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 Texas : Features : Columns : Spunky Flat and Beyond :
CYCLONE
by George Lester
George Lester
My mother walked into the bedroom where Sam and I were about to doze off and I knew by her expression that something was terribly wrong. Her voice trembled as she told us that she had been listening to a radio station in Waco, 30 miles to our northwest. The announcer said that a twister had been sighted and it was heading south east and all in that direction should exercise extreme caution. It was already dark outside as we hurried to the porch to look anyway. With every flash of lightning we searched the clouds trying to see if we could spot the cyclone. Thatís what we called them in those days. We soon realized it was useless to stand out there looking into a black sky and getting wet from the driving rain. Some people in Spunky Flat had storm cellars. They were used most of the year for storing canned goods and potatoes. We never got around to building one. At that moment we deeply regretted it.

That night I learned that there are many levels of fear. I had experienced the daily kind, like when you are not prepared for a test in school or the next level, when you fear a confrontation with a bully. I suppose there are many levels on up the ladder but that evening I think I went all the way to the top rung. As the three of us huddled in the middle of the living room feeling the house shake with each strong gust of wind and covering ours ears to protect them from the deafening claps of thunder I felt fear as I had never felt it before. There was no way of knowing whether or not the house would explode at any minute. We were all fully prepared to accept the fact that this could be our last moments on Earth. Gradually the storm diminished and all was quite and still.

We sat there for a long time afraid to move. It was impossible to turn off the sheer terror that gripped us for so long. Still shaking, we ventured outside to check the damage. Except for a few shingles blown off the roof it appeared the old bungalow had weathered the tempest just fine. We had escaped doom. Then the strangest thing happened. I was disappointed. I felt a deep depression. That night I didnít have a ready answer. I guess it was years before I finally figured it out.

I suppose it goes back to the days of the cave man. Each day human beings had to be on constant watch for predatory beasts. A lion, a bear, or any of natureís hunters that considered Homo sapiens fair game, was a constant threat. People lived with that kind of fear and it was an integral part of the human psyche. Maybe this is the reason people enjoy scary movies or go to those fright houses and death defying rides at amusement parks. Extreme fear evidently causes the adrenalin to flow and gives us a high that is addictive. Law enforcement officers who face danger every day find it very difficult to adjust to a routine without constant peril after they retire. To some, life becomes unbearably dull.

That night my adrenalin must have been flowing at its peak. The let down was so severe I was in a state of depression for hours. I never shared my feeling with anyone about this post-crisis trauma. If my mother and brother felt the same way I couldn't tell it.

By now you may be wondering why my father didnít go through the same scare we faced that night. He never knew anything about it. He slept like a baby through the whole thing.
© George Lester
Spunky Flat and Beyond - A Memoir
- May 1, 2005 column
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