The intensity of the first thunderstorm of the season is akin to the intensity of a new lover. Thursday night clouds moved in, real rain fell from the skies, and suddenly, the rumble of thunder rolled across the land like distant war drums of an ancient enemy. I unplugged the computer and turned off all the lights in the house, and went outside on the front porch. The last light of the day retreated from the storm. The photoflash of lightning made me flinch, but I knew it would. Reflexively, I count the seconds off; one Hickory Head, two Hickory Head, three, rumble rumble rumble, the storm is coming in hard and fast from the Southwest, and it brings water, wind, and fire.
I would very much like to watch the storm from the porch, and see the jagged streaks of lightning as they are created and fall but Sam needs me inside. Storms terrify Sam. Sam will migrate from under the dining room table to the corner of the bedroom to the closet with each new thunder boom. Bert is indifferent. If an especially loud crash occurs he will raise his head and look at me to see if I’m reacting, the Bert goes right back to sleep. The Loki Mutt torments Sam during his first storm. It’s great fun to chase Sam as he migrates, it seems. I scold Lucas away from Sam and he watches the storm with me. If I am not afraid of it, and Bert is not afraid of it, Luke isn’t going to be either. He’s proven to be quite fearless, actually.
Sam hides in the closet of the bedroom as I lay in the dark and watch the show. Brilliant flashes of light reveal Bert curled up in a tight ball on the floor, and Lucas worrying a rawhide next to him. Outside the woods, light up devoid of shadow or darkness in pale yet incredible blue. Between strikes, it is as dark as a cave then for a fraction of a second there is the light of an electric sun causing a rip in heaven. I hold my hand up and cannot see my fingers then suddenly there they are, bathed in light, casting a shadow on the wall, then they are gone again and the afterimage is burned into my mind. The storm closes in on us, envelops us with power, rain, wind, lightning, and fury. There is a tornado watch and I’ve always wonder what I would do if one hit. Likely, I would do nothing at all because that is all there is to do. There are no tornado warning out here, and even if there were there is nothing to do but run. Run where? If there is a tornado about then almost anywhere is better than where it is, but how much warning would I get? It’s like worrying about a falling tree, or…lightning.
A friend of mine was fishing with his father and their boat’s motor died. They had a very long way to paddle back and darkness caught them, and then a storm moved in. For about three hours they would paddle between flashes of lighting, trying to pick and paddle their way down the river. He said it was unnerving to paddle in total darkness until the next flash, and each flash was a reminder that being hit in a boat was likely the very worst place to be hit. The last three or four flashes took them to the landing, and he said that since that time he has not been able to go out in a boat again.
The old World War One Torture Building that served as the Early County School system’s gym looked all the world like a very large white wooden box. Whoever designed the thing had his imagination amputated as a child and never understood anything but clean ninety degree angles. There were holes in the roof we would use as time pieces; as soon as the sunspot hit the place in the bleached out wood where we had drawn a circle it would be time to go. There was a series of circles drawn by different classes during different times of day and seasons of the year. But one day as we all huddled together waiting for the rain to slacken lightning hit a tree near the gym and we all felt a tingling. Some of the kids panicked and ran into the storm, while others ran back into the old gym, and some of us just stood there looking at the raised hair on everyone’s heads. When I say near it is a relevant term for the tree was a hundred yards away from where the old building stood.
The storm moves on and the flashes’ intervals lengthen. The intensity of the rumble decreases. The rain’s pounding on the roof becomes inaudible and I begin to drift towards sleep. Somewhere in the closet someone is snoring, and even the Loki Mutt seems to be in repose. I have no way of knowing it but this is just a lull between cells, and the next part of the storm hits while I’m dozing, and it catches me unawares.
This part of the storm is moving much faster, the wind is more fierce and the thunder more intense. I’m half asleep when the first real boom comes crashing down, and it jerks me awake, and snatches Sam out of the closet, tosses him through the air, and he lands on top of me. Lucas thinks we’re playing so he follows, and Bert isn’t going to be left out so in the space of three or four second I have over two hundred pounds of canine on top of me, one third of which is trying to burrow under me. It is a nightmarish looking scene, even if it is fairly funny. The lightning flashes and all I can see are the heads of three dogs, inches from my face.
Celebes comes to Hickory Head, brought by lightning and thunder!