Stormy Weather

… is not just a moody, old song

By Jeff Salter

Yes, it’s also a terrific song, and the best version, in my opinion, is the one with Lena Horne.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzLkXdkuhX8
But it has also been recorded by Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Ethel Waters, and Billie Holliday (among others). However, we’re not here to talk about songs.

I’ve seen some bad weather, folks.

During my year in the Arctic, I went through a Phase Four snowstorm in which we were confined to whatever building we were in, until it passed. I happened to be in the barracks at the time. If anyone was somehow out of doors when Phase Four conditions were reached, the base (Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland) was ringed with what they called Phase Shacks… which contained a small heater, some water and food, and blankets. One of the problems during Phase Four was that you had no visibility and could not determine direction… so there was a danger of wandering out onto the glacier and (well, you know). If you could stumble into a Phase Shack, you could survive there until the storm ended.

Just about four years ago, here in Possum Trot, our house was struck by lightning… with my wife standing on the front porch! It ruined our roof, fried most of our electronics, set the stove on fire, and had my wife “charged up” for several days.

During the powerful and destructive Hurricane Camille (August 1969), I was about 80 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and we had little more damage than trees down. But my Aunt Luna and Uncle Edgar lived half a block off Biloxi Beach, in an old, old former hotel-turned-apartment-house. They rode out the hurricane in that three story wooden building… while the “modern” Buena Vista Hotel, hardly 50 yards distant, was wiped out. Camille was the hurricane which swept large boats onto shore and sucked numerous structures out into the Gulf.

When we lived in Bossier City LA for 26 years, we had at least one really bad rainstorm which backed up the city drainage system so much that the north part of our neighborhood held some 18 inches of water. The kids and I paddled around the block in our canoe.

tree-down

No, this is not my in-laws’ house, but it gives you an idea of the type damage

But of all the storms I’ve experienced, the one which most sticks out (for whatever reason) is from late 1974 in Covington LA. We lived in town, in my grandmother’s former house, and my in-laws lived in Tchefuncta Estates, a country club south of town, toward Madisonville. There was an awful storm – back before every puff of wind got its own name from Jim Cantori at the Weather Channel – which resulted in several small tornadoes in the area, including many houses in Tchefuncta. Power was out when we got their phone call early that morning — a massive old pine had fallen across their house and plunged thick limbs though the roof into the two back bedrooms. Those were the rooms formerly occupied by my wife and her little sister when they were girls.

On our slow and careful drive out to their house, we had to navigate around many huge limbs which littered the highway and entrance road to the Estates.
My mom-in-law made some coffee on a camp stove and that’s the only thing I recall eating or drinking for much of that day. I followed my father-in-law around to inspect the damage — first at his house and later in that vicinity. Many massive old trees were down, several houses were badly damaged; chainsaw crews worked non-stop for days to clear things up. That experience generated this poem some eight years later.

After The Storm
[South Louisiana]
By Jeffrey L. Salter

After the winds and the rain
(and the darkness all day into night),
after the edge of the storm had passed,
it was quiet.

Dawn brought bright sunshine,
apologizing for the tempest
like a recalcitrant lover.
The men began early
checking their own damages;
if the lines weren’t down, they’d call in.
Most would stay out all morning:
jumpsuits, overalls, and hard hats
replacing business suits and briefcases.

They would joke and scratch, chew and spit,
and move their feet in the soaked grass.
In a smooth, but un-patterned manner,
like hungry grazing steers,
they’d reconnoiter the neighborhood
and digest all the damages.

Men with no storm damage stayed indoors,
for they’d not met the enemy
and were not bloodied.

Climbing over fallen trees and debris,
they milled through the neighborhood.
The owner of each would detail his damage
as if it were prize bull at state fair.

So there were smiles, jokes,
clucking and spitting
as they proudly swapped damage tales
among the other men
with whom they had not spoken
since the last hurricane.

1988 Northwest Louisiana Writers Conference Contest (Second Place cash award)

Written:  September 1982
Revised:  March 2005

Question:
Have you ever been in some awful weather? What was it like?

[JLS # 289]

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About jeff7salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Twelve completed novels and five completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015, "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015, "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015, "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014, "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014, "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014, "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014, "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013, "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013, "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013, "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012, "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012. Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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15 Responses to Stormy Weather

  1. Very nice,Jeff! You know I have a soft spot for poetry.
    I have been in a lot more bad weather than I had realized, after trying to decide what to write for Friday…some of the stories are good and will have to wait,or have already been told. Since I am preparing to be out of town for several days, and helping my grandson prepare to leave,I will have to do some fancy editing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Yes, you’ve certainly seen some bad weather. Love your poem. Are you going to add some verses about what the women did?

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks. I probably should also reflect the female POV, but I’m actually pretty clueless. Maybe you could write it and we’ll post both poems together.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Patricia Kiyono says:

        There’s an idea, except I wasn’t there. I just assumed your wife and mom might have been busy, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jeff7salter says:

        yes, certainly. For one thing they were tending to our young son. For another, I’m sure they were dealing with food and such. As well as rescuing the things inside those bedrooms from rain and limb damage.

        Like

  3. Joselyn says:

    Wow! You’ve been through some rough ones! The worst snow storm I can remember was the day of our wedding. All week they predicted snow which in our area usually means that it will be sunny and fifty. This time the meteorologists were actually right. We needed a snow plow to get home from the reception and the minister couldn’t make it to the wedding. The worst thunderstorm was in 1998. I woke up to the wind howling and my fish tank filter turning on and off as the power flickered. The winds leveled three-quarters of my parents’ woods. Just laid the trees right down flat on the ground. We were without power for about three days. I’m sure Patty was too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jbrayweber says:

    Hurricanes Alicia and Ike. Tropical Storm Allison. They all impacted me and my community greatly Hurricane Alicia brought the most destruction and vivid memories for me—the sounds of trees snapping and falling every couple of minutes, a tornado hopping the house, blue, pink, purple lightning, the roar of the wind, the roosters coming out and crowing as the eye passed over (and that was just downright eerie). We were without electricity for 2 weeks and shared a generator between 4 households. The upside? Large fish frys with catfish. Our properties backed up to a creek. My dad and grandpa strung out trotlines across the flooded pastures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      wow, that sounds awful. How good, though, that your community came together and shared resources. Might not see that in many places these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. jbrayweber says:

    Nice poem, Jeff, and so true.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love your poem.
    Growing up in S.E. Asia, I’ve seen my fair share of bad storms. Monsoons swept across Malaysia quite often. We also had a lot of rain seeing as we lived on the perimeter of the rainforest! One particular summer we got more than usual. Our house was on one ridge with a valley in front and there were houses on the ridge across the way. Houses were also built off the side of the hill going down to the bottom. (Not a good idea)
    It stormed with massive theatrical lightning dancing all across the old tin mine sites around us. Three days this continued until the ground was completely saturated and no longer able to withstand its own weight. The face of the hill across from us slid down taking out the road, ran under the houses built off the side taking out staircases, but leaving the houses in tact, and then took two massive coconut trees towering 40-50 in the air and moved them about 25 feet to the right. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. didn’t knock them down, didn’t even cause them to lean funny- just relocated them.
    The strangest part? There was no noise to any of this except the staircases collapsing. Not a groan, not a rumble, nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      wow, that mud slide (or whatever you’d call it) sounds too powerful and dramatic not to make significant noise. I wonder if that’s what a snow avalanche sounds like?
      Too bad you didn’t have a cell phone back then to record it. Might have won an award!

      Like

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