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Holinger: How to survive a storm? Artists know best

The storm roared through Fox Valley around 2 a.m. Saturday. I know this because my ambient white noise machine turned deadly silent as thunder baritoned overhead and rain bucketed the windows.

I tried shutting the deluge out with earplugs, but nothing could stop the sump pump battery’s wail of distress, as impossible to ignore as our dog Chewball whining for his fourth dinner.

Grabbing a flickering flashlight left over from the ’50s, I stumbled downstairs and opened the tiny closet door to find under a gauze of spiderwebs, the battery’s control box lit up with more red lights than downtown St. Charles’ intersections.

“EEEEEEEE…,” it said.

I pushed “RESET,” expecting the battery and I would go back to sleep.

“EEEEEEEE…,” it continued.

Naturally, I pushed “RESET” again, like the battery might have thought I was just kidding the first time.

“EEEEEEEE…,” it persisted.

At this point I wished I had an advanced degree in electrical engineering, or at least had taken the time to read the manual, which I’d put in a place for safekeeping so I’d have it in time of emergencies, meaning I had a zero chance of finding it now, in an emergency.

For the next half-hour, I tried everything short of hugging the crybaby to appease it. My wife, Tia, even called the fire department, translating their Dr. Phil reality check as, “You’re at the mercy of the storm.”

I finally gave up and patted our basement’s four walls, now the sole dam protecting my 4,000 books from mold. When I finally got back to sleep, I dreamt our house went floating past Eagle Brook.

As I agonized over sump pump failure, the storm was squashing Don and Ellen Ljung’s Geneva Arts Fair tent better than a Godzilla footprint. They received the news at 8 a.m. Saturday. Arriving on the Third Street scene, Don saw the crushed tent and was ready to pack it in and go home to Mill Creek.

That’s when the rescuers stepped in.

“Everyone was wonderful,” Ellen said later in front of their sparkling new white tent walls, an ideal backdrop for their stunning glass artwork. “Especially the potters.”

“Anyone lucky enough not to have damage went around to others,” mustachioed, tattooed potter Glenn Woods said. “It was the least we could do.”

He and his business partner, Keith Herbrand, the “Pottery Boys” (, helped them buy a tent nearby, allowing “DonEllen’s” pieces ( to look good as a King Tut display by 11 a.m., only an hour after opening.

In other words, the Ljung’s competitors made it happen for them. Why can’t these personal miracles take root in Washington, D.C.? It makes a guy think that artists, not politicians, should be running the country.

I learned my lesson. Next time a storm takes out my sump pump battery, I’m calling the nearest neighbor with a pottery wheel.

• Write to Rick Holinger at

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