Growing up in the 1970’s in rural Iowa provided very little in the way of “entertainment” unless you counted: riding your bike down a hill, up a ramp and through the air seeing how far you could be airbound until landing; riding the same bike down a gravel road to a friends house (who was just as bored as you) or if you were lucky…having a cousin visit you for a couplea days. Not much going on. We didn’t even have air conditioning on the main floor, just the upstairs where we slept, so you can guess how hot and muggy it was during some of those summer days and nights. I could speculate that it was “hotter than hell” but I don’t honestly know if hell has the humidity of Iowa in say, July. Hell probably has a “dry heat” is what I’m guessing. Anyway…the routine was pretty much the same for me as a boy growing up on a small hog farm. Wake up, do a few chores, play with the dog and cats, ride my bike and the like. Pretty uneventful…unless a storm came along.
The fields directly leading up to our farm were flat, you could see for miles…..and that’s where the storms liked to approach from. You wouldn’t neccessarily see them at first, but you’d notice small things like: our dog would somehow sense/hear/know that a storm was coming and would hide deep within a barn or garage…under a work bench; the birds would disappear….no chirping, no singing, no nothing; and the bugs would stop making noise. Each one of these things was unnerving, but if you take all three together it meant that a big ass storm was emminant. Big ass like: strong winds, hail, sheets of rain, dangerous lightning and thunder. I’m not sure at what age I finally put all of these “signs” together to mean that a storm was coming but I’m sure that when I did, it was the first time that I ever uttered “oh shit.” I hated storms, they scared me. Was God displeased? Were we destined to die in one of these horrible storms? Mind you, this was back in the day before Doppler radar was telling everyone how strong the storm was, where it was heading, how fast and when it would arrive. I just knew that “according to George (our beagle) a bad storm was coming”. Or the other way I knew that a storm was coming was I would be just screwing around, obvious of my surroundings then I’d hear it….the deep roll of thunder….like an angry animal growling….warning you of it’s presence and displeasure. (oh shit….again).
I’d head out to our garden and face the southwest and see it for the first time. The word “huge” doesn’t do a thunderstorm justice when it stretches the entire length of your field of view, from anvil-headed top to black curtain base. As I got older I’d lie down in the garden and watch the storm as it began…with it’s wall cloud reaching out prior to the storm, with little clouds slowly spinning, with the gusts of wind getting stronger….bringing cooler air with it….and the smell of rain. I could never bring myself to continue to lie there, as the storm came….something about wanting to live long enough to graduate from junior high always prompted me to go into the house and start shutting windows.
Sometimes, after the storm had passed, we’d listen to the news station (that was thirty miles to our east) and hear how a bad storm (some with tornados) had passed through our part of the county. I remember only going to the cellar once. That storm took out our neighbors grain bin….so Mom was right on that one. Still….I enjoy a good storm occassionally. It’s kind of comforting to have a visible sign that “we’re not in control” afterall.
Sometimes….I sleep better with a little thunder in the distance…if even for a little while. Do storms scare you?