Of Derechos, Cowboys and Heros

Derecho has the ring of a cowboy in an old spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood. This Derecho rode into Virginia on June 29 under cover of darkness and, like all cinematic villains, it was intent on mischief. Tough old Mt. San Angelo trees that had weathered thousands of challenges from storms before, finally lost to the galeslinging Derecho, holding their ground even as they fell.

No flinty-eyed Clint came to our rescue, but there was no shortage of heroes. Our Resident Fellows Barbara Bernstein and David Garratt worked through the storm Friday night then began again at 5:30 am Saturday morning. The driveway of Facilities Manager Mike Patterson was blocked by debris, so David went to pick him up. While David and Mike were clearing paths and cleaning up the Mt. San Angelo grounds, Barbara moved to the kitchen and started cooking. The three of them performed these and other storm related tasks for fifteen hour days all weekend long.

On Sunday, Michael Dowell (director of operations and finance) brought his truck and chain to pull away large branches and trunks blocking the Mt. San Angelo roads.

By Tuesday, most of the staff was here, hauling and raking in tropical three-digit heat.

On Thursday—day six—there is still no power but the clean up presses on. Chef Sarah Lanzman, Jenny and the crew continue to swelter away in the kitchen, preparing three meals a day for the stalwart Fellows who persevere in pursuing their work, despite conditions that are a far cry from the usual residency at Mt. San Angelo.

With persistence, humor and generosity, the incredible VCCA community is running the remnants of the villainous Derecho out of town. Just like the old westerns.

The photos below were taken on Thursday, July 6, 2012.
For scale: that's Craig leaning on the trunk of the old poplar. That is not a tree trunk behind him—it is one of the branches torn off the poplar by the derecho.
Craig Pleasants has his hand on one of the poplar's felled limbs, which is over 3'. The trunk of the tree is in the foreground and measures over 5' from side to side. The old poplar may survive a few years, but is expected to die from the trauma. If you don't recognize Craig, it's because he hasn't shaved since the derecho—they don't have power at home, either!
Craig Pleasants and Mike Patterson hauling branches out of the boxwoods.
It took some cajoling to get hard-working Mike Patterson to stand still long enough for this photo.
Facilities Manager Mike Patterson directing Sheila Pleasants and Carol O'Brien (director of annual and planned giving) on the next clean up project. We're pretty sure Sheila is solar powered by that shiny silver hat, and Mike is lowering the temperature—at least psychologically—with a Santa t-shirt.
Sheila Pleasants and Development Assistant Kimberley Stiffler return from hauling branches.
Dana Jones (associate director of admissions & assistant to artists' services) hauls branches with Nancy McAndrew (international programs coordinator)
Almost done in this section! Sheila Pleasants, Carol O'Brien and Barbara Bernstein raking the last of the leaves and branches behind the facilities building.
When the temperature is hovering at 100 degrees, water breaks are essential. Resident Artist Barbara Bernstein and Kimberley Stiffler pause for a much-needed hydration.
And a bit of normalcy: Fella and friends grazing contentedly in the sunshine.
This mockingbird ran across the rim of "Persephone's Renewal" like a miniature road runner. The working fountain sculpture is the creation of Ivy Parsons.

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