembled something of a survival kit. Now, even though the storm’s gone, the grocery stores are still empty, waiting for deliveries.
Alone, in the dark, “Hadleigh” had plenty of time to think. Long ago, she voted for Ronald Reagan, though she’s not quite sure why any more. She admits this apologetically with an embarrassed half-laugh. What’s really on her mind, after being incommunicado in her Florida cave for nearly a week, is the forthcoming presidential election.
While I was worried about her, she’s been worrying about America. Right now she’s trying not to think about the Repug-Nican Convention because it made her queasy. “They’re such smooth liars, and they have all those amazing slogans and concepts to get you in their corner,” she observes. “When I first heard Bush say ‘The Ownership Society,’ I wanted to kiss him. Then I realized – like ‘Compassionate Conservative,’ and ‘A Uniter Not a Divider’ – it meant … nothing.”
Nevertheless, the Democrats – if they are to win – need to master this technique of speaking persuasively with one voice. …
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