Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Under the Stairs Hidy Hole

It’s Tornado Season in Okieland.

And you thought there were only four seasons–Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring–in the year, didn’t you? Actually, Tornado Season is sort of synonymous with Spring. Except when it’s not. 🙂

Some years we have only a close call or two.

Some years, it feels as if we’re dancing with tornadoes. 😦

The spring after Middle Son was born, we had twisters about every-other-night, all spring long. (At least it seemed like e-o-n!) We lived in a two story house with all the bedrooms upstairs and big windows on both sides of the stairway. Not the best choice on our part, but who thinks about nighttime tornadoes when choosing a house plan?

Our house was just about a mile outside of C-Town. Most of the time I could hear the tornado siren if I was awake (do towns in states outside the middle of the nation have those?) but just in case I missed it, I made a deal with one of my sisters to call me when the sirens blew.

We didn’t have a ‘fraidy hole. But because of the way our staircase was built–very, very sturdy–under it was even better than the inside room the big boys recommend you to hide in. G-Man worked twenty-four hour call at that time. Often, he was gone on a job when storms hit.

#1 son was five then, so he had a pretty good time under the stairs. (Actually, we waited in the small hallway next to the door that went UTS.) If the baby was sleeping, he had all of our attention and we would color or play games with him.

We had a small wooden cradle that I kept downstairs for Matt to snooze in next to the stairs.

We never had an actual hit from a tornado while we lived in that house. In my life, I remember very few times when a tornado got very close to us. There’s an old wives’ tale that because of the way our town is situated in the bend of the river and beneath South Hill, we’ll never be hit. While I don’t trust old wives’ tales, so far it’s proven true.

Of course, I don’t live in the city limits of C-Town now, so I keep a weather eye. (The house I live in was destroyed in 1991 by a twister.)

Funny how those frightening experiences turn into fond memories, isn’t it?

 

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Twister Tales

Aftermath of the Tornado that hit Pryor Creek ...

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The rash of earthquakes and the tornado (or two) Okie-Land had a few weeks ago brought comments from people in other states. “I’d rather deal with an earthquake than a tornado.”

Really? At least, in a tornado if you have warning, there are places you can go where you’re safe.

Of course, we don’t like them.  We’d give all our twisters to a sister state, if she’d take them. (Hey, Kansas? How about you?)

But until Big K steps up to take the killer twirls from us, we’re stuck with them.

Tornadoes and their warnings are dark shadows in most Okies’ memories. One of my first was the night of the circus that the Williams family went to with our fam. You can read about it here.

Another time, the warning siren woke us in the middle of the night. Mom sort of panicked, which gave at least one of my sisters a real fear of storms. Even thunder storms give her the jitters.

(I kind of enjoy them as long as I’m not driving.)

The spring after my middle son was born, we lived in a house about a mile west of C-Town. Because north-east Oklahoma has a high water table, and that makes it hard to have a cellar or basement that doesn’t have a foot or two of water in it, I’ve never owned a hidey-hole. That spring, I was sorry I didn’t have one.

It seems that every week, I got a phone call from one of my sibs, telling me the siren was blowing. The entryway of my house, where the stairway was, had several large windows on both sides. I didn’t want to navigate those stairs with glass crashing all around and a five-year-old as well as an infant in tow, so we’d sleep in the family room, right next to the under-the-stairs closet. (We figured it was the safest place in the house.)

A tornado cut a swath next to highway 412 near C-Town once. It started somewhere to the west of where I live right now, and plowed a path through the trees and houses built around the lake.

One family, who’d all built houses near each other, had a cellar they shared. While the twister damaged their homes, they were snug and safe underground–until a car got rolled on top of their cellar and the gasoline inside it drain into the cellar with them.

They were lucky enough that nothing sparked and set off the fumes.

Just about every house on the block where I live now was damaged or destroyed by that same tornado. When things cleared, my mom and dad loaded up their car with things people might be able to use and drove to the lake to help their neighbors clean up and dig out.

Like the good Samaritan, we learn being able to give is much more blessed than needing to receive, don’t we?

So what do Okies do when a tornado heads our way? Most of us go for cover and prayer. Emphasis on prayer.


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Sunday Morning Thanks

Did the thunderstorm this morning cause anyone else to wake up with a smile? It did me! I love rain and thunderstorms, especially in summer.

The past two morning have been practically perfect in every way–cool one morning, cool and showering the next.

The shower this morning has really been a blessing! (Thank you, Jesus!)

♪♫ There will be showers of blessings ♪♫ Showers of blessing we need ♫♪ Mercy drops round us are falling ♪♫ But for the showers we plead! ♫♪ (Remember that song?)

Cool mornings in the middle of what looks as if it’s going to be a long, hot, dry summer is kind of like a hug from God, isn’t it? Just a quick touch in order for Him to say, “I haven’t forgotten you. I love you.

“I want to be your BFF.”  (He really does!)

Ever think of it that way? God loves us, cares about our every thought and emotion. He rejoices with us as well as mourns. He knows when we’re hurting, and He knows when we’re so thrilled, we have to do a little jig.

I think He’s jigging with us. He knows how many hairs we have left on our heads at any given moment. He knows the things that will hurt us. And thrill us. Tempt us. Lead us down the wrong path and how we can find the right one.

God cares. Doesn’t that give you comfort? It does me, way down deep inside.

And when the time is right, He sends us showers–the rain and blessings. What could be better than that?


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Branching Out

Ever notice that when you have something, that something ends up having you?

Get a car, and you’ll end up spending your time, taking care of upkeep and your dollars filling the tank. Or a dog–she’ll end up ruling the roost. (Happens that way at our house, anyway.)

What about your home? Whether you own your own house, rent one, live in an apartment, mobile home, cabin or a tent, you have to take care of it. (Unless you live under a bridge–in which case you probably won’t be reading this. LOL) Well, our yard decided to crack the whip recently.

 Not the best picture in the world, but that’s our front porch during a snow storm a couple of years ago.

 And this is the fall out from the trees in our yard. We’ve been collecting them for nearly a year, and our pile was looking really good. Seemed as if it grew even when we didn’t add to it. It was well on its way to taking over the neighborhood when it was decided that it couldn’t stay. Since it wouldn’t take off on its own (although the wind tried to blow it to the next yard . . . or county) we lended a hand. Well, G-Man did. 🙂 

He worked hard, loading branches and dead trees. I worked hard preserving the job for posterity.

This kid wandered past on his way home from work, so we talked him into helping. Not really! This is MS, who volunteered to help. Aren’t grown sons wonderful?

Of course, I saved everything for posterity. 🙂

Here’s the monster tree that laid down in a blustery storm last winter. He weighed about two tons, so G-Man dragged him off the trailer using a chain. Hey, my hands were full of camera! LOL.

After the branches were gone, we worked the rest of the day loading up and hauling away leaves. I’m not sure what was going on in that pile, but they multiplied faster than the trees could drop them. 

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Oh, and I won the prize that day. I got a beautiful little seed tick on the back of my knee. And while I didn’t actually get to keep him, I did get a unending itch to scratch for what seemed like forever. 😉

Honestly, I’m so excited about getting to work in my gardens. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen out there in the next few weeks.

I’m hoping for a whole lot of this!


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Twister!

F5 damage example

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Where were you May 3, 1999?

Do you remember the day? Most Okies do. That’s the day sixty-six tornadoes killed 36 people (36 according to News on 6 this morning, and 44 people according to other sources) and destroyed 2300 homes. And one of those cyclones was an F5–some of the fastest winds ever recorded on earth–261-318 mph!

An F5 causes strong frame houses to be lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances to disintegrate; automobile sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 meters; trees are debarked; steel re-inforced concrete structures are badly damaged.

G-Man and I were in the big city on that May 3rd. As we listened to the radio, we kept hearing about the tornadoes hitting our state, and I couldn’t help but think about the people I know in those towns. So many of the writers I’ve met over the years at the Oklahoma Writers Federation conference were from that area or close by.

How many of them would lose their homes? Their belongings? Their lives?  

Lots of people prayed hard that day. I know I stayed at it for most of the afternoon and evening, petitioning for people I knew and those I didn’t.

Remember that old saying, “There are no atheists in fox holes?” I have a feeling the same goes for tornado shelters–what ever, when ever and where ever they might be.  

Very easy Movie quote.

“Is there an F5?”
[Everyone goes dead silent]
“What would that be like?”
“The Finger of God.”

Can you name it?