Pulver: Melvin E. Pulver. I’ve – I do construction for a living. Right now I’m kind of unemployed, but I’m taking odd-and-in jobs and I live in Windermere. That’s about two miles from here still in Spicewood.
KUT News: How long have you been doing construction?
Pulver: Since I was six, so what 30 – I’m 33. So, like 20 – say 20 years full time or close to it. I worked with my dad when I was a kid and I had my own business since I was like 14, so…
KUT News: You’ve had your own business?
KUT News: What is your business?
Pulver: Well, I don’t have a business no more. It was – I did remodeling and new construction. That’s when I lived in Houston and I moved up here because of a separation with a girl thing and – and my family’s here and been here ever since.
KUT News: So you said how long ago did you move to Spicewood?
Pulver: I lived where I lived when the fire came for about a year. Today would be right at a year – a little over a year and – but I lived in the Marble Falls area for – shit, I would say six or seven years now.
KUT News: So, when you moved to Spicewood, I know we talked about this a little bit, what were you doing when you first moved to Spicewood in terms of the type of work you were doing?
Pulver: I hired on with Randy Seminole, he lives across the street and I’ve – he, you know, I was kind of in between jobs and he’s like, “Mel, if you come back to work for me, I’ll pay you more money and – and I’ll pay you all your hours,” because before he didn’t and so basically I was finishing out his condo over there and he’s like – I told him, I said, “Randy, look, I can’t – you’re not paying me right. I can’t –” I was going to quit again. He goes, “No, no, instead of you paying rent where you’re trailer’s at, put your trailer out here.” So I put my trailer out there on his property and I was like, “Well, man, I’m not going to work on this property if it’s not mine for free.” So we worked out a deal where I was renting that home and then the fire hit and I had like, I don’t know, 200 hours coming over there and I’d done all that work to the property, new electric down there and – and – mine was already burning when we went to – to his end.
My trailer was on fire. I hooked on to this 16-foot – it’s just a pull trailer to haul stuff like I have outside and I hooked my truck onto it and he grabbed his dump truck and we got out of there. Well, he went out before me and when I went out, the fire was already – I went through fire. So it was kind of like, I guess, got me going and I parked my truck up by his dad’s and Lori was up there. She was like, “Don’t go down there again.” I was like, “Well, I’m going to go put the condos out. They might burn, too and all my tools are in there, too.” So that was another downfall of that.
KUT News: So we’re talking – sorry – sorry to interrupt you. We’re talking about the day of the fire.
Pulver: Yeah, this is when – I’m sorry, am I getting off track?
KUT News: No, no, no, no. That’s totally fine. I was actually going to ask you if you could start from the morning because I always find it so interesting that, you know, nobody saw this coming.
Pulver: Oh, well, we were going to go sailing and Randy’s been – all weekend – I mean, all week – we had went sailing the weekend before and he keeps saying, “We’re going sailing,” duh, duh, duh and I seen the fire way off. It was way – it was that way and it was way back there. I said, “Randy, I don’t know if we should go.” Me and Lori didn’t want to go. We couldn’t afford to go. We needed to work.
KUT News: And Lori’s your girlfriend, right?
Pulver: Yeah and – and Randy, I mean, he’s got money. He could afford to and I was like, “No,” you know, “I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Me and Randy left to get parts or went to a lumber yard or something and when we were coming back I was like, “Randy, we don’t need to go. Look, that fire’s getting closer,” and…
KUT News: So what time was that about, do you remember?
Pulver: I don’t remember. I don’t – to be honest with you and why I don’t know because it was pretty much drilled into my head, we bounced around not having places to stay for those three days for sure. I don’t even know the dates of the fire and that’s – I can tell you, it – I know it’s the beginning of August and I keep telling people it’s on a Saturday and a Sunday. I don’t think that’s right either.
KUT News: And it wasn’t August.
Pulver: I know. It wasn’t?
KUT News: No.
KUT News: It was in September.
Pulver: Maybe end of September like 30th or beginning – no the beginning of September.
KUT News: Yeah.
Pulver: I’m not good with dates anyway, but…
KUT News: So, can I ask you something, so you wake up in the morning and at that point you were living in that trailer you said, right?
KUT News: Okay so take me from the morning onwards.
Pulver: Me – Randy came by and I end up coming over to his house which is right here and the property I stayed at was just as you came on to Red Brangus and I was over here…
KUT News: I’m sorry. Can I ask you to talk in the mic?
Pulver: Oh, sorry. I’m sorry.
KUT News: It’s okay.
Pulver: I came over to his house to work and we ended up going to get parts for something, maybe one of the tractors, I’m not sure and then I kept telling him we shouldn’t go sailing and the fire was getting closer and I’m over here at his place working, right and I notice some little ashes in the air and I started looking around more because I’ve been – I was working on the tractor that’s why and when I came out, I seen those – the air was just starting to darken and so I got in the truck and I went back to the property and I told Lori, I said, “You know, you need to pack our clothes. I mean, I can’t believe you didn’t notice this,” and then she comes outside and by then that’s that much closer to where it was coming from. There’s little embers everywhere and Randy calls and he’s like, “Come over here. Hurry. Hurry.” So we both hop in the truck and rush over to his house. Well, he’s like, “Help me spray my house down,” and I told him, I said, “Man, I don’t have no insurance and my house is almost in the fire already,” and so I helped him spray his down anyway. We went over to his dad’s, which is – his dad lives at the front of the property, I live on the – and we’re sitting on the porch and I said, “Man, I need a beer,” so we started drinking and from there I went down to check on the trailer and it didn’t look like it was that close, but it was already across the gorge. There’s like a canyon. It was already across it and the back half of my trailer was on fire and I don’t know if the well had shut down or if the power had went out. I don’t know what the deal was, but there was no water, so – and I couldn’t – I didn’t have the fifth-wheel hookup in the truck or nothing, so I couldn’t hook on to it and then my boss comes down there and he’s like, “Man, get my trailer. That thing’s already burning. Fuck that.” And so I listened and did what he said and…
KUT News: Can I interrupt you?
KUT News: What was that like to see your trailer burning?
Pulver: It really sucked. We worked hard for that stuff and there wasn’t no – we didn’t have insurance. We didn’t – I don’t know. It just sucked and then Elijah, his toys burned. I don’t really like to talk about that.
KUT News: So what happened next?
Pulver: I hooked on to his trailer and pulled I up to his dad’s and then I don’t know if I was just trying to keep my mind busy or what. I went to the little condos, they’re like town homes that he – what I was working on and I tried to put out the fire there and I did. I got the fire out all the way around it and let it burn up to the building and…
KUT News: How did you get it out if there was no water?
Pulver: I stomped it out, yeah, with my – with shoes. My shoes were all burned up when we left. I mean, I could have done the same for my trailer, but it was already burning. The back half was already on fire and it was going – I mean, just so quick. I couldn’t even go in to grab nothing out of there. We didn’t have no clothes. I’m sorry.
KUT News: Don’t be.
Pulver: It just sucks. It all sucks. And then we used what money we had left to – to try to replace Elijah’s toys because his mother just passed away in November before the fire and it was just – I felt like it was too much for him to take so close together. So we used the money – what we did have and we went and bought new toys for him and – and he kind of threw a fit about having to stay at my – it’s his great grandmother, my grandmother’s because he wanted to be at home with me and Lori and I just didn’t know how to tell him and then we didn’t let him come back until, you know, the – we had the new trailer then and most of the fire stuff was cleaned up and – and now he – I’ve just been bringing him back on the weekends because I want him to finish out school in Marble Falls or Granite Shoals for the year and then he’s going to come back home.
KUT News: How old is he?
Pulver: He’s four. I don’t have no pictures with me or I’d show you a picture. I don’t think – I may have one if you want to see it.
KUT News: I would love to see it.
Pulver: I had some new ones taken. They’re on a little card, but the old ones they – everything was in the house or in the trailer. I don’t even think I have it. I may have one on my phone I can show you. I know I do. No, I don’t have it with me.
KUT News: I’d love to see that. So, can you tell me – obviously, how – how did things progress that you ended up in a wheel barrow?
Pulver: Well, I was at the – Randy’s condo and it just – I don’t know. I had got it out and Randy was – came up there and the smoke was so bad and I found this – sucks – I don’t like telling people this. I found somebody’s boxers in the condo. How they got there, I don’t know, but I had to tear them in half and use the water from the water jug so I could breathe and – because it was getting really bad. But I knew I could save it, so I was just trying to…
KUT News: Save what?
Pulver: His condo. It’s like a little duplex he was building. He calls it a condo. It was really a shit hole to be honest. I didn’t think about it until after the fire, but all my tools were in it.
KUT News: Is that why you were trying to save it?
Pulver: No, I didn’t even – never even thought about that. All I could think about was Randy telling me he didn’t have no insurance on it. So, I – I had – you know, I was just trying to put it out and I got it put out and then Randy had already kind of left me there and went back. He goes, “I can’t take it man. Don’t stay up here too long,” and he – he walked back. Well, that little meadow was kind of opened up and it was coming around us.
KUT News: Let me interrupt you for a second?
KUT News: So you said that you stomped out the fire?
Pulver: Yeah, all the way around the condo and I found some pieces of hardy plank that I had thrown down on top of where I – I stomped it out around the complete condo.
KUT News: Wow.
Pulver: And this is like 30 by 40 building – two story building.
KUT News: So were you pretty tired by then?
Pulver: Oh, I was exhausted but – and then why – why – why I grabbed his – I grabbed his compressor and his two nail guns when in the other side of the building was every tool I own and I, for some reason, was carrying them out of there and I don’t know if I was going to go back and get more tools or what, but from there, I ended up getting underneath the wheel barrow in the driveway because it was just too hot and I couldn’t get out of there. I was stuck.
KUT News: So did you – I mean, I – I guess I’m trying to understand. Did you see the wheel – wheelbarrow initially and think…
Pulver: Well, I had thrown the tools in the wheelbarrow and that’s about the time I realized that, you know, it’s too hot and then I’m pushing the wheelbarrow that had a flat tire and I was like, “Man I can’t keep doing this. I’m not going to make it out,” and I was trying to get down the driveway because I couldn’t – there was no other way out unless I could make it down the driveway and the more I went the hotter it got and I was like, man, I threw the tools out of the wheelbarrow and I flipped it over on top of myself and that’s where I stayed for, it seemed like hours, but I know it was no that long and it just – I don’t know. It started on my shoulders. I could feel it starting to burn me and not like…
KUT News: Sorry, one second. Hey, Mark. Is he still inside?
Pulver: No, he went out.
KUT News: Okay because I’m picking up the sounds of the mic.
Pulver: Oh, sorry.
KUT News: No, no, no. It’s fine. Sorry – sorry to interrupt you.
Pulver: It’s cool. And – but I could feel that it was like starting to burn me so another reason why, I don’t know, but the water jug was the other thing I grabbed with the two nail guns and the compressor. So, I reached out from under the wheelbarrow and I got it and I was using those boxers to wipe off my shoulders where it was touching me and there was no – because I – these are what I wear all the time and that got to where it wasn’t working. It was just getting – it felt like I was in an oven and it was hotter out of the wheelbarrow, but I knew that if I kept breathing the smoke that it would knock me out and I wouldn’t feel it burn me. So, that’s what I was going to do and I looked up and I seen Randy’s truck going for the entrance and I ran – I mean, he stopped and honked his horn and I don’t know if that was – because he couldn’t see me and I kind of dove on the top of his – the front of his truck to – to get him to stop. So, I mean, that’s where I ended up and that’s why I’m here today, I guess.
KUT News: So, how big was this wheelbarrow?
Pulver: A regular wheelbarrow. I mean, I had to get like fetal position, my face in the dirt, I mean, I had marks from the rocks on my face and I could still, just barely, you know, all the way around like this much and that – I mean, that really kind of sums it up. I even got out of the wheelbarrow once and I tried to run down the driveway and I made it to about where the camera was and I had to turn around and go back to the wheelbarrow and then the last time I got out, I was just going to let the smoke get me because when I ran, I could feel it making me dizzy and so I knew if I got out there and it – I knew it would knock me out. I knew the smoke would and it was starting to hurt too much to – and there was nowhere to go. It was just like being in a box you couldn’t get out of. It sucked. It’s not nothing like you see on TV or – I mean, you see these people that are – that are in a car wreck or something and there’s fire that’s even close to you, it’s not nothing like you can imagine. It’s not even something you can describe. It’s just heat all over you and you can’t breathe and you can’t – I feel – firefighters, man, I feel bad for them guys even though they got the equipment and the hardware and stuff to go on in there, there’s – it’s not – I was always scared of drowning before, but not no more. I’d rather drown than burn.
KUT News: So you said that you – you don’t remember how long you were in there for.
Pulver: No, I – long enough for them to get – Randy to make it back to the – his dad’s house and his dad and Lori – Lori got in Randy’s van with the sailboat hooked up and Randy made her leave. She said she didn’t want to or whatever and they kind of made her, which I’m glad they did and I don’t know what Randy did between then and whatever time he was driving out of the gates, so I’m thinking maybe half an hour at the longest and it was – it was the longest half hour of my life.
KUT News: And what are you thinking when you’re under a wheelbarrow feeling flames on your back? Are you scared, are you…
Pulver: I was actually – I was – I had lifted the wheelbarrow up like three times and I thought I could hear Lori yelling my name in the distance and later found out that I was hearing them, but after – she was yelling at Randy and them saying she’s not going to leave me and Randy and them telling her, you know, “You gotta go. You have to go. If he’s dead, he’s dead,” and I was yelling back at them, you know, “Don’t come in here.” I was – that was my main fear was that Lori was going to come in there and her get stuck too or even Randy coming back in there and him being stuck too. I didn’t – I – I knew that – I don’t know. In my mind, I was already dead. I just figured that’s how it was going to work out because I done tried to get down the driveway and it wasn’t happening. It wasn’t happening. We actually have, on my laptop, I can show – get you some of the pictures of the driveway and they come off of the security cameras.
KUT News: So what – so you – what – what are you thinking or feeling when you see Randy in his truck after you think you’re dead and now you see these lights or his truck or I don’t know what you saw exactly, but…
Pulver: I seen the headlights and he wasn’t like maybe 50 feet from me and the noise from the fire, I could barely, barely hear his horn when normally you’d been able to hear it clear as day, two little bitty spots that were like specks of his headlights because he’s got them automatic lights and I’m thinking, “He came back for me,” and then I see his truck kind of keep going and I had to run. I ran and jumped on the front of his truck and he goes, “I can’t breathe, man, you made it. You’re okay,” and I turned – excuse my English I said, “Turn the fuckin’ air conditioner off, dude. That’s why you can’t breathe,” because it was sucking the air in and so he turned the air off and we got in there and took off. He goes – and just as I was going to say, “Hey, where’s my cigar?” He goes, “I got your cigar. I didn’t break it. I promise.” So, I lit my cigar and realized I done sucked in too much smoke to even smoke it and I had to put it out. I felt – I don’t know. I felt worried and then I felt abandoned. I felt like Lori had left me and – and I felt like Randy – I know he was leaving me. He was going to leave me there to die and I don’t know. I felt hate and fear and happy and then, I don’t know, I call – I tried calling Lori’s phone because my cell phone had died in there. I used Randy’s charger and she’s thinking because I didn’t answer the phone that I was, you know, I was already burned and there was a message from her and she was crying. She said, “Mel, Mel…” and I don’t know. From after that, I couldn’t be mad or angry or anything anymore. I saved the message for a long time, but I’m going to erase them now. Then, I just – I don’t know. I just cried. I wanted to see my boy…
KUT News: That’s what I was going to ask. Were you thinking about Elijah?
Pulver: Elijah was already gone. I had my grandmother meet us earlier in the day to come get him and he thought that he was going to McDonald’s, which is his favorite place in the world. He calls it Happy Nuggets, but…
KUT News: Were you thinking about him while you were in that wheelbarrow?
Pulver: No, because I – I was thinking about, you know, how – how are they going to explain to him that his dad’s gone, too and I mean, I’m just glad that I’m still here, but I’ve been so little of part of his life since this stupid fire that it just sucks. I hate it. I wish I had never came to this place. I mean, I have some great friends now and stuff, but it’s just – all’s I do is work for nothing and it’s just, I don’t know, it’s just depressing when I think about it, but…
KUT News: Can you tell me what happened after you got into that truck, several days afterwards, how did you guys deal with not having a place? Where did you stay? What did you do afterwards?
Pulver: Well, my boss has a camper behind his house and – and we stayed in it for a couple of days and it started becoming an issue that, you know, I don’t know. Randy was talking about, “Well, I – I could rent this thing out for $400 a week,” and I was like, “Randy, you know, if I work all week, that’s most of my check,” so were pretty much homeless. I told him – I mean, we packed our stuff up. We were homeless. Our home burned, but his camper kind of gave us a place to stay and we didn’t have no food or no money and we were still staying in the camper when we found out about they had places set up for us to go and get food and clothes and stuff and this was like a week after the fire – after they let us back in and we’re – we didn’t – we literally for a couple days didn’t have any food and Randy and them did, but it was such a big deal for us to go eat with them that, I mean, they made us feel like trash because we didn’t have nothing anymore and Lori would cry and tell me, “We – we got to get out of here. There’s –” and my truck – I don’t know if it was because of the fire or what, but the – it – the engine was overheating, so we were having trouble with that. I finally got it fixed and I told my cousin, “Look man, my truck’s fixed. You said I could use that trailer.” And he goes, “Well, you know, I need to do this,” and he wouldn’t let me use it then. So, I went and took it anyway and we kind of got into it a little bit and I was like, “Look, if you don’t let me use your trailer, I’m going to whip your ass,” and he’s like, “Alright, you can use the trailer for a week,” and I ended up using it for like, I don’t know, two months or so, but he got it back in a lot better condition that we got it in. So, I don’t know, I felt like I wasn’t wrong there. It would have been sitting rotting if – if I wouldn’t have borrowed it.
KUT News: And you fixed it up?
Pulver: We didn’t – I mean, if I would have had the money or resources, I would have fixed it up a lot better for him because, I mean, we were that grateful for being able to use it, but I did what I could, yeah and it – when we got it, it wasn’t in livable condition really. I mean, the roof leaked all through the whole thing. The little vents on the ceilings that you open up for air were gone and, excuse me, it just – when you flushed the toilet, I mean, it – the smell it was like – it wasn’t like when someone goes and poops or whatever, it was like the gas that a septic tank lets off. Well, later I found out that – I don’t know, the p-traps – see, I’m not a plumber. I can do everything else, but I’m really not a plumber and I guess the way it’s supposed to come back through the septic and the fire had burned some of the pipes and I didn’t know this before but our – our, I guess, landlord, my boss, made the septic down there hisself and that’s something you’re not supposed to do. So, after the fire, he had just a plain vent coming out of it. Well, all of it was venting back through into the RV. So – and that’s methane gas. That can kill you by itself. But I later found out why it was that that smell – we’d have to go outside. If you’d go pee and flush the toilet, you have to go outside for like half an hour. No air, no heat, it sucked.
KUT News: Was your son living there?
Pulver: No. No, I had – my son stayed with my grandmother. I did what was – I had to do what’s best for him, you know, and I wanted him there, but it was just – I mean, there was nothing you could touch without getting black. You’re black on everything and we didn’t really have no running water yet. I had to go – I asked my boss to get me the stuff to fix the well and he’s like, “Well, you know, y’all are the only ones over there. You fix it,” and I told him, I was like, “Man it’s your well. It’s like $50 worth of parts. I’m going to fix it for free?” and never did. He never paid – even when – now his dad’s staying back on the property, they never would pay to fix it. The church donated some well parts and the stuff I needed to fix it right and I fixed it, but for a month or two, we had to carry water in there, carry food in there. We didn’t have no electricity for, I bet, a month, at least, and – but it was better than staying over here behind him. It was cool. It wasn’t so bad really, because we had a clear 55 gallon drum and the sun would kind of heat it, so if you used it to take shower, it was kind of – it was rough, but it wasn’t – I’ve been in worse conditions. Not really, but…
KUT News: So what about FEMA, what about the churches, what about the people who were giving aid?
Pulver: Well, see, then we didn’t know, you know, about all of this and then when we did, we started – we would go there and get food and they would give us water and – and then Karen, she’s a wonderful lady. She’s from the church down here in Spicewood Community Center is where I think she works. She called and she’s like, “Mel, we found – someone donated some money from Oatmeal Church,” which is a church out by Bertram and “We’re going to buy you a trailer with it so you can get out of that trailer you’re living in,” you know, because it was still like being homeless. And I told her, you know, “Karen, we can’t take that from y’all and we can’t accept that,” and she’s like, “Oh, yeah, Mel you can, too and you’re going to,” and that’s the reason I like Karen because she’s down to earth and she knows.
My Grandma got me a laptop because she seen what we were living in and she’s like, “They said it’s portable.” She didn’t know nothing about it. She said, “They said it’s portable and all that so you can just recharge it from your truck,” and I was like, “Okay, Grandma, thank you, but you shouldn’t have done this,” so we were on Craigslist and everything else looking up trailers and we found the trailer we have now and it’s – it’s not – like I said, it’s not as big as what we had, and it’s not – it’s not near as nice, but it’s – I mean, it’s all we need. It’s fine. It’s great and, I mean, Karen and them got it for us and – I mean, we wouldn’t – wouldn’t ask for anything else. In the old trailer, you had to go upstairs kind of for the bedroom and you couldn’t stand up because it’s a fifth wheel. That’s over the truck when it’s hooked up. In this trailer you can. So, there is – it’s got it’s – it’s plusses. I mean, there’s some things we miss about our old one. A lot of things we miss about our pictures and good clothes and things like that.
KUT News: Yeah, you were telling me about your clothes outside. What – what’s the deal with that?
Pulver: They’re just – I don’t normally – like normally my eyebrows are done, my hair’s cut weekly and since the fire, I don’t – I can’t do none of that stuff and my clothes are ruined.
KUT News: How many pairs of…
Pulver: It’s – well, they – we went – when we first went to the place, I was wearing a pair of pants that one leg was tore off of them. My shoes had holes all burned in them and Lori had had behind the seat in my truck I had a dirty pair of pants and she had like two outfits. I don’t remember what we had them in there for. I think we were meeting my mom to go camping or something, so that’s what we had. So, she had somewhat decent clothes, but no way to wash them or nothing and we went up to the Spicewood Community Center and Karen was there again. This was before we got our trailer and we told her what was going on with us and they said, “Yeah, your boss was up here a week ago and he told us your place burned and we’ve been asking for y’all to come and – and why haven’t you came?” I was like, “Well, we just got told today that we could come here. So we’re here.” And they gave us food and they gave us clothes and blankets and Karen said, “What are your living conditions?” and I told her we were borrowing a place from my cousin and, you know, it’s – it’s really unconditional. He could tell me he wants it back. If he brought the law or something, I’d have to give him his place back. And so I don’t know.
From there – really from there, it was uphill. If Karen and Mark and Jane, I mean, Jane’s number one. I tell her she’s my little guardian angel. It seems like anytime I need something, it’s – Jane will call me and she’s like, “Mel, we have this for you,” and as far as tools and anything like that and then when I was moving off of my boss’s property, I had a washer and dryer and refrigerator over there that they had donated to me and he’s gotten really bitter because people have given me stuff and they haven’t given him stuff, but when people did, he acted like it wasn’t good enough for him and didn’t tell them thank you and he doesn’t let people know what he needs. When they ask him, he says, “Oh, just give me money.” They don’t give money. They’re giving donated things to help you, not to give you money and he called the cops and tried to press charges on me for stealing my washing machine and dryer they gave me and my refrigerator.
Yeah and Jane just happens to call when the cop is fixing to put handcuffs on me for theft. I said, “Look, here’s the lady that can tell you this is my stuff,” and he took – she – he got back in his car with my cell phone and talked to her for a minute and then he – when he got out of the car, he gave my phone back, he took Randy over to the side and – and he was like cussing and yelling at him and told him, you know, “You can’t – you’re not supposed to be doing shit like this.” Well, it turns out – I don’t know how it works out. The cop was a friend of his old lady’s or something so more or less, he figured he gets me thrown in jail, he gets to keep all my tools and stuff that were over there.
KUT News: Is this something that you’re seeing a lot of in terms of, like ,I talked to a couple of people from Spicewood and it seems like after the fire people have gotten slightly – like there’s – it – it sort of caused a rift between people. More than people coming together, it seems like people are sort of…
Pulver: Well, I think that it’s – because see, before the fire, I didn’t know anybody around here except for Randy. I didn’t even really come into the neighborhood other than to go to his house if I needed a tool or something I didn’t have and so it’s brought us together, I mean, me and Randy Newhart on the corner and everybody says he’s a bitter old, mean old man. Nicest guy you’ll ever meet. His place burned down and he’s stuck in a trailer right now and – and I think what the fire has done is shown people who’s really going to be there when they say they’re going to be there. Like, me, I’m always late. Everybody knows that about me because I’m trying to finish up what I’m doing.
Like, here, I’m – I was already an hour and a half late and I’m just trying to get finished and they know and they know I’m going to come when I tell them I’m going to come, I just may be late and, you know, when I tell them, “Hey, if you need help with that,” they know I’m going to come and help if they call me and tell me and like, for instance, after the fire, this guy over here, I don’t even know his name, a couple houses down from my boss, his place burned. Well, Mark had told me, you know, “When they pour their slab, they’re going to need some help.” And I said, “Mark, I’m there, you know, just let me know what time and what day,” and the day – I was going to call him Thursday. My boss tells me, we’re over there working on this dad’s place, right, and he’s – I said, “Yeah, I got to call Mark because we’re going to go down and help your neighbor tomorrow so don’t depend on me tomorrow. I’m taking whatever amount of time I need off,” and my – my girlfriend’s son was working with me then, too and I told him, I said, “And Justin’s already said he’s going to help me, so whether he wants to or not, he’s going to keep his word.”
Randy said, “They – they hired a crew – the Spicewood Community Center hired them a crew and they don’t need no help over there.” Well, I talked to Mark later that afternoon and I said, “So how did that crew work out?” and Mark’s like, “Well, what crew? You know, a bunch of volunteers showed up and it went great.” I said, “What do you mean volunteers. I heard y’all had a crew.” And it’s things like that that people are saying that people – a lot of these people are very selfish and absorbed in their ways and they care about them. They don’t care about nobody else.
KUT News: So would you say that it’s showing people’s true colors?
Pulver: Yeah, that’s – that’s the better words to put it. It shows their true colors. Can I take a drink?
KUT News: Sure. Absolutely, we’ve been talking for a while. So, it’s been a couple of months since the fire. How are things going for you now in terms of how you’re feeling about it? Do you have work?
Pulver: Work, I just quit my job, it was for Randy, about a month ago and he owed me some money for receipts and some other stuff and I said, “Hey, if you don’t pay me this Friday, I’m not working no more,” because he’s knocking down $5,000 to $6,000 a week and why can’t I get my $500. I mean, that’s the way I looked at it and he said, “Well,” and I quit that Friday. At 3:00, I rolled up my tools and I got all my tools from there and I told him, “Look man, if you’re not going to pay me, I’m quitting.” “Well, how much do I owe you? I’ll pay you Mel. Don’t quit on me. Don’t quit.” So, later that day he’s supposed to come back and give me my money. He didn’t come.
Monday he didn’t come and so Monday, he says, “Hey, I need to borrow an air hose.” I said, “Well, you use your own air hoses. The church gave me these and they’re mine and I’m using them right now.” I was working on my truck and he goes, “Well, you’re not working,” and I said, “Are you going to give me my money?” “Well, maybe next Friday.” I said, “Well, maybe next Friday, I’ll work. I’m sorry.” “Well, get the hell off my property.” So, I was like, “Man, I live here. I’m buying this from you, remember?” And he’s like – so he calls the cops and tries to get me thrown off and they’re like – when he called them out there, he told them that I didn’t have no business there. Well, when I had mail and everything from – it was all after the fire because everything burned from before it but – and I had stuff showing I lived there and he goes, “Well, you can’t throw him out. He lives here. You can’t press trespassing charges on him,” and that was a big ordeal.
Then, his dad’s property separate, so they gave me a criminal trespass warning that I can’t go on his dad’s property, which I have to cross to get out of the property. I mean, they – it was a living nightmare. So, I’m getting off the subject. But, needless to say, no, I don’t have a job right now. There’s some of the neighbors, I do – the main thing I did for Randy was his – his – I work on like backhoes, heavy machinery, so I operated them and did his mechanic work on them and a few of the people around the neighborhood – now I have their work doing that, but it’s not no certain thing and I’m just taking what work I can as I get it.
KUT News: So where does that leave you after this fire?
Pulver: It leaves me kind of screwed, I mean, I’m looking for a job somewhere else, but I’m sure as you know, there’s not jobs anywhere right now and I tried the unemployment thing. Well, apparently my old boss don’t do his tax stuff right, so I have no way of proving what I’ve made or anything, but – and he told the – the unemployment people that – that I never missed a day of work through the whole fire, which anybody would know that’s a lie because we couldn’t even get into our homes if our homes were still here. So, I don’t – that kind of got me both ways.
KUT News: So, how does this feel? I mean, obviously…
Pulver: It sucks, I mean, but what can I do? I mean, what can I do? Wait for school to get out so I can spend more time with Elijah, I guess, and I’m doing what I can to – I mean, from day one through the fire, the first day we were back in here, after you’re working for three or four minutes, you would have so much soot and stuff in your eyes and ears and here comes Mark down the road with saline solution and just fresh water and cold Gatorade and, I mean, he’s been – he was another one of our little angels and…
KUT News: So, if I understand it correctly, these are the people from the Spicewood Long Term Recovery Committee?
Pulver: Mark, then, was just helping out. He was doing what he could to help out and it was said them from some of the other, like my boss and one or two other people, they said, “You know, he’s just trying to make himself look like somebody,” and I seen it even then. I was like, “Man, no, the dude’s just trying to do what he can to help us.” I said, “The guy can’t barely use his hands and he ‘s still running around and driving constantly all day long, using his gas money, he’s on a fixed income, to – to come and give us water and stuff while we’re working and anything that has been donated, shovels and, I mean, he carried all that stuff around and never asked for nothing for himself and he’s still doing it.” Now he is part of the Long Term Recovery and all that, but then, I think he was more or less just a volunteer trying to help.
KUT News: But Jane and…
Pulver: Jane, I think is – is more or less freelance She works at a resale shop there in Lakeway. I wish I knew the name so I could tell y’all, but I don’t.
KUT News: No, well, I think – because I met Jane and Karen and they are all part of the Long Term Recovery.
Pulver: They may be now, but I don’t think they were – they’re part of the Long Term, yes, but thing I would ask them is if they were part of ADR and they would say, “No,” you know, they were pretty much doing things on their own then, from what I understand now I think they’re all coming together as a group and more working together, but those three – three people are – I mean, if there’s anything you can do to brag on them or make them look, they deserve it. That’s why I’m here trying to help Mark get his fence up.
KUT News: Can you tell me a little bit about your health, what you were telling me before?
Pulver: It’s not bad. I mean, sometimes I cough a little blood or – and my sinuses is more than anything. Before the fire, I never – I could get in a fight and never have a nosebleed, and now sometimes if I blow my nose hard – to hard or something, it bleeds. I mean, or if you – if you notice sometimes you use a paper in there, anytime I do that it will bleed and sometimes I cough up blood and I mean, there’s always like – I don’t know, it’s like a film kind of in my throat and that’s gotten to where it’s not so bad, but you know, it would almost choke you. It’s kind of weird.
KUT News: Now, why haven’t you seen a doctor?
Pulver: I don’t have the money. I don’t have the money and the – the emergency room around here if you go in and you don’t have no money, they’re just going to tell you, “Well, take some Aspirin or something and leave.” They don’t give a shit. I mean, that’s just the way – the way these people are.
KUT News: Doesn’t that worry you, your health?
Pulver: Sometimes, yeah, but I still – I mean, I keep going. I mean, what else can I do?
KUT News: So, what do you see in your future?
Pulver: Hopefully, I think Mark – Jane’s pretty much helped me get most of my tools back that burned.
KUT News: Go on.
Pulver: There’s a few – there’s a few items I still need to really be back in business and I have – like I was telling you, the legal – the theft thing with my boss, they – I know the detective, I’ve already talked to him and Mark and them talked to him, so I don’t have to worry about that no more. I was scared I was going to go to jail for it. I don’t know. I don’t know. Right, at this point, until a decent job comes up or something and by decent, I’m not saying I’m only going to take a decent job. I’ve been taking any work I can find. I normally make $25 an hour and lately if – if I can make $5, I’m going to do it. So, it’s – I just got to find my place. Once I do, then I can tell you what my plans for the future are. The only thing I know now is to take care of my boy the best I can and we’ll see what happens from there.
KUT News: If you could pick your dream scenario, you know, your dream life, if things could be perfect for you, what would that look like?
Pulver: I don’t know. I guess I would be able to go ahead and own my own property like I was working and be started on my house and Elijah would be back home. I mean, his mama could be back. Y’all can’t fix that and Mark’s hands would be fixed and I don’t know. I just – really to have Elijah home and just things back where they were. Nothing was perfect, but it was – it was good enough for me. I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about a perfect life. I don’t ever think I’ll have a perfect life.
KUT News: Well, I meant more like, you know, what you would want if you could have, you know, sort of the ideal, you know, situation.
Pulver: What I would want is – is to not have to have lost what money we had saved and actually be started on our house. That’s the whole reason for us living in a fifth wheel to begin with was so we could start our house. I was going to start my house. I’ve been building everybody else’s homes since I was a kid and I’m just ready to start mine and be permanent somewhere and, I mean, that sums it up. And now I went being from being a sometimes dad to a full-time dad right before all this happened and that was a major change in my life and…
KUT News: And now?
Pulver: And now it’s – it’s – it’s all upside-down again. It’s all upside-down again. I mean, it’s still rough. I know people think six months is a lot of time to re-accumulate things, but when you’re spending 22 hours out of a 24 hour day cleaning and trying to get your normal life back to normal, you don’t have time to go look for another job and – or to even worry about – I’ve had to go to the food place in Marble Falls like – because they still have – I didn’t know that you could still get food from ADR and stuff and I went in in Marble Falls and had to go there to get food once because we didn’t have nothing to eat. I mean, that sounds like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and I even felt like, you know, “Hey, I’m not taking care of my business right, but when there’s no work and there’s no place to look for work and there’s no money to go look for work, I mean, what do you do? What can you do? It’s – and then everything you’ve spent all that time working for and getting, I mean, it’s just taken from you. It’s – so for us it was like one devastation after another, but they say threes. They come in threes, so we’ve had all three. So, maybe it’s going to be uphill from here.
KUT News: Well, I hope so. I really, really, do.
Pulver: Me too. I’m sorry I talked your ear off.