What the Background Reveals…

Storm-cellar

Nothing shown in the photo I used for the Storm Season blog exists today, except the distant hills. Well, there’s me, but I’ve changed a lot in the span of about 70 years.

By the time I graduated high school, the grassy pasture in the background was filled with young mesquite trees. The wire fence around our yard was gone, the cellar door was warped, and the rocking horse… I don’t know where it went.

The driveway from the main road to our house was the dirt road in this picture. For that matter, the main road was dirt as well. Vehicles on that road raised a cloud of dust in dry weather and left a trail of deep ruts when it rained. The muddy roads were slick and vehicles, including the school bus, sometimes slid into the ditch. Getting stuck in a bar ditch is not fun.  I remember.

In this old photo, I’m sitting on the land my great-grandfather chose for his allotment before the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache Reservation was opened to white settlement. (My great-grandfather was adopted into the Comanche Tribe as a blood brother to Quanah Parker. The Federal government recognized him as a member of the tribe with all the rights and privileges of a full-blood Comanche.) Great-grandfather chose his land between two creeks because he thought no railroad would cross his land.

And it didn’t.

But, Great-grandfather never imagined that a dam would be build in The Narrows between the mountain peaks to the south or that the land his eldest son inherited would be flooded when heavy rains came. I’m glad he didn’t know that a generation or so later, a much larger dam would be built to create Tom Steed Lake in Southwest Oklahoma.

Today, If you were to visit the spot where I am sitting in this photo, you would need a boat. You would see water to the rocky mounds in the background and to the mountain peaks beyond the edge of the photo to the right. Looking back, you’d see water to Twin Mountain, and to the left, water as far as you could see, with a line of land in the distance on a clear day.

This photo holds the landmarks of my childhood that are no more. The loss of the land is sad for me and my family, but many people enjoy the camping, boating, and fishing benefits of Tom Steed Lake and the nearby towns need the water… progress marches on.

 

 

Storm Season

 

 

Me posing by the cellar door on a clear, sunny day.

Me posing by the cellar door on a clear, sunny day.

 

We’ve had several years of drought but we are now blessed with rain, green trees and pastures, plus running streams and rivers. All is good except for one thing… Spring rains are accompanied by storm fronts that can produce tornados. So it is a time to watch the weather.

Today, this means sitting in a recliner with a Diet Dr Pepper nearby, eyes the big screen TV. The weatherman pinpoints where any “circulation” occurs and maps the projected path. When a tornado warning is issued, he lists the town in its path and the time of arrival. He warns those in danger to head for their safe place, which for many of us isn’t a cellar. Most of the time, Duncan isn’t in the path so I take another sip of Diet Dr Pepper and watch as local storm chasers drive the highways, trying to get a clear shot of a funnel cloud while staying out of the path of danger. After a while, I change the channel with the intent to check back now and then. I know things pertaining to Oklahoma weather can change… very fast.

However, my childhood memories… well, for one thing, in my younger days, we didn’t have TV, Doppler radar, or computers. The weather forecast from Farmer’s Almanac was about as accurate as forecast from the radio weatherman. So, Daddy was our storm watcher. I remember him standing on the front porch with the wind blowing his hair. A hat wouldn’t have stayed on his head and he had to hold on to his shirt.

He had learned to read the clouds from his dad. He knew the green tint and pockets dipping down from the clouds meant hail was on the way. He could tell when there was wind in the clouds (turbulence), and how far away the storm was by counting the seconds between the lightening flash and thunder. He determined if we were in the storm path by the direction the clouds were moving. I remember once he said it had passed us by and then shouted, “Get in the cellar. It’s turning back.”

One spring a tornado took the roof off our house and blew the chicken house away. I don’t think Daddy saw the funnel but he recognized the possibility. He got us in the cellar and then told us to get in the northwest corner. He took hold of the rope that was tied to the cellar door, stood in front of Mama, me, and Little Brother with all his weight and strength holding that door down. I’m sure Mama was praying… We heard the loud sound of rushing wind and our ears stopped up, but we were safe. (I now believe that tornado didn’t touch the ground near the cellar but dipped low enough to suck the roof off the house and then demolished the chicken house about a hundred yards away. If it had dipped down… well you can imagine what would have happened to the guy holding the rope.

Our cellar wasn’t the greatest place. It was damp and musky. Light from the lantern flickered on the wall but left the corners dark. When the threat wasn’t severe, Daddy entertained us by making shadows on the wall with his hands. Mama told us stories and sometimes we participated in “continuing stories.” She’d start and then someone else would continue the plot. That part was fun. The best part was coming up the stairs after the storm had passed and inhaling the rain-fresh air.

 

Viva-la-difference!

We were somewhere between Chickasha and Oklahoma City when Dan’s cell rang. He was driving so he pulled his phone out of his pocket and handed it to me.

It was our son and I’m sure he expected to get his Dad… after all, he had called Dad’s number, not mine. But he had news to share.

Son: “I’m staring at a snake and I don’t know what to do.”

Me: “Where is it?”

Son: “In my house.”

Me, frowning: “You have a snake in your house. How did it get in?”

Son: “It’s just a little one…. probably crawled in under the door or something. It’s a baby and can’t tell what kind it is. Don’t know if it’s poisonous or not. I don’t know what to do.”

All I heard was baby snake… Doesn’t matter to me what species, if it’s a baby, well mother instincts kick in. Don’t know why I reacted this way. Son is MY baby. Anyway, I wanted to find a safe way to get the baby out of the house and set him free. (And, I forgot Son had called his Dad) So… Me: “Do you have some tongs?”

Son, I could hear the puzzlement in his voice: “I suppose I do…”

He didn’t sound likely to hunt tongs, so I offered another solution. Me: Capture him under a container of some sort, then slip a paper under the container, turn it over, and carry him outside.”

Son: Silence. “I’ll think of something… Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”

Me: “Okay. Be careful!”

Call ended and I turned to see the smirk on Hubby’s face. “I would have told him to stomp it with the heel of his boot.”

I gasped and then remembered the country gal I used to be would have done the same thing. The city girl I became would have screamed for help… and the soft-hearted grandmother I am, would have found a way to save the baby snake. I smiled.

Son called again a few minutes later with news to ease his mother’s mind. “It’s all taken care of,” he said, “and then changed the subject.”

This morning, I realized he hadn’t called his dad for advice. He called to tell the story of the snake in his house… man to man. I think the poor baby snake had already met his end before the call, and Son protected his mother’s gentle heart. His dad and I are not the same and Son knows the difference. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lilac Tree Song

apples and lilacs_edited-1

May is Mother’s Day month. I think of my mother often but maybe a little more in the month of May. Today I’m remembering the old song, The Lilacs Tree. It’s about young love and a promise for one kiss when apples grow on the lilac tree. My mother sang this song during a school program when she was in the first grade. It might have been her school stage debut. Her teacher was Mrs. Wilkes, who taught third grade and gave expression lessons after school. She also directed the grade school programs and plays.

About twenty years after Mama’s debut, Mrs. Wilkes was still teaching third grade, giving expression lessons, and directing the school programs. When spring came and time for the end of school program. Mrs. Wilkes decided I should sing the song my mother sang.

Mama made my outfit out of pink crepe paper. I think the body of the dress might have been cotton broadcloth, but the ruffles were crepe paper. My outfit included pantaloons and a bonnet. Mama made them all. I was far more pleased about the outfit than singing on stage. But, I did it and made Mama and Mrs. Wilkes proud (I hope!).

So, this week, I’m thinking of my mother, the song we sang… and the outfit she made for me. It’s a sweet memory and I love lilacs… With my eyes closed, I can almost smell them now.

P.S. If you’d like to hear someone else sing this song here’s a link to YouTube: https://youtu.be/qgi_DDpxD00 

She’s is a little older than I was… I like my outfit best. 🙂