Thursday, February 02, 2006

Why Can't I Go Back to Sleep?


Terrible line of thunderstorms made their way through southwest Louisiana early this morning. The thunder woke me up around 2 a.m., and I've been up ever since. Switched on the Weather Channel only to see tornado warnings for my parish -- their advice to people living in mobile homes: "go outside and lie in a ditch". I think I'll take my chances in my doublewide. I know what it feels like to be outside during a tornado...interesting story.

Late summer, 1994

I don't remember the exact date, it wasn't some monumental, life changing experience. Just, for the moment, terrifying, and a couple of hours later, funny as hell. Just sit back and listen.

I was 19 and was home for the summer from college. I was home alone and a thunderstorm came from out of nowhere. Instinctively, I thought of all those tornado disaster movies, i.e. "Terrible Tuesday", that were required watching every spring in my elementary school. I panicked, jumped into my car, and went in search of my parents. I was in a safe place, but I didn't want to be by myself. I drove three miles to Needmore Holler (actual name) to my father's equipment yard, but didn't see his truck. My uncle was living in a singlewide in the holler, so I thought I better warn him. I knew he smoked weed, so I tried not to scare him when I knocked on his door. Now, I don't know if you have ever had the experience of knocking on one of those cheap-ass, foam trailer doors, but it is impossible not to sound like you're the DEA when you knock on one. His eyes were big as saucers when he peered through the standard issue diamond shaped window. He flung the door open and said a tornado had been spotted a few miles away. As he let me in and fumbled for his cigarette lighter, before I could shut the door, the wind began to roar. I told him we had to get out of there, fast! He had cigarettes in one hand and on the way out the door he grabbed my grandmother's bible. We ran 500 feet to the shop, but we couldn't get in. I said, "Let's hide under there!" as I pointed to a D9 Caterpillar, "There's no way a tornado could pick it up!" He said, "Let's go!" and we crawled underneath that bulldozer. You could not imagine how much mud, oil and diesel were underneath that dozer. But we laid face down in that muck until the tornado passed. We would probably still be under it today if I hadn't have peeped out and noticed the dozer was parked under a utility pole and I was afraid the power lines would break away and touch the dozer, electrically charging it and killing us. I have no idea if that could really happen, but I was scared and he was paranoid, so we crawled out and walked back to his trailer.

Neither of us said a word as we took off our shoes, mine must have weighed 25 pounds each, they were so caked with mud. I waited on the little deck while he went inside to look for some clothes to loan me so I could drive home. My parents pulled into the holler as my uncle was coming back outside and they took one look at us and began to laugh. That's what I loved about my parents, they were always so concerned about my well-being (it's hard to convey sarcasm in writing). I began to cry and I ran to my car, barefoot and dirty as hell, and drove home. I don't think my parents ever believed us, they thought I had been smoking weed with him.

So that's why I'll take my chances in my trailer.