A  WARM  HEATER
FOR  A  VERY  COLD  HOME

A WARM HEATER FOR A VERY COLD HOME

I know some of you wonder why people who work with residents of Indian reservations seem to always worry whether or not their work really gets done.  Here is a story that may shed a little light onto this subject.

This is the story of a wall-mounted propane heater.  You may have seen some of them at your local home supplies store, building materials store, or another similar location.

Day No. 1:

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On December 8th, 2009, we received a call from one of our friends on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota.  Temperatures had plummeted way below freezing and icy winds made life on the "rez" (reservation) more difficult than usual.  At this most inconvenient time, the heater in the home of our friend stopped to work and left him an his family in the dangerous cold.  He said, he had a full tank of propane but no heater to use it, and spare parts for the old heater were no longer available.  We decided to provide a replacement right away. 

Day No. 2:

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Week 2: 08 09 10 11 12 13 14
Week 3: 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Week 4: 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Following his suggestion, I called a store in Rapid City, South Dakota, that sells the kind of heater he needed to replace.  I ordered a unit on December 9th, 2009.

Rapid City lies about 90 miles NNW (northnorthwest) of the reservation.  It is the only large city in that part of South Dakota.  I checked available models on the internet and then called the store to order one for immediate pick-up.  I decided to order a unit with greater than necessary heat output to keep my friends comfy in the icy cold.  I was told the model I wanted was not in stock at the moment but an order for new stock had already been placed and should already be loaded on a truck and on its way to the store.  I asked my friend if he could manage to wait a few days, and he agreed.

Over the next two weeks, we called the store repeatedly.  I was promised my friend could pick up a stock-unit if it arrived before of the one I had specifically ordered.  Every time I called I was informed that no shipment has arrived yet. 

Continued exposure to the cold is harmful and very dangerous.  When my wife heard that the family shows signs of increased sleepiness, she was alarmed as that could be one sign of the body reacting to the continued cold.  She advised to move into warmer quarters wherever they could find them.

Not surprisingly, we received another call from our friend.  He had acquired a wood burning oven and asked if we could send a chain saw instead of the propane heater that still had not arrived.

There are trees on the reservation but woods are not abundant.  If every resident wanted to cut firewood there soon wouldn't be any trees left.

My calls to the store continued and eventually, I learned that the supplier had backordered all stock and no delivery was imminent.  I couldn't even get an estimate as to when my order might be filled.  Tired of the run-around and nonsense, I went back on the internet and ordered another but similar heater from a supplier in Florida on December 22nd. 

The store in Florida is mode than 1,000 miles away from the reservation but heaters were in stock there.  I was promised shipment would occur the same day.  I ordered a heater for immediate shipment and canceled the order with the store in Rapid City.

That very evening I saw a shipping update in my e-mailbox.  Additional updates followed as the package made its way through certain gateways between Florida and South Dakota.  I considered the matter closed at that time.  Shortly thereafter, we left for our year-end vacation in Florida and Georgia.  While we were enjoying a few summer-like days in the south, the northern plains were hit with heavy snow fall. 

Week 1: 01 02 03 04 05 06 07
Week 2: 08 09 10 11 12 13 14
Week 3: 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Week 4: 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

On January 2nd, 2010, my wife received another call.  The heater had still not arrived, and the dirt road leading to our friend's home was impassable because of the snow.  Our friend tried to find a way to meet the UPS truck driver somewhere.

Week 1: 01 02 03 04 05 06 07
Week 2: 08 09 10 11 12 13 14
Week 3: 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Week 4: 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

On January 3rd, right after our return to our home, I checked the local reservation newspaper online and learned that a reservation-wide snow emergency had been declared.  The latest shipping updated informed me that delivery had to be delayed because of the immense snow fall and resulting traffic problems.

Week 1: 01 02 03 04 05 06 07
Week 2: 08 09 10 11 12 13 14
Week 3: 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Week 4: 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

On January 4th, I received another shipping update.  The package had left Rapid City that morning.  I contacted a UPS store in Rapid City and provided our friend's phone number so that the driver could contact the recipient of the package if necessary.

That morning, my wife and I made, independently from one another, numerous phone calls to UPS and our friend's home to relay information back and forth.  Handicapped by the poor cell phone reception on the reservation, we had to involve a third party to get word to him.

Eventually, we worked things out.  The access road had been plowed but was still very icy.  Someone could leave the home and meet the driver on the main road.  The UPS driver was notified of an alternate phone number to call when he got close to the home.

To put all this into perspective, I add that I - just like most of you - could easily drive to a store and pick up a heater.  A short drive later, I would be back at home and could install the new appliance.  You can't do that on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  The closest city is 90 miles away.  It usually takes about two hours to get there by car but it can take much, much longer in the winter months.  And, when what you need is not in stock, you may have to wait until the roads are passable again before you can satisfy your needs.

In the evening, we confirmed that the heater had indeed been received.

 

Copyright 2009