Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hard Times, Strong People

Right now, Kansans who live anywhere near Wakeeney can only shake heads and wring hands. As they survey profound destruction wreaked upon homes and farms by gust-driven ice missiles the size of baseballs, they reveal the tenacity of prairie residents. They don’t lament, “Woe is me.” Instead, they count their blessings.

More than one battered resident has remarked that they lost property, but no one died. Even in instances where people lost livestock or pets, they express gratitude that family members are well. I can relate. I was relieved to hear my own mom’s voice telling me she was okay after that monster storm battered her house and yard.

Via radar, I watched that white mass layered in purples, pinks, and reds as it cut a swath across Western Kansas. I called Mom to be sure she knew it was coming. She didn’t need me to tell her. Her Nex Tech device alerted her to danger so she was heading for shelter.

Knowing she was protected inside her home comforted me.  At Brownie Scout camp decades before, we faced an evacuation through golf-ball size hail. I recalled welts and bruises ice balls rising on young campers and couldn’t imagine facing even larger wind-driven projectiles. After I saw storm-damaged vehicles, windows, and roofs, it was clear anything alive and outside suffered trauma during that assault.

A friend posted the storm in real time on Facebook so I imagined everyone experiencing that icy barrage felt like they were entombed in a continuously battered barrel. It had to be the closest to war that citizens who’d never served in the military experienced. Mom confirmed this when I contacted her following the storm.

Afterwards, the real ordeal began. As people inventoried damages, they found shattered windows, punctured roofs, damaged siding and fences, destroyed lawn furniture, naked trees, and vehicles pocked with more dents than a golf ball has. Some even discovered that the knife-like wind flipped trailer s, trucks, and grain bins topsy-turvy. It stripped fields of ripening grain to toothpick-like stalks.

While those viewing devastating photos bemoaned their friends and loved ones’ fates, I saw so many grateful responses. Caveats such as “Others had it much worse,” or “It can all be cleaned up,” echoed through social media.

A friend with his own troubles helped Mom patch her broken windows. A cousin with carpentry experience drove over two hours the next morning to seal a roof so punctured it could function as a colander. He found a reliable repair company to restore her property. His guidance is a blessing because he has insights the rest of us don’t.

My friend on the farm who noted that others had things much worse than she did brightened lives when she posted a story about her Great Pyrenees pup that found a storm-battered dove and carried it to her. She protected it and watched to see if it would mend enough to fly away. Distant and close friends smiled when she reported it flew off despite significant feather loss.

Right now, it’s hard to think about normal for folks living in this battered region. But like that dove, life will take off. 

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