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Tornado
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Tornado


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ne of the things that the Northeastern part of Arkansas is remembered for is its storms.  Now, they have storms back there!  Real, genuine, gully washing, toad stranglin', lightnin' flashin', thunderboomin' storms.  And wind!!!..  You ain't never saw wind like that!

But, that was a way of life.  Little old un-insulated houses with tin roofs, doors with no locks, windows left open 'bout 3" over the beds, the window (pronounced winder) fan droning on and on through the night in the summer.

I remember sleeping 5 to a full-sized bed.  The boys would alternate head to foot to make more room.  But it didn't stink too bad because we all took a bath every Saturday night before we went to town whether we needed it or not!  (I'll tell you about that one of these days).  Now I done got off my story.

It seemed like the worst storms were always at night, somewhere in the neighborhood of 'bout 2 - 4 o'clock in the morning.  One evening just before bed, one of the grandkids had a major mixup with too much watermelon.  It caused a hilarious reaction in the depths of his bowels, and he absolutely could not sustain his dignity any longer.  It even over-rode his fear of ghosts!  He made the dash to the outhouse, and noticed the lightning back over in the West, but it was really far away.  He had plenty of time to do his business!

But, in his haste, he had forgotten a couple of things; First, it was very dark out there, second, there ain't no light out there in the outhouse.  But, in his condition, he had no choice.  He had to do it from memory.  He could do it he told himself.  Besides, he didn't have time to go back, and, he couldn't take care of his business outside because Grandpa had tied the Sears & Roebuck Catalog up to the wall with a chain to keep it from getting wet, and he didn't have time to worry 'bout gettin' it off that chain!

He noticed the wind was gettin' strong, but he had no choice.  He'd remember the next time he ate so much watermelon.  Especially, this close to bedtime.  He had it figured out to leave the door open and get enough light that way.  Well, while he was perched on toppa that fancy fold down seat Grandpa had installed, the wind hit with a fury.  The flimsy door of the outhouse began to swing back and forth, banging mightily from side to side.  Suddenly, it quit banging.  It was gone!  The wind had torn it off, and now he had no protection from the wind, even if he had been able to reach it!

The wind was getting stronger by the minute!  He could hardly breathe.  Not only that, but things were flying into the little outhouse with him!  Like weeds, and cans, and straw.  He was getting banged up pretty good!  And that Sears & Roebuck was getting torn to shreds.  Oh my, that was this years brand new catalog!  And there just went about 25 pages right out the door!

But the cousin couldn't move.  He was bound there by the essence of his bowels and that infernal watermelon.  The noise was deafening.  The thunder, the lightning, the rain, the wind, cans rolling around, limbs crashing down around the little outhouse.  Suddenly, the roof came off.  HE WAS FINISHED!  He yanked up his trousers, and hit the floor and hung on by wedging himself between the box and the wall out of the front of the door.

Back in them days, everybody had storm cellars.  Lots of people still do, but not so many as there used to be.  Now them storm cellars were pretty scary.  Ours wasn't much more'n a pile of dirt with a solid roof and a set of steps leading dowing into the bowels of the earth.  Grandpa always had to go first and clear out the spider webs and the snakes as well as what other varmints there were down there.  After everybody had gotten into the little cellar, someone asked "Where's Toby?" They had all forgotten about him in their haste to get to safety in the cellar.  Grandpa immediately went back out into the storm and went through the house, but couldn't find him.  He was nowhere in the house.  He was gone!

When he got back to the cellar all soaked and dripping wet and gave his report of Toby being gone, the cousins started wailing.  Toby's sister had stayed that night as well, and she was crying hysterically.  But no one knew of Toby, because he was too embarassed to tell anyone he had ate so much watermelon he had the Hershey Highway Meltdown.  So, Toby was stuck in the outhouse all by himself during the storm.

The storms in that part of the country last only a short time, and are usually gone in a couple of hours.  But, if you are wedged on the floor of an outhouse with your britches full of something that didn't belong there, two hours was a mighty long time!  Toby had already cried himself out, and was now just hanging on.  He figured the outhouse would go at any time, but was not aware that the big ol' tree that he heard crash down a while ago had actually fell on the outhouse and had secured it to the ground.  That outhouse wasn't going nowhere!

The next thing Toby knew, he heard someone laughing.  Grandpa had gotten up at first light and had gone around surveying the damage to the farm.  One of the first things he saw when he stepped off the back porch was the outhouse amongst the limbs of the big old tree.  When he walked up to the outhouse, he found Toby on the floor fast asleep, and started laughing when he saw the condition of his britches.  All the cousins heard Grandpa laughing, and made a beeline outside.  Toby was under their blissful scrutiny as he made his way to the smokehouse where the tub was set up.

Needless to say, Toby didn't care to eat a whole lot of watermelon at one time after that!

George Cavaness
10-09-1994



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