Possumhaw: 'Twas a dark and stormy night



Shannon Bardwell



"Do you know how God controls the storm and causes the lightning to flash forth from his clouds?" 


-- Job 37:15 




Monday a week ago, severe weather warnings were issued for the wee hours. That night, Sam -- the weather watcher -- said, "I'll set the alarm for 1 a.m. and get up and check the TV." 


We prayed over our lives and our land and went to sleep. Before the alarm went off, there was another alarm. "It's your phone," I said. Sam was up in a flash, grabbed the phone and took off downstairs for the TV. I stayed put until he hollered out, "Better get to the stairs. Warnings are issued for the airport area." 


At the Prairie house there's not a room without large windows, so our safe place is the landing in the stairway. I got up, dragging pillows and blankets with me. While I lay comfortably surrounded by pillows, Sam watched the TV weather reports until the signal was lost. Then Sam joined me in the landing. Shortly, text messages started coming in: "Are y'all alright?" 


I wondered what our friends were doing up at 1 a.m. texting? Then I realized everyone's phone was going off. We started texting other friends. Some answered; some were still fast asleep. I lay on my back looking up at the lighting fixture over my head, wondering if it could come crashing down. While I did so, my thoughts wandered to a long-ago time, a time when there were no cell phones or satellite dishes.  


Almost 30 years ago I was living in a mobile home about a quarter of a mile from my parents in the Sessums community. It was a November night. Weather warnings were issued on the 10 o'clock news. I went to bed. 


At 4 o'clock I woke up and walked down the hall and into the bathroom. The rain was building, hard and loud. Then there was an explosion and I found myself on all fours on the floor. I looked up to see the roof was gone. All was quiet while a gentle rain fell on my face.  


In one instant everything was changed, walls had buckled and insulation was hanging out. I turned toward the bedroom for clothes. There was nothing there except the mattress. Back in the hall I headed for the front door, then I smelled propane gas. Electric lines were dangling. At the door, steps were gone. I climbed out. There was my car. Miraculously, the keys were in my hand. I don't know how. I headed for my parents' house, not knowing what I would find. They were sleeping undisturbed; we called 911.  


Firemen came, and neighbors -- some I knew, some I didn't. They began bagging things, taking them to safe, dry places. A farmer came with a flatbed truck; men loaded appliances. For weeks, items were returned to me, washed and restored.  


For a long while after, at the sound of loud rain I would panic and suck air, then one day it went away. And now, we pray over our life and our land, we heed warnings, take precautions and go to bed.  



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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