“If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm”
— Frank Lane, American baseball executive
“I slept through the whole thing,” my Abilene cousin, Fred Scott (better known to family and friends as Derf) laughed Saturday evening. After learning about the tornado that hit the West Texas town where he lives Saturday morning, I was quick to check on him.
The twister inflicted heavy damage on dwellings, businesses and a nursing home in the South 7th Street area, but there were thankfully no fatalities. Derf and his family live on South 20th, a respectable distance away geographically if you live in Abilene but way too close for comfort when the topic is tornadoes.
That same system made its way to East Texas Saturday night and was bearing down on Center by bedtime. The wind was wailing and thunderstorms raging as I waited out the 2 a.m. tornado watch expiration time. Spring weather in East Texas reminds me of West Texas tornado nights as a youngster where storm cellars were commonplace in the 1950s. When not providing shelter from storms, cellars served as a cool place for storing vegetables from the garden and for kids to play on hot summer afternoons.
When skies darkened and weather threatened, however, nights were spent in the cellar napping on cots by the warm glow of kerosene lantern light. My father often stood at the top of the stairs in the cellar doorway to watch the storm as he did the night in Seymour when I watched with him. The black funnel across town danced through the night sky illuminated by lightning and snapping power lines. Those memories of the twister gyrating through the small West Texas town leaving what the next day’s sunrise revealed to be a path of destruction have endured for 60 years. Images of weather’s wild side illuminated by the storm that spawned it plays vividly in my mind every time one of nature’s most violent forms of wrath comes to life.
Last Saturday night was no exception. I grew uneasy as did our three dogs when the storms rolled in. One, too old to jump on the bed, went under it while the other two hit the topside and burrowed under the cover amid whines and whimpers.
With the security alarm set and weather notifications on my phone turned on, I joined the two on top of the bed but kept my options open for joining the senior canine hunkered under it.
Weather alerts were frequent tracking thunderstorms, flash floods, and tornado watches into the wee hours. Both the dogs and I maintained our respective bed positions until I drifted off still holding my evening cup of tea. My dream-like memories of long-ago stormy nights and the dog’s nervous antics were quickly interrupted when a lightning flash and resounding clap of thunder made me jump sending tea across the bed and the dogs into another round of frightened frenzies.
With the same curiosity my father displayed decades ago out in West Texas, I stepped into the garage to watch Saturday night’s storm. Mere minutes had passed when another bolt flashed near enough that the ensuing thunder cracked before the flash had diminished to darkness. “That’s enough storm watching for me,” I said to the dogs, but I was talking to myself. They were long gone back in the house. Resuming our respective spots in and under the bed, I soon drifted off to dreamland as storms diminished, tornado watches expired and dogs relaxed.
I don’t think sleeping through a storm like Derf did would ever be an option for me. There’s no way I’m going to sleep before the dogs do.
Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune, the Taylor, Texas, Press, the Alpine, Texas, Avalanche.
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