On the evening of April 28th I was reading a book while keeping one eye on the weather station. The red blob on the weather map was moving toward my house. When the newscaster said there was a possibility of tornadoes, my friend (and sometimes redhead) Pat suggested that we drive to Aunt Jo Holt’s on Highway 72 and get in her storm shelter. “Let’s wait a while,” I said.
I was following Daddy’s theorem about tornadoes which he explained as follows: “Aww, well, it’ll either git you or it won’t.” That’s 50-50 odds. He never went anywhere except to bed; claimed the wind and rain made him sleep soundly. I was beginning to wish I had purchased a storm shelter instead of hoarding my money for a trip. As the wind increased, it occurred to me that the only trip I might be taking was to eternity. I initiated my safety procedure by removing suitcases and several bushels of junk from the hall closet. My survival plan was to get inside the closet at the last moment, close the door and pray hard. Heavy rain battered the storm door and windows. Wind howled outside. I heard the wailing sirens at Rogersville and Clements. Then the power went off. Our cellphones wouldn’t function. Pat’s niece texted, telling us that a tornado was headed straight toward us.
“Let’s go to Jo’s!” exclaimed Pat, but it was too late. Afterwards, when the worst had passed, I followed Daddy’s example and went to bed and slept like a rock with no idea of what had happened to others. Next morning, I noticed that a dead limb had fallen from a large Poplar tree in the back yard. Then I brewed coffee on the gas grill in the carport. Texting brought news of death and destruction nearby.
Later, when I drove to Athens to obtain a generator at Tall Paul’s Rental, I witnessed the destruction for the first time. Aunt Jo’s place looked like a giant bush hog had chopped through it. Ancient trees were down and one was lying right where my little Toyota pick-up would have been parked had we fled to her storm shelter. Pat and I transferred the contents of three freezers, some 28 packets of sweet corn, soup and leftovers to my deep freeze. I plugged in the generator. Over nine days, I estimated that I used about $100 worth of gas to save those 28 bags of corn and leftovers. However, the generator proved its worth in other ways. It powered my coffee maker, radio and a reading light. Listening to the radio at night reminded me of my childhood back in the 1940s. Daddy would turn on our battery-powered radio and it crackled with static as he dialed in the evening news. Back then there was real news, not the puff stuff of today which is mostly entertainment, promoting books, and telling us which actor has re-entered rehab, or, even worse, what the Kardashians are doing. I don’t believe a darned word they say anymore. Daddy’s favorite newscaster was Gabriel Heatter. He had never heard of political correctness. When his rich baritone voice came across the airwaves, Daddy shushed us. “Everybody be quiet.”
“Good evening everyone. There is good news tonight!” said Heatter. Then he told about a Japanese destroyer that American forces had sunk or some other great news. Nowadays, a gorgeous blonde with long legs poking out of a miniskirt reports the latest lies out of Washington. I am sick of it – not the nice legs - the lies! I want to hear good news such as the number of lying, conniving politicians that have been arrested that day, how many are on trial and how many were convicted. I want to see videos of FBI cuffing them and dragging them out of our marble buildings. I want to believe in my government again. Sorry about the rant, but the thought of TV non-news and Washington politicians triggers a deep primitive instinct inside me to grab a bucket of hot tar and a wad of feathers and march on Washington.
Anyway, no power for nine days was a blessing for me in some small way. I got out my chainsaw and Pat and I helped Aunt Jo clean up following the tornado. I took cold showers and listened to the radio at night. I witnessed neighbors coming together to help one another. I saw men and women from other areas clearing debris and restoring power lines. When I drove past them, I yelled “Thank you!” It felt good. One morning I was cutting up a large oak tree when an Ardmore fire truck drove up. Three well-fed guys unloaded with a chainsaw and went to work. I didn’t get their names, but said “thank you Ardmore!”
God bless this county. I love the people and I love living here. I haven’t lost faith in my neighbors, only my government. I learned that Limestone Countians are resilient and self-reliant. I also learned that prayer is powerful, but believe that the Lord helps those who help themselves. I’ve decided to do my part. I’m forgetting about the planned trip. Instead, I’m installing a storm shelter.
By: Jerry Barksdale