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Kountry Life Memories

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Things are bigger when you’re six, and nothing was bigger to me than nature gone wild in southeast Kansas. Everything was turned inside out, and the safety I once knew was compromised instantly as a tornado passed across our cellar door. “Come on, everybody, it’s time to go to the storm cellar!” The clarion call of my grandfather drifted over the howling wind and rattle of light hail that issued from the black clouds looming above us. We reacted immediately, grabbing wool blankets and slickers to protect us from the cold and wet of our concrete hideaway. In single file, we ran into the downpour and across the gravel drive to our bunker, where we prepared to do battle against the wind and water raging about us. “Damn, It’s comin’ down!” my father exclaimed as he helped my grandfather close the cellar door. Many times during sunnier days, I slid down the heavy metal sheathed door for an hour at a time, laughing with the neighbor’s boys, Dennis and Jimmy Meech. Twins, they were, and I wondered where they were as I was bundled up into a woolen ball by my grandmother and placed on the long wooden bench that ran the length of the cellar. The back and opposite wall was occupied by shelves of colorful jars of canned vegetables. The cellar also served as a pantry for my industrious grandmother, who canned incessantly during the growing season. The door rattled and strained against its hinges as we listened to the hail drum against its armored exterior. The rattling became a pounding, and we were astonished to hear our neighbors shouting to us through the door. “Let us in, for God’s sake!” screamed Dennis Meech senior, head of the family across the road, “Our cellar’s flooded!” At once, my father and grandfather sprang to release the heavy bar that secured the door and open it to admit our friends. At the same time, we heard a roaring above us, an ominous sound that chilled the blood and promised destruction and death to all in it’s way. Tornado! Above the keening of the wind and clatter of hail, I could hear my friends adding their voices to the general clamor of soggy rescue. Kicking my way out from the warm woolen quilt in which I had been cocooned, I rushed to the door to greet my friends as they piled down the steps into the warm glow of the kerosene lantern guttering in the invading wind. While there on the steps, I stole the chance to peek between my father’s legs at the raging storm, the clouds towering black on black above me. The sight chilled me to the bone. God twirled his finger, and the winds shrieked and howled, forming into a tube of destruction that rose to Heaven. The heavy door was ripped from my father’s strong arms and the winds captured my small frame and pulled me out toward Death. The column of wind above me spawned smaller tornadoes within its hollow body, while whipping tree limbs and water around it. My view was imperfect, filled with rain and melting ice, and I was aware of a grip of iron around my legs as I floated above the concrete stair. My father pulled me back into the cellar among the screams of my mother as the Terror passed to wreak its harm elsewhere, slamming the heavy armored door that took a grown man’s earnest effort to lift behind it, as if in disgust. I slipped from the surrealism of altered awareness and confusion into the welcoming arms of friends and family as the reality of my narrow escape manifested itself to me. The cellar was cramped with the press of two families within it, but it was big enough for me, cocooned once again in my woolen quilt. There was plenty of room. Things are bigger when you’re six.

Submitted By: Joe... from TX on 2005-08-18

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