As the Lights Come Back On, Rural Residents Show their Appreciation

After asking several times, Staci Sprague finally convinced the foreman she was serious: She wanted to cook dinner for him and his crew, and she wasn’t taking no for an answer.

It was the least she could do to express her gratitude at seeing the cavalry come over the hill and head their way, signaling the beginning of the end of a 10-day ordeal without power for her small, rural neighborhood on Highway 99E near Aurora.

Canby Utility had, at the request of PGE, come out to check on them shortly after the storm, but they were, in her words, “at the end of the line.”

The power for their area is sourced from Woodburn, which came back days later than Canby and Aurora, and significant damage needed to be repaired, including damaged crossbars and a power pole that had been hit by a falling tree.

“Our elderly neighbors live across the train track so we’ve been helping them with water generators and everything for the last week,” Sprague said. “They have always been the first priority to make sure they’re good because hauling water isn’t easy in your 80s.”

The crew’s appearance this past Sunday made her feel “relieved and proud,” she said.

“We were relieved to get the power back on,” Sprague said. “I’m sure everyone can relate that there are a lot of obstacles to living without power. Too many to list. And proud to see such a hard working crew taking care of us.”

The foreman refused to allow the crew come into the Spragues’ home and impose, so they warmed up the garage and served them out there.

Sprague whipped up a hot meal for 12 as fast as she could, barbecue chicken and roasted vegetables on the Traeger, rice, and a big salad with strawberries, Gorgonzola crumbles and a fresh lemon vinaigrette she’d made the day before.

“And for dessert, we all shared a box of chocolates,” she concluded.

The crew, from DJ’s Electrical Inc. in Battle Ground, Wash., and subcontracted to PGE for storm recovery work, was grateful for the hot food.

Sprague said they have been working 15-hour days, with breakfast typically being the only meal they could count on.

Other rural residents have shown their own appreciation for the hundreds of line crews still at work in their areas.

It was a “party atmosphere” on Alder Creek Lane when crews reached their road south of Canby Sunday, resident Kelly Burke said, with neighbors pitching in to provide pizza, Gatorade and “lots of goodies” for the hard-working crews.

“It was wonderful to have the crews out here, working so hard for the community,” Burke said. “Felt like a celebration!”

For the Spragues, better even than having the lights back on was making some new friends.

“I was just so proud of them, I felt like they were my kids,” she said. “I was thanking each one and telling them to be careful all at the same time.”

Sprague said she did not want to bring attention to herself, but just wanted to highlight a little kindness and humanity at the end of a challenging episode.

“It’s simple: Treat others how you would like to be treated,” she said. “I just thought, ‘What would be the best thing I could do for someone that is cold and tired?’ and then I did it.”

Photos courtesy Staci Sprague:

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