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Well, I reckon I can check riding out a major category 4 hurricane off my bucket list. I sure won’t do it again! Hurricane Michael carried a little more punch than I realized—until I saw …
Well, I reckon I can check riding out a major category 4 hurricane off my bucket list. I sure won’t do it again! Hurricane Michael carried a little more punch than I realized—until I saw the uprooted trees, garbage cans and small parts of out buildings flying thirty feet in the air across my backyard.
A million people have asked, “What goes through your mind at a time like that?” I can’t speak for anyone else of course; but mostly I stood there with my mouth open and thought about Aunt Beatrice’s storm cellar.
We didn’t get one single hurricane in McKenzie, Tennessee, when I was a boy. We couldn’t even get a good tornado. They all went over to Huntingdon. But we prepared like the dickens for one anyway! We didn’t have a cellar like some of our neighbors. Mom thought the safest place in the house was the bathtub. She allowed if the “big one” was coming, we’d head there.
We never had need of it you understand, but I have lived my whole life trying to picture Mom and Dad, me, Leon and David Mark all huddled on top of each other in our regular sized bathtub with a mattress piled on top of us……as the wind whistled hard overhead.
Aunt Bea lived in the big house on the hill. The storm cellar was underneath the house. Now, I know we are splitting hairs here—a real storm cellar would be an underground bunker located a short distance away from the main house. The idea was to hurry out to it before an approaching tempest could engulf you. Most folks would call Aunt Bea’s underground cavern a basement, but she and Uncle Womack never referred to it as such. It was the place they were going at the first sign of a serious storm!
Raymond White was the forerunner of the Weather Channel in our little town. He came on WHDM radio every morning with the latest meteorology report. Mostly, he’d tell us how the current day’s temperature ranked against the record high set in some long ago distant year. He seemed more preoccupied with past conditions and setting records than whether it was going to rain that afternoon.
And he had no way to predict a big storm…..unless he looked out the window. By then, it was too late to get any type warning out to the end of Stonewall Street. What I’m saying here is, by the time we could get word a bad wind was brewing in our direction, it was probably too late to dive into the bathtub!
But let me tell you, that didn’t stop lots of older folks from preparing for one! I reckoned they’d been caught off guard once somewhere back in the ’30’s. Aunt Bea’s was kind of a multiuse storm cellar. She had rows of shelves lined with Mason jars full of tomatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, beets and all sorts of jams and jellies. She undoubtedly thought the storm was going to last for six months…..and everyone in town was going to be down there with us!
Me and cousin Charles would break into a jar of pickled peaches and eat near ’bout all of them at one sitting. We figured Aunt Bea wouldn’t care, and if she did, she surely wouldn’t miss one tiny jar amongst the hundreds lining these walls.
I remember how cozy it was down there. I remember the wooden steps you used to descend into its depth. I remember the single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. I remember the dust, the cobwebs high in the corners and I remember how the quiet seemed to permeate into the far reaches of the room. And I also remember never feeling safer.
We did have one potentially bad storm back in my junior high days. The wind had really picked up and the rain was coming in torrents. Leon asked if he could drive out to Frank’s Dairy Bar. Dad looked at him like he’d lost his mind….but managed to ask fairly calmly, “Whatever for in this kind of weather?”
“Well,” Leon always acted like he’d thought things out when he hadn’t, “if this big wind blows us all down to Gleason, I at least want to go with my friends!”
I am so thankful Mom never made us do a bathtub storm safety drill.
And you understand my thoughts as Cathy and I quietly watched Hurricane Michael roar past, our silence broken only when I turned to her and asked if we, by chance, had any pickled peaches…..