The most common frightening event in a young Midwesterner’s life is the TORNADO. The mere mention of the word can send chills up their spine and a dash for the nearest basement, crawl space, or bunk bed. I wasn’t that bad though...I was worse. And my friend Kevin was worse than I was.
When the skies would get the least bit dark--even in the middle of an important wiffle ball game, Kevin would say: “I gotta go--looks like a storm!” I’d say: “Kevin, you don’t think it could be a--a--a--Tornado!!!” Then we’d scream and run for each other’s house like a native on fire.
Now you must understand that Kevin’s entire family was just as paranoid as we were of the whole tornado thing, so that explains his fear.
Kevin would bolt into his house, and his Mom would already be packing canned goods, candles, matches, string, cotton balls, baseball cards, and homemade jelly into an ammo box for the trip into the basement. Kevin’s Dad would be gathering up homemade jerky, homemade wine, blankets, lanterns, a sling shot, and some arrowheads--the whole time reassuring Kevin and the dogs that everything will be alright; they still have a few minutes before the storm will hit, and will descend downstairs very shortly. The look in his eyes would be comforting but yet slightly vacant--like one who doesn’t really believe his own words.
Their basement was made into kind of a long-term, if need be, living quarters complete with bunk beds, space heaters, lures, batteries, bottled water, and an old movie projector that didn’t work. An antique radio that did in fact work was always tuned in to a Navy weather station which repeated the latest weather bulletin non-stop. The story goes that, as a child, Kevin’s Dad had a pet rabbit that was impaled into a cottonwood tree when a tornado swept through his yard. The sadder part of this story is that the rabbit was still alive, whimpering, while the frantic child watched in horror. The rabbit was stuck so that it could not be removed. It suffered like this for 2 days and finally quit moving. In honor of the brave pet, Kevin’s Grandad cut down the tree and put a marker in the ground to remember the rabbit. Yes, Kevin’s dad feared yet respected the “Father of all storms” as he liked to call them. I’d say Kevin and I didn’t really respect tornadoes--just feared them.
Now back at my house, I’d run in screaming and shaking in holy terror about the storm and possible tornado, and my parents would be oblivious. They wouldn’t care! My Mother would be sitting, calmly knitting an Afghan, and my Dad would be reading the paper in complete deviance to the impending havoc
When the winds would pick up, I’d run from room to room, shutting windows, screaming, as trees, garbage cans, lawn furniture, cows, laundry, and midgets would be blowing by. I’d yell: “Mom, don’t you think we better run down to the basement?” My sleeping bag would already be under my arm as I’m screaming this. My Mom would just calmly suggest: “Oh Mick, I mean Denis, relax will you? It’ll blow over in a few minutes.” But I couldn’t stand the fury and carnage any longer--so I’d run upstairs and fly under my bed until the wind stopped.
Now that I am older, storms don’t bother me near as much. I guess it was something I just had to grow out of. And it seems that Kevin has adjusted well as an adult, unlike his parents were at that age. He says he feels no fear and very safe in his home, an underground 2 story cement bunker which I helped him build after I completed mine.