Ricky Harpole 6/25/13

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Harpole: weather anxiety passed along from grandma

I have always heard that when people congregate and don’t have anything in common to talk about they talk about the weather.

I won’t discuss today’s weather but I will relate some personal family history regarding it. When I was a barefoot kid, my Grandmother Bailey became extremely nervous about any little cloud that happened to pass her way.

As a child I thought it was hilarious that a grown, wise matriarch of the family went a little “off line” about a phenomena of nature that I enjoyed to frolic in. Rain makes mud (wonderful toy); lightning is a natural fireworks display when seen from a distance and wind is a cool breeze through your hair. Watching your grandmother freak out was an added bonus.

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She didn’t see it like I did at the time. After all I’d never seen what a cloud that turned into a lightning storm and finally a full blown tornado could do until I was nine years old and then I only saw the aftermath. I was impressed by the carnage in its wake across the “back 40” but I wasn’t there to witness in its actual fury.

There was insignificant damage done in our neck of the woods and to a neighbor’s whiskey still. That’s all I saw. Later it was discovered that it had previously destroyed half the homes and most of the businesses on Moon Lake, uprooted fishing piers by the roots, leaving only stumps in the lake and kindling wood and fishing boats over half of two counties. After having experienced one first hand from a respectable distance years later (it was one of few things I ever backed up from, the other was a stick of dynamite with a premature fuse on a beaver dam). I began to see things from Ma Bailey’s point of view.

After that, years later I saw more than I wanted to see of winds that kill.

Tornadoes in Quitman, Coahoma, and Panola Counties one night accounted for at least two deaths. Winds in Belen blew a loaded 18- wheeler through a cotton gin.

I went through the backwash of a tropical storm in a light seagoing craft. While I wasn’t in any particular peril, I got to see what the results were. Walmart stores and Jefferson Davis’s home were sent to perdition or seriously damaged during Hurricane Katrina, the 11th storm of the 2005 season.

Ma Bailey’s fears that I once laughed at were taking on more credence as  the years passed. One of the most remarkable things I saw in Biloxi was a small car that had a riding-type John Deere lawn mower blown inside it. That there was no way to extract it was not surprising for the vehicle had been folded spindled and mutilated but there was no way to get it in there in the first place without a cutting torch or saw.

There were no tears in the car body that I could find and it was completely intact except for dents and warps. It resembled a Houdini illusion. My respect for Ma’s opinions on clouds continued to climb.

Back to the tornado that swarmed Moon Lake and crossed our cottonfield: My daddy had spied it while making his rounds in the old Chevy truck, nothing but stalks and still parts remained aside from the wrath of my mother in the field aside from thank-you-Lords and muttered unprintable words from that particular sharecropper who happened to be me.
All’s well that ends well but some of those wells are deeper than others.

Keep your head down,
Ricky Harpole