In 85 years, I have never seen a funnel cloud. Until recently, I have also not heard a siren warning us to go to the basement or otherwise take cover.
The only time I was involved in a violent storm was a typhoon on an LST, between the Philippine Islands and Japan at the end of World War II, and I was too seasick to care. So, you see, I don't have too much experience with turbulent weather.
Oh, I vaguely remember going with my father to view the aftermath of a tornado in southeastern South Dakota. It was a terrible scene, and some 79 years later I can still recall seeing live chickens trapped by woven wire fencing which was wrapped around what was left of a tree. That storm did weird things, like taking a long veranda off a house and leaving the building unscratched, like a skilled carpenter had done it.
There are a lot of stories and a few wives' – tales about tornados and cyclones, as we used to call them. Even the fictional Dorothy was whisked off by a cyclone to Munchkinland before she followed the yellow brick road to the Land of Oz.
I've seen whirlwinds and "dust devils," but they are nothing compared to tornados which can (and have) decimated a whole Kansas town long after Frank Baum send Dorothy flying.
I've been lucky, I guess, to have avoided them and the flash-flooding that often accompanies a terrible storm. However, I have been caught up in high water lots of times when heavy rainfall has caused a nearby creek to go over its bank.
We've had basements full of water and mud, but never like the poor folks elsewhere when a dam breaks, a river overflows or a levee is washed out.
Phyllis can count her blessings, too. She was away at work when a tornado destroyed a barn and did other damage to her family farm. And she never lived by a body of water which could flood. But she remembers her dad telling them to go to the basement and stay in the southwest corner when a storm threatened!
Now I know why the Dakota homesteaders had a storm cave to go to when the weather took a mean twist. Their sod houses or claim shanties couldn't withstand a tornado any more than a mobile home can.
I've always liked the story about how horseradish once saved a lady's life. It seems she was outdoors grinding the pungent root when her husband came in for lunch from the field in which he was working.
She talked him into staying to help her with her tearful chore when all of a sudden a bad storm came up. He could have been back in the field if it weren't for the horseradish. Instead he was right there to carry her into the basement which, she said, kept her from being carried away by the tornado.
I keep telling Phyllis she should be grinding horseradish. You can never tell when it comes in handy!
© 2007 Robert F. Karolevitz