… 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.
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
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
Have you ever been in some awful weather? What was it like?
[JLS # 289]