Safety in the summer storms
Heat simmers through our hills as the last week of June makes its exit. Mom always used the expression, "hotter than the Fourth of July," so perhaps July sent her heat in advance. Gardens are flourishing, however, with the first fruits being harvested. Midsummer flowers appear already, with orange pleurisy (butterfly) weed and black-eyed Susans making the fields colorful.
Springtime flowers are more delicate, but sweet-scented, while summer flowers are bright and showy. The seasons seem to slide by swiftly, but the days are longer now, and the evenings are cooler and delightful. One thing never changes, and that's the lightning bugs that begin sparking through the air at dusk.
One of the pleasures of summertime is to sit out in the yard at twilight, watching the lightning bugs turn on their wee lanterns, hearing the frogs croak hoarsely and feeling the cool breeze waft through the air. The tree frogs with their curious "quirr" makes me a little nostalgic, as I recall evenings on the old porch swing, Grandpa O'Dell with his kitchen chair leaned against the wall and Daddy's voice telling us yet another "hobo" tale.
"Twilight is stealing, over the sea/ Shadows are falling dark on the lea/ Borne on the night winds voices of yore/ Come from that far off-shore."
Grandpa chews his Brown Mule tobacco with toothless gums, spits in the coffee can that rests by his side and listens to Daddy. We children are curled up on the swing close to Daddy, and hanging on to his every word. Precious memories ...
My cousin Bobby (Frank) Samples went back in the past to relate another flood story, which is quite interesting -- and tragic. He wrote, "We lived in a narrow hollow near Cedar Grove. The rainstorm started about six in the evening and lasted past midnight. It washed rocks as big as a small car past our house and the noise was thunderous.
"Dad (my Uncle Dick) was working evening shift, and his relief was headed to the plant, which was about 3/4 of a mile further up our hollow. A brush dam had formed near the plant and ruptured. The wall of water caught Carl Melton head-on as he tried to get there. They found his body the next day.
"To add to the misery, Dad called (the telephone line remained open) and said the current had washed the foundation out beneath a still, and its contents were pouring into the water. So besides the water, brush and rocks, there was about 10,000 gallons of raw gasoline on top of the deluge.
"We shut the pilot light off on the stove and prayed others would realize the danger of a massive explosion. The fumes would make your eyes water, but fortunately, the swift flow carried the gasoline to the river before it could ignite. We were very anxious for about an hour. Our house was on a rise that kept the water from rising enough to damage anything.
"An investigator came by the next morning and found a half-gallon Mason jar completely full of water, but we have no idea how much rain actually fell."
Bobby didn't say what year this was, but I am sure there are others who can recall this flood. I have never been around very high water, but our daughter Patty and then-daughter-in-law Phyllis had a hair-raising experience with a flash flood. It still terrifies me to think of what could have happened.
Big Laurel Creek was usually a well-behaved stream, but Mom has told us that her dad used to monitor it closely when it rained hard and would call the children in to the house. Evidently, it was not to be trusted.
This happened several years ago, when the children were all small. Patty and Phyl decided to go down on Big Laurel Creek to picnic and swim. Phyl had her three kids, Benji, Jessica and Joseph; Patty had her three boys, Aaron, Luke and Adrian, plus Josh and Abigail, Kevin and Sarah's oldest ones. They had taken Bandit, Patty's pet raccoon, along to play in the water.
It was a lovely sunny day, and they picnicked and frolicked until early afternoon. All at once it clouded up, and it started raining in torrents. The girls knew they had to get out of there, but when they got to the pickup truck, it had a flat tire. They herded the kids down the creek, which was rapidly rising. They had to wade through several creek crossings with the water above their knees at the first two, and then it rose rapidly until it was waist deep.
When they came to the car bridge, the roaring water had completely covered it, and even the rails had disappeared. Bandit was frantic and kept climbing Patty until he was perched on her head. Patty took the oldest child, Aaron, across the bridge, just feeling her way. She deposited Aaron on the opposite bank, with strict instructions to stay there.
Phyl stayed with the rest, while Patty made trip after trip carrying one child at a time across. The kids were weeping and wailing, terrified out of their minds. It scares me to imagine dropping one of the little ones in that muddy, rushing water -- there would be no way to rescue them.
Phyl and Patty carried the last two across, and by then the water was up to their chests. It was a bedraggled, but thankful bunch that reached the main road. They met Eddie Mullins, a rescuing angel, who insisted on turning his car over to them to go on home. It is still a nightmare, but God surely had His hand over them all the way. It reminds me of the scripture in Isaiah that says, "When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee ..." (Isaiah 43:2)
The following story pertains to a previous column concerning "savers" but it is too good not to share. In this day of bad and gloomy news, it is a heart-warming story.
One of my friends, Bunny Crockett writes, "Our son had a stuffed teddy bear. He took it with him to college, although I begged him to leave it at home. I figured the other boys in the dorm would pour beer on it, misuse it, or rip it up.
"Instead, the boys on his floor loved Ken's bear. The guys bought the bear a 'wife' and a 'son' and they all came home for the summer each year. After graduation, Ken got a job in Japan (where he still lives) and left his bear family at home. Why? 'If the plane goes down over the Pacific on the way to Hiroshima, I don't want them to drown!' he explained."
Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.