MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: TORNADO CHASING

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

TORNADO CHASING

Get up son,” mom said as she gently nudged me awake. “Take your pillow and quilt out to the car. Dad’s waitin’ – hurry up!”

It was only then that I became aware of the flashes of lightning and the subsequent close rumbles of thunder, and the rain hitting hard against the roof and southwest side of the trailer.

My eyes widened and my ears perked up to listen to conditions outside, as I ran toward the front door where my dad scooped me up and rushed me into the backseat of the ’55 Star Chief. Yes, the same Pontiac I have mentioned repeatedly. We had that old car for ten years and it served my family well through many a storm, and snowy trips “down home.”

Dad slammed the door shut and ran back to the trailer for my mom and baby brother. I raised up and watched them running back to the car and saw them illuminated in several flashes of lightning, and hid my eyes as the close thunder shuttered the vehicle just as they closed the doors with synchronized slams.

It looks like it’s coming from the southwest,” dad told mom. “I think we should go toward Florence.” Mom shook her head in agreement and pulled the blanket up over my brother’s head.

Every time there was a flash, I hid my head under my grandmother’s quilt and pressed my hands against my ears. In that backseat, under that quilt, I felt safe. It was so strange that I had not heard all the excitement before being awaken, but that was generally the case. Dad, or possibly mom, had the keen ears and usually had the family on alert if the conditions seemed threatening.

We should be safe here,” dad said as he pulled under an overpass, pushed the lights in to the parking position, and tuned the radio to any sound he could find. There was little real-time weather coverage on the radio then, but the sound of other voices from the midst of the darkness comforted my mom and dad.

As fate would have it, we often found out the next day that we had in fact driven toward the worse part of the spring storm and were in much more danger where we ended up than if we had stayed put. However, dad felt like he was protecting his family in the only way he knew how, and that makes it okay with me.

Today, I am the one that awakens at the sound of the first branch hitting the metal roof, the large drops of rain hitting the window, or that eerie roar the wind makes in the treetops near the house. I used to depend on dad to be on vigil, but Vietnam’s frequent rocket attacks moved me into a life long state of readiness. I now waken briefly some nights to ensure the distant roar and vibration is just the Southern working its way south some half-mile from our house. Once I am satisfied, I think back for a moment on the tornado chases of the past, pull my grandmother's quilt tightly up under my neck, and slip off again.

We should be safe here,” a distant voice whispers.

17 comments:

EC said...

Have I ever mentioned how incredibly real your stories are? I mean real to the point that I actually feel like I can picture and hear exactly what you are saying. I know that sounds dumb, lol. I loved this one as well, you really have such powerful words.

Rebecca said...

Oooo, trailers and stormy weather=not a good mix.
BTW, I, too, sleep cuddled up in my grandma's quilts....

Les Becker said...

For a minute there, I thought you were being taken TOWARD the storm, a la "Twister", I guess. I was about to ask what kind of people raised you - lol!

I have to agree with ec - you tell the best stories. You literally paint with words.

Now, either your shoulder's better, the drugs are stronger than anybody thought, or you have mastered one-handed typing... but your longer posts returning are much appreciated.

Rhea said...

I've actually thought of taking one of those tornado-chasing trips. But I'm scared to. Plus, they are really expensive.

Fathairybastard said...

Sounds like an amazing adventure for a kid. Another cool post.

BRUNO said...

About time you wrote another one of these "Mushy's brand-name" issues! But, they ain't supposed to come along daily, with no effort, even for YOU, now are they? Unless they've owned one of those "old classic autos", most people have no idea of how secure they made you feel! Dependable, safe, strong---just like Mom and Dad, huh?

Mushy said...

EC - thanks for the encouragement. It's for folks like you that I do what little I can do.

Goddess - nothing more comforting than a cool quilt against your skin, even on a summer's night. It's like grandma's arms.

Les - actually I'm doing pretty well with two now...I just can't scratch my nose with my right hand yet! Thanks too for you comments.

Rhea - I have always had a fear of storms, mostly because of these accidental chases years ago in Nashville and North Alabama.
I might try one of the trips...guided by professionals...who knows!

FHB - during the fall and spring months in Alabama and Middle Tennessee, I had this adventure many times...too many times.

Bruno - this one just fell out of my head and I barely changed a thing on re-read...happens sometimes. Yeah, the old real metal cars were a fortress of sorts, but it was their backseats that were the real sanctuary. With soft spoken small talk going on in the front seat, and me covered by the quilt, I was as secure as one could ever be. I longed for that sanctuary many times in 'Nam.

BRUNO said...

As did I, too, Mushy. As did I. And sometimes, still do.

Chuck said...

Wow what a cool story and the picture is classic! Is that Florence, Alabama you mention?

Mushy said...

Yep...Florence, AL...I was born in Lexington, but spent my 6th an 10th grades in Florence.

I still have family there and visit about 3 times a year...especially when UT and AL play. Great times!

Jose said...

About three weeks ago it started to rain and my car's window motor gave up on me so I took four big shipping boxes that were flattened and went outside so I could cover the top of the car to protect it from rain going inside. As I got out the gate the wind flew the boxes out of my hands and I actually had to chase them. I don't mean to brag but that's as close as a torando experience under my belt.

Different places I guess. The one constant in all this is the way a father will always try to protect his kids. Even against all odds.

When it comes to story telling you are one of my favorites story tellers.

Chuck said...

So I guess you'll be down here this year on the 3rd Saturday in October. I'll be in T-town too....maybe we can meet up!

Fathairybastard said...

Nope. That's too much testosterone in one place. Imagine the impact on global warming.

Suldog said...

Hi, Mushy! Thanks for stopping by my place.

I saw in your profile that you were in telecommunications. In what capacity? I do voice-over work and commercial production, with the great bulk of it being for IVR, Auto Attendant, and other phone apps.

Mushy said...

Suldog - I started my career in slow-scan encrypted video, moved to the site TC coordinator, and ended my career as the TC, network, and computing center ops manager at Oak Ridge.

I wasn't very smart technologically, but apparently I could motivate people and we all got a long wonderfully. We had a lot of fun, but stayed focused on the mission of providing computing (including maintenance), networking, and telecommunications services to over 5,000 customers.

jan said...

Tornadoes almost seem to have an evil mind of their own. I know of people who have done everything right that experts told them to do in case one came and the tornado found them anyway. Good story.

Dana said...

You are a wonderful story-teller, Mushy! I grew up with lots of spring and summer nights spent in the storm shelter in my grandparent's back yard (we lived next door). I hate it when they come at night, you know?