“Rain or shine, it’s always here to stay...” Stevie Ray Vaughan
The rain fell in large drops, forming big circles as each bead of water hit the dry ground of the freshly plowed earth. I can still smell that wet dirt now. I was running across the field, rod and tackle box in hand, toward the opening in the hedgerow, trying to outrun the coming storm.
Dad was waiting for me on the front porch as I ran under its shelter and stopped to catch my breath.
“According to the old Indian signs, it’s about to rain,” he said. “What are the signs?” I asked, hoping to learn some ancient Native American secret for predicting the weather.
“Thunder and lightning,” he replied with a smile.
I laughed, but that laughter soon turned to dread as he opened the door to call to my mom and let her know that it was time to head to the storm house (what we called our storm shelter growing up).
As we made our way to the underground protection of the shelter, I looked over my shoulder to see my Mamaw Daisy walking across the yard to join us.
As a child, I hated going to that storm house. It was all the things that are unappealing to a youngster: dark, damp, musty, and, most of all, spider-filled.
I always envisioned a large black widow or brown recluse hanging underneath one of the old church pew style benches that lined each wall, waiting for some young boy to crawl onto. It was the stuff of nightmares.
The sound of thunder and lightning always filled me with dread because I knew what was to follow. Having to go to that storm shelter is probably what fueled within me a fear of bad weather as a child.
However, since he had lived through a tornado on the farm himself, my dad had a hard and fast rule--bad weather equals storm house.
After the tornado on the farm, my grandfather had built the storm house in a mound of earth that was surrounded by our old smokehouse, dog pens, and a garden.
When the skies were clear, the top of that mound and the roof of that shelter were a favorite spot for me. I established many a fort on the top of that hill--looking out over the vast plains I had created in my mind.
However, going into the depths that lay below the mound was a different story. I didn’t even enter that door to use it as the perfect hiding spot for hide and seek. No boy in his right mind would have come looking for me inside those web-clad walls.
I guess it was the combination of my dread for going to the storm house and the uncertain danger of summer thunderstorms that fueled my weather fears. I see that same inherited fear in my daughter now.
A few weeks ago, during the bad weather that hit Meridian, I found myself slogging up Highway 45 in the deluge in an attempt to make it home to check on Tate.
I had left Meridian just prior to the worst of it hitting, but it caught up with me as I made my way north. Finally, I made it home safely to a house full of nervous dogs and a nervous daughter.
The look on Tate’s face reminded me of the feelings I had during those times in the storm house with Mom and Dad. It was a look of both dread and relief. She was relieved that I was home, but dreading what the weather would unleash upon us next.
I was reminded of the comfort my parents provided while in the safety of the shelter as well as the memory of my fear of those spiders. After the storms, I called to check in on my parents and my mom reminded me of a weather memory I had forgotten, one that I blame on storm windows.
Most nights during the summer, we slept with the windows open at our house. I think that my dad had a minimum temperature requirement of 120 degrees in order to turn on our one window unit.
That night, I remember that the rain started to fall and the blowing wind was pushing it into my bedroom window and onto my bed. I awoke and tried to close the newly installed storm window, but the small knob held tight and I couldn’t close it.
Rather than going to get my parents, I donned my yellow raincoat and hat and climbed back into bed looking like a fisherman from the “Deadliest Catch” television series.
The rain eventually woke my mother and she came in to check on me and found me in my fowl weather gear. She still laughs about it today.
Thankfully, I am more at peace these days with bad weather. Having lived in Mississippi my entire life, I know what is coming with the heat of summer, however, that’s all right.
I’ve got a good raincoat and I know how to read the signs. Until next time, I look forward to seeing you out there (safe and dry) in our great outdoors.
Email outdoors columnist Brad Dye at firstname.lastname@example.org.