Out From the Ashes…

Posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 at 9:45 pm

The Knox automobile company was founded in 1900, and had a short life building some very unique American automobiles; the company went defunct in 1914.

The photograph at left shows all that remains of an original “double porcupine” 1904 Knox, one of three known to exist. It’s owned by neighbor, friend, and craftsman extraordinaire, Alan Schmidt, owner of Horseless Carriage Restorations.

I was born in San Diego, California in 1969. Over the years I’ve noticed changes in the weather, specifically the Santa Ana winds. These winds have increased (in my opinion) over the last four decades. Unless you live in southern California, you most likely don’t understand what these winds represent. Santa Ana winds are strong and extremely dry desert winds (in layman’s terms). The RH (relative humidity) is usually below 10 percent. Temperatures vary, but most are very warm to hot (70 -110+ degrees). Being a furniture maker, I’m constantly monitoring the RH and temperature with a hygrometer; checking the moisture content of the air.

Southern California has been in the grip of a drought for what seems like an eternity.The result of this drought unfortunately is dry brush that covers millions of acres. On October 21, 2007 the above mentioned turned into a weapon of mass destruction. A taste of Judgement Day.

Where there’s smoke — there is fire!
The wind was gusting a recorded 120 mph. Ever seen horizontal fire? At night? Propane tanks, car fuel tanks, homeowner’s stores of ammunition and other garage stored flammables were exploding less than one-thousand yards away. I was scared, yet calm and focused. Thoughts flashed through my mind, I have a workshop full of tools, equipment, and valuable materials. This included my ivory Gole tables, along with customer’s expensive furniture pieces, and a 1907 Oldsmobile. My home is full of furniture I’ve made, and the items I have collected over the years (memories). Below: Tractor-trailer melted away (aluminum’s melting point is 1220 °F).

It is amazing how our atavistic hardwired survival mode kicks in, and nothing else matters but survival. Nothing. All things mentioned above (for me personally) had zero value at that moment. I only grabbed items that would insure the survival and safety of my family, friends, animals, etc.

The fire whipped through our area about 3:30 am. I’ll never forget one instance though, the worst sight and sound for me. A large stand of old eucalyptus trees, off Bandy Canyon Road, was going up in flames. If you’ve ever stood at the southeast end of Lindbergh Field were the jets power up for take off, throw in some loud cracking, and you now know what it was like to hear that burn. This was the moment I knew the schummer hit the fan for us.

From the ashes a Phoenix is born…
There is one thing to be said about fire versus any other natural disaster, it is cleansing. The old weathered fencing, the termite infested home, and old sick dying citrus grove, etc., all gone. It has taken some folks, if not more, until now to get their lives together, running smooth, and back on track. Then there are those that didn’t packed up and moved on. Of the things lost, it’s the ones that truly cannot be replaced such as family, pets, or the photographs or videos of children growing up. Almost everything else can be remade, or reacquired.

This is where I come in, well, for part of it anyway. We humans are given only so much time to walk this earth, some less, some more. So sometimes we need the assistance of others because we just can’t do it all, even though we would like to! Alan asked if I would like to build the coach for his Knox touring car. I said yes. We hashed out a deal and now I’m working to get her done. When she’s finished she’ll be good to go, and ready to bask in the sun at Pebble Beach. I’ll be posting photos of the progress, the rebirth…

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