The day before the end, one of Cal’s choppers had flown a group of photographers out to Jack’s house. “I had a house full of people the last night,” he recounts. “Everybody slept there the night, and the helicopter parked on the street. The next day, me and another guy walked up behind the house. There was this ravine that the lava had gotten into, and it was leading the lava right toward the house. I could see it wasn’t going to last the night. It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, so I knew I was going to have to get busy if I was going to get all the stuff out of the house that I was going to take,” he recalls.
Jack had long since resigned himself to losing most of the house’s contents, but his friendship with a chopper pilot at least allowed him to rescue a few personal belongings. He got on his cell to Cal. “A couple of helicopters were going to Kona, and they stopped by and helped me out.” Jack left everything heavy behind, but it was still a close thing. “The lava was going in the back when I was leaving out the front,” he recounts matter-of-factly. “We did a couple of circles [around the burning house]. It was getting pretty late, though. From the air you could see how much lava there was everywhere.”
About a week later Cal flew Jack back out to the house to see what remained. The water tanks were visible though partially filled with lava. A few scraps of roofing tin creaked in the breeze on the lava’s surface. A dead satellite dish poked out of the lava’s surface like a steel flower, along with the dead tips of some of Jack’s fruit trees. In the top of a submerged date palm, he found the live roots of some orchids; those might survive. He left them in place on the tree.
For the time being Jack’s getting reacquainted with life on the grid, coquí frogs and all. Will he return to build a third dream house? He smiles. “Madam Pele was delivering all the building material there for years. I could build a rock house. You can do anything out of rock, anything you can imagine—everything from a simple house to a Bavarian castle.”
But, he adds, it will “have to be after the lava stops.”