The men were at a neighbor's farm unloading baled straw. A beautiful summer day had become hot and humid. The usual breezes we counted on for a bit of relief had stilled. One of the children came in from outdoors and said it "felt funny" out there. The sky had turned a greenish color and huge black clouds were looming on the horizon. The threatening change in weather had not gone unnoticed by our farmers. The tractor came roaring up the drive with two men aboard.
Our gawking at the clouds came to a quick halt when my husband, jumping from the tractor, yelled, "Get the kids to the basement, NOW!" Our 2-year old had been unusually fussy that afternoon and had finally fallen asleep. I admit to being tempted to let the poor little guy rest, but I did wake him and shepherded his sister and two brothers ahead of us downstairs. I grabbed a decorative candle from the hutch as I passed. Three stair steps led to a landing and the windowed back door then changed direction down to basement. The men were standing guard at the window and hurried everyone as they passed. "Sit down by the back wall and stay there." This was not dad giving a suggestion. It was a direct order.
Our youngest, so rudely awakened from his nap and unsure of what was going on, began to wail. By this time I was in panic mode and that made it worse for the children. Their dad called down to me to give everybody some pop. Never good in a crisis, my fears took over, my hands shaking so badly there was no way I could pour pop and have it end up in a cup.
My ten-year-old daughter stayed calm as a cucumber going to the basement shelf to grab some paper cups. She passed them out before opening a large bottle of 7-Up. We only drank soda on special occasions or to calm an upset stomach but this was an emergency situation. She poured a glassful for each of the boys and herself. I held out my hand and asked her to give me a little, too. "Mom that is not a glass," she said looking down at the fat candle I was holding out to her.
Meantime we were being given shouted reports from the men standing on the landing. "It's pouring rain and the wind has come up - Wow! - it's getting worse - the weed sprayer is rolling across the yard - there go the wagons..." The little boys were begging to go up to see what was happening. "Stay down there - we can hardly see through the rain - the pigs are climbing all over one another trying to get into the barn - the trees are taking a whipping...". I begged the men to come downstairs but they were mesmerized by what they were seeing. "Good Lord! There goes the barn!" And then it was over.
The winds calmed down and the rain gentled, then stopped. As soon as the men gave the all-clear, there was a mini-stampede as we dashed up to join them on the stairway landing. Our two-story hay barn was destroyed. It didn't spread itself all over the yard as we might have expected but had simply lain down like a weary soldier. The boys would have run out to clamber over the roof had we allowed it.
We had not lived through a tornado. It was determined it was a wicked storm with a very destructive, but straight wind. The first order of business was to check the animals. They had escaped to the barn or the hog shed for shelter but now many were trapped under the collapsed barn. My husband and his uncle left their backdoor post and set to work trying to dig through the debris to free the animals. Neighbors were driving around to see if anyone had damage and seeing the men digging in the wreckage of the barn stopped to help. Several of the largest sows were killed but thanks to the extra help many others were rescued.
Oats poured out of the barn's upstairs grain bins which had split open. Machinery stored in or setting near the barn was wrecked. The equipment the men saw rolling across the yard had slammed into the cattle yard fences. There was a real mess but it was only property destroyed. All our family and most of the livestock were okay.
The local volunteer fire department came out weeks later to do a controlled burn of the remaining rubble. The son who was that cranky little two-year-old on the day of the storm remembers being grounded during the clean-up operation. He and his constant companion, a stuffed skunk named Pepe Le Pew, were ordered to stay on a hayrack parked near the house. He lay on his tummy with chin propped on his hands for hours watching the huge blaze and the firemen at work. As his mother remembers it, he was cranky about that, too. firstname.lastname@example.org