ES Independent Column – Bill Groblebe

My wife’s grandfather, Bill Groblebe, worked for the electric company in the early days of electricity in Eureka Springs. In those days, a power outage meant Grandpa Bill would set out on foot carrying all the tools, equipment and wire that he might need to look for the problem. He would follow the power line from Eureka Springs toward Rogers checking it out. At the same time, a lineman from Rogers would start out walking toward Eureka with the same goal. Whoever reached the outage first spliced the line and climbed the pole to put everything right. Grandpa Bill spent cold winter nights in the woods miles from town with a lantern looking for the cause of outages and restoring power.

Recently, late one night, I heard the muffled crash of a large tree falling followed by the lights blinking out. I pulled on my boots and tromped around outside in the rain with a flashlight. I found the power line resting on top of our old concrete spring house instead of being pulled taut between two electric poles. Dripping water, I returned to the house and called Carroll Electric. While I was outside, my wife had lit candles and oil lanterns. Since I didn’t expect to hear back from Carroll Electric until morning, I headed for bed.

Half an hour later, a utility truck came crawling down our little road. I jumped out of bed, pulled my boots back on and stumbled out the door. A Carroll Electric man was using a spotlight to look for downed power lines. I told the fellow the little I knew about the situation and we set out on foot. I hovered nearby at first, but then backtracked, knowing that standing ankle deep in spring water wasn’t the safest situation. The man returned to say that a sizeable white oak had brought the lines down and that he’d call his crew. The electricity was restored at approximately three in the morning. Lots of things have changed in the electric utility business over the years, but linemen are still out in the middle of the night turning on the lights.