Two weeks ago I bragged in these pages about how our power didn’t go out, and how we were sitting here fat and happy on our little ledge-pile while the storm tore up the neighborhood elsewhere. One should always be careful what one pontificates about. The day after I sent the column in, although our electrical situation was fine, Matinicus woke to discover that all the phones were out.

A friend drove into our yard to deliver the message face-to-face to the phone man. Was it just her line, she wondered? No, afraid not; it didn’t take long to determine that we were “off the map,” as Charlie Pratt (the previous phone man) always liked to say.

Our telephone and internet is transmitted over a considerable stretch of water as a microwave signal. There is no physical cable connecting this island. The voice and data signals make a couple of hops before they hit anybody else’s ringer: Stonington first, and then a telephone switch on Swan’s Island.

But Swan’s Island had the full-scale power outage like so many other midcoast towns. The nor-easter had done its damage, the islanders there were waiting for the Emera bucket trucks to get across on the ferry, and the phone company’s generator and battery system had taken over powering the switch. For whatever reason that backup power didn’t last forever. Such is the real world.

Anyway, aside from fielding all the usual “Why don’t you fix the phone?” inquiries from people who didn’t realize the problem wasn’t here, the phone man and a bunch of other people got busy with alternative ways and means.

One household still had access to the old pre–phone company internet service provider that first experimented with serving Matinicus some 20 years ago, being the sort of communications nerd who suspects that redundancy might occasionally be advisable. Cell phones worked maybe, here and there, now and then, so the phone man took his Samsung phone-of-only-average-intelligence and went to hunt for a spot where it might reach his boss on the mainland. Go stand on a ladder, I suppose. Texting worked reasonably well so I texted Kevin at the air service to make sure they knew what was going on and why we weren’t answering our phones. Also, my daughter in Brunswick and I could type back and forth about the idiot media showing photos of telephone lines while they warned about the danger of power lines (poor kid grew up hearing this rant, so she was no doubt expecting it).

Gary, who runs our island power company, wrote a physical note and handed it to the pilot who brought the mail, for delivery to the mainland. I started up the 2-meter ham radio and called the Knox County Emergency Management office to test the system. This was no emergency, and the planes were flying, but no harm in a little readiness. Besides, it’s fun. I should have ordered a pizza (“K1EMM to KX1EMA: please no pineapple this time” and no, I don’t typically say “over”). One individual, who said he had urgent business that could not wait and absolutely required the internet, booked a flight to the mainland, did his online business, and came back. You can be sure that doesn’t happen every day!

With the phones down there were a few wisecracks about smoke signals, tin cans and string, semaphore flags, and homing pigeons. Oh, wait — that last one wasn’t a joke. We actually had a homing pigeon here.

Just a week or so before the storm an island resident up at the north end discovered an errant pigeon at her house, presumably blown in by previous heavy weather. Both legs were banded, it seemed used to people and happily ate out of a dish, but the pigeon wouldn’t let Emily (at whose roost it had landed) get close enough to read the leg bands. Another neighbor with a super-duper-telephoto lens on her camera was able to read the writing, and with some online research it was determined that this trained long-distance pigeon had quite a history.

For two weeks the bird vacationed on Matinicus, sticking close to Emily’s place, while her host reached out for information. This resulted in an extensive network of new friends who introduced Emily to the complex world of racing pigeons, carrier pigeons, pigeons from Florida, and the fascinating history of a Rockland doctor back around the turn of the last century who used homing pigeons to carry medical information back and forth with patients on Criehaven.

An article by Elizabeth G. Macalaster for entitled “Dr. Gould’s Flying Nurses” (easily found online) is worth a read. Evidently homing pigeons, which don’t particularly like flying over considerable stretches of water, have crossed this bay before. We very nearly put our little guest to work.