I hope this note finds you well.
Spring, in Arkansas, is a time of turmoil and unrest and it has always been so.
As a child, we lived in the country east of Augusta in the White River bottomland. My Uncle John and his family lived seventy-five yards to our west just beyond a low boggy area. Between our homes was a storm shelter. It was an above-ground shelter because the water table was high enough that a basement or underground shelter would have filled up with water. My father and his brother built it using railroad cross ties and then built a berm around all four sides except the opening for the small door. The walls of the small enclosure were lined with army cots, thin mattresses and old army blankets.
We had no sirens or even church bells that warned of impending storms; but, on our farm we really didn’t need them. As a rice farmer, my father was exquisitely sensitive to changes in the weather and he had great distain for those who weren’t. He lived out of doors year round. To mom’s distress he slept with his bedroom window cracked open year round, the cold of winter and the heat of summer.
He explained, “I have to go out in this every day and I don’t have time to worry about what it’s like outside.” Like a field animal he could sense small changes in the barometric pressure and subtle changes in the wind. It wasn’t unusual for him to come in from the field on what appeared to be a pretty afternoon to inform my mother that we might have to spend the evening in the storm shelter.
On more than one occasion I was dispatched to my grandmother’s house just across the field to tell her to put her cooking on hold and join us for supper because Daddy thought a storm was coming. Neither my mother nor my grandmother ever questioned his instincts; that wasn’t necessarily true of my Aunt Forrestine but that’s another story.
My memory is that his instincts were almost unerring. My sister and I were allowed to play out in the front yard with our cousins but instructed to keep an eye peeled into the southwest sky. Dad would fire up the kerosene lantern, check the shelter for snakes, spiders and wasps. My father would lie down on the ground next to a snake but he was deathly scared of wasps. While he was preparing the shelter, Mom would make sandwiches and iced tea for everyone.
When the bank of grey clouds began to build and the wind changed direction, Dad would tell me to go find Mumbles, my dog, and get him on a leash. When the rumbling thunder and spikes of lightning could be seen south of Augusta he and mom would begin herding us toward the shelter.
Dad stayed outside of the shelter until the wind began to pick up. When the heavy rain began he and Uncle John would come in and shut the door.
I don’t think we ever took a direct hit but when I hear people on television describe the loud rumbling noise, the silence and the return of the roar, I have been there and I remember that.
Have a good journey.