Snapshots and Stories:
The wind is hot and dry, moving from south to north, but gentle. Trees sing in the wind as birds stand on limbs, adding their chorus. Butterflies frolic in the breeze, a bumble bee buzzes between purple coneflowers searching for nourishment. In the distance small dark clouds form, slowly growing, moving.
Two young girls play in the grass as a single squirrel searches the ground for acorns he hid last fall. The squirrel nervously shifts his attention from horizon to grass, scanning for predators, looking for food. His tail darts as his body springs toward the safety of his tree. A high flying hawk sends him scampering half way up the tree before stopping to survey his situation. He is safe.
"Isabelle, do you think we can get your sisters doll and play church on the steps," she says looking at the small rag doll in her hands.
Isabelle nods and runs inside, looking for the doll whose eyes sleep when she is laid down.
The clouds on the horizon grow larger, stronger, about to cover the once-blue sky. The dry hot wind is now slowing, the clouds moving closer, more ominous.
It is a Sunday afternoon and Dr. Farrington has taken a badly needed day off. He sits on the front porch reading a paper, admiring his youngest daughter and her friend playing. His mind wanders between the newsprint and his patients. What if Mr. Pietzmyers stitches dont take hold, he thinks to himself. Coal prices have gone up in the past month, so has the price of hay.
The wind changes, cooler now, chilling compared to the hot, dry wind. A smell of rain is in the air, moist, damp, cold. Birds flutter and seek shelter. The butterflies are now gone, bumble bees vanished. The storm approaches, marching. The once blue sky is now replaced by gray and blue gray clouds, some large and ominous, some small and light.
The doctor looks at the horizon, wondering, watching, thinking. Patches of light clouds intermingle with the stronger, darker clouds. The doctor notices a distant haze on the horizon. Rain, he says to himself, and quite a thunderhead building.
Bluestem and switchgrass bend in the wind as small dust clouds develop on the road, then quickly disperse. A distant white farm house stands alone against the approaching storm. It is distinct, a stark contrast to the dark clouds over head. Gentle rumbles of thunder linger on the horizon as the doctor returns to his paper. He thinks of the storm cellar and its safety.
"Hattie, are you in there?" he shouts into the sitting room.
"Hattie?" he shouts louder. "Isabelle, where is your mother?"
"In the kitchen, Father."
He stands, folding the paper carefully and placing it under his arm. "Thelma, you should be going home now. There is a storm approaching and I do not want your parents to worry about you. Isabelle, where is your sister?" He waits until the two young children are done playing and Thelma is well on her way home before going into the house.
Even cooler winds arrive suddenly as the clouds begin to lose definition. The storm is moving closer. The once-white farm house is now swallowed by a haze of green on the horizon. A once-distant clap of thunder now shakes the ground.
Isabelle howls and clings to her fathers leg. "Daddy, dont let it get me .but where is the lightning, I like the lightning."
Leaves in the trees bend from the winds increasing strength, fluttering, some breaking free. Even the short grass in the yard is bending, moving, dancing.
The doctor and Isabelle hurry into the house, he scurrying to shut windows and she trying to see flashes of lightning.
"Hattie, where is Gertrude?"
"Minding the chickens, or in the barn." She responds from the kitchen. "What is wrong, Frank?"
"Big storm moving in, we had better shut up the house and get to the cellar" he says, closing the last window on the ground floor. "Im going up to close windows upstairs, you get Gertrude and Isabelle and get in the cellar."
Hattie drops her mixing bowl on command, grasping Isabelles hand and rushing outside.
The once distant haze is now all around, the sky an eerie green tint. The roof begins to tap out rains song ..tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap
Gertrude hurries toward the home as Hattie opens the cellar door.
"Did you see the storm approaching" she says, out of breath. "One minute it is distant, the next here. Do you think we will have a tornado?"
"I dont know. Your father wants us in the cellar right now"
"But mother, dont "
"Not now, Gertrude, IN!" She says, pointing to the wooden stairs leading under the house.
Thunder crashes nearby, but no lightning comes to warn of the following crash. Rains song quickens, tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap tapCRASH!!!taptaptaptaptaptaptap and soon becomes a steady downpour.
The sky is dark overhead as a small burst of light warns of an approaching clap of thunder. The wind is steady now and rains song is still strong and steady, tapping out its rhythm on the roof. No animals are visible, no birds, no squirrels, no bees. They have all moved to shelter, to safety.
Frank finishes closing the second floor windows as lightning fills the sky. He hurries downstairs, stumbling, then regaining his balance.
"No tornadoes today." He murmurs to himself. "Please let Hattie and the kids be safely in that cellar."
Frank reaches the kitchen door and steps out onto the back porch. The wooden cellar door lies flush with the porch floor, its metal clasp left open, tumbling in the wind. He pulls at the handle to find it locked from inside.
"Hattie Hattie are you in there." Frank screams, banging on the door and battling the wind.
The door opens as a flash of lightning and tremendous clap of thunder fill the sky simultaneously. Frank closes his eyes and covers his ears in pain.
"Frank, are you okay?"
He can barely hear his wife but sees she and the girls are safe. The wind strong, blowing rain almost horizontal. Frank notices a flicker of light a top the barn. He hesitates. The animals, the Ford.
"Are you and the girls, okay?"
"Yes Yes! We are okay!" Hattie yells over the rain and wind.
His family safe, Frank points toward the barn, yelling, "Fire!" Small pellets of hail pelt his exposed skin as he runs across the yard.
He reaches the barn door, quickly moving its clasp and stumbling inside. With workman-like efficiency he opens the main barn door, then the stable gates. A quick glance above spots the growing flames, their dance becoming brighter in the loft full of hay.
Two cows, three pigs and Franks trusty steed are reluctant to leave the barns shelter. Their hesitation is lost as Frank cranks the Ford, it backfiring loudly.
The Ford roars to life as the fire in the loft becomes a blaze, engulfing the roof. The auto speeds out of the barn. Family, livestock and automobile, safe.
He turns to watch the barn roar into flames as the rain slows.
Clouds grow light on the horizon as the wind slowly loses strength. Small rumbles of thunder try one last time to be strong, powerful. Rains song now returns to a slower beat, tap tap tap taptaptap tap tap tap tap tap tap taptap tap
Another distant clap of thunder lingers, rolling, gasping for one last heroic crash. Darkness moves eastward, carrying with it the storm, rains song, thunders power. Bluestem and switchgrass now bend ever so slightly in the now gentle breeze. Rains song is now reduced to a slow, unsteady tap tap tap tap tap
The first birds return, probing the grass for worms who have fled their home in fear of drowning. A robin flies toward her nest and young ones with juicy worm in mouth. Trees wave in the gentle winds, their leaves greener, trunks darker. Thunder rolls in the distance, far away now, threatening another.
Hattie and the children emerge from the safety of the cellar. They are safe. The barn continues to burn as the family gathers on the lawn, hugging, thanking, safe.
The small farm house in the distance is once again white, distinct, now surrounded by greener grass, richer trees. The squirrel returns from the safety of his tree, again looking for acorns, again watching the horizon.
A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Master of Arts