One dark night

Susan Manzke
Bob Manzke tries to navigate through Wisconsin via map and GPS.

I opened my eyes to blackness. Automatically, I looked toward our bedroom clock, but couldn’t see it. Sunny, our dog was panting beside the bed — I couldn’t see him either. Even he knew something odd had happened.

Bob continued to sleep without a clue. I crept out of bed trying not to disturb my husband. Obviously our electricity was out, but what about the neighbors. If I could see their yard light that meant something was wrong with our house electricity and not the rest of the world.

Quietly I eased around the bed and headed to look out the bathroom window. It was a long walk across the house, but only long because it was so dark. Our night lights were off so there was nothing to show me the way except instinct.  

The window showed no sign of light from the neighbors. Something obviously had caused an area blackout. I headed back to the bedroom. Halfway there I lost my way. It felt odd knowing I could fall over a black dog or a black cat at any moment. Also the opening to the stairs was very close. The only thing to do was to hug the far wall and feel my way back.

I tried finding the flashlight Bob keeps at his bedside table. No luck with that so I woke him for help. The outage had to be reported and I needed the light to get downstairs to the phone.

Bob was groggy, but he handed me the light. Before he switched it on he reminded me to cover my eyes. This was a good suggestion because the LED brightness would only blind me again.

Sunny kept right next to me. I shone the light so he could see to go downstairs and then I made sure to lock the door so he wouldn’t wander upstairs again — no way did I want him, or me falling.

The WE Energies automated phone service took my report and said it would notify us when electricity returned. The sun was brightening the sky when the lights came on. It seemed about 3,500 users had lost power. A tree had interfered with an electric line.

I had to reset the clock. We were heading off to visit friends that morning and we had an early start for our drive.

A young horse on the Otto farm.

That’s when I realized we were visiting Amish friends who had no electricity. The Otto Family wouldn’t know if there had been an electrical outage in their area or not. They were used to very dark nights without nightlights.

Our drive to their farm would take about two hours, well it should have. The old GPS I had directing us didn’t recognize a road closure. We were about 15 miles away from the farm when we had to take a detour, which was taking us off our route while the GPS kept trying to send us onto the closed county road — we were so frustrated we took out the Wisconsin Atlas we carry with us in the car.

Our side trip didn’t add much to our drive. Somehow I navigated onto another county road that took us to our destination.

While we were visiting, snapping beans, and catching up on family news, I asked, “Is it pitch dark on your farm at night?”

“Oh no,” said Dora. “The neighbor’s yard light sends some light our way.” (A non-Amish farm is right across the street.)

Our lives are in two different worlds, yet we remain friends. As always, it was great fun visiting their farm, but also good to return to our home at the end of the day.

We took a different route home and guess what, another detour took us by surprise. This time we were prepared. Our GPS was in Bob’s hands, but so was the map. And after a few wrong turns we navigated home. 

FYI: Reminder to send a summer Christmas/holiday greeting to us (enclosing a loose postage stamp for a return greeting). You’ll then be entered in my new book give-away. The winner will receive a copy of The Growing Years 1988-1989 — drawing is the end of August.

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;