An Ill Wind

I turned on the telly this afternoon to watch a little news and witnessed the devastation of entire communities from the cluster of tornadoes making their way through the midwest. Scary stuff. There was no news on casualties as I write this, and I hope everyone managed to get to a safe place before the storms hit.

It reminded me of my own experience with turbulent weather back in my youth. In 1974, I was living in a cabin near Fayetteville, Georgia. It was one of about ten cabins on Crystal Lake, which had once been a resort but at that time was run down and the cabins had become permanent residences. It was a neat place to live, and we could rent rowboats from the landlord, a crusty old southerner with a large indented area on his forehead. We never asked how he got it.

I was working full time at Owens-Corning Fiberglass a few miles away in Fairburn. It was a good paying job that left me with plenty of disposable income, so I decided to invest in a good stereo system. If you remember the seventies, a good stereo involved having gigantic speakers that weighed thirty to forty pounds each and had to be moved with a dolly.

I purchased such a system and set it up in our tiny cabin. One night, my roommate Steve and his girlfriend wanted to hear how the stereo worked. I had just purchased the live album by the band Yes and was anxious to test the limits of my monster speakers.

I cranked up the volume and we sat back to be bathed in the psychedelic nonsensical lyrics…”In and around the lake, mountains come out of the sky and they stand there…” 

Even at ear-shattering volume, I noticed there was something wrong with the sound. There was a buzzing noise behind the music. I was furious! I just spent a lot of money on this stuff and it was obviously defective! I turned down the volume so I could find the problem.

To my surprise, the buzzing noise wasn’t coming from the stereo, but from rain pounding the tin roof. Steve walked over and turned the doorknob, and the door flew in and banged against the wall. It took both of us to push it shut. We realized that we were experiencing a tornado, but we couldn’t do anything about it. The old flimsy cabin had no basement, and as it was pitch black outside, we couldn’t know from which direction the storm was coming. Driving was not an option.

We turned the stereo off and sat listening to the chaos outside. Eventually, we decided there was nothing we could do but go to bed and hope for the best. Steve wore his motorcycle helmet.

We survived the night, and when we drove out the next morning there was a swath of fallen trees just down the road from the cabin. It was a night I’ll never forget.

Let’s hope that the storm victims back east were as lucky. It makes me thankful that I live in California. I’ll take earthquakes and forest fires any day.  

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