My mom always said when the two huge trees in the front yard fell, they’d fall right on the house they towered over. Thank God she was wrong.
When a tornado came through Rusk County on Friday, it knocked the trees the other way, sparing the house and my mom and 12-year-old brother hunkered down in a bedroom closet. Everything else apparently is lost — barns and outbuildings and the fence taken down by the twin hundreds-years-old oaks (that used to be) out front.
About 10 feet from the house itself, a concrete slab sits where a pool house used to be and where Esmeralda, our highly fertile cat gave birth at least a dozen times in the shower. Also gone is a nearby storage building that I used as the Reptile House of a miniature zoo I started as a kid. As a teen and young adult, I’d sneak back there to smoke and flick ashes in empty aquariums where the native frogs and turtles and snakes used to live.
Down the hill, on much lower land, the main barn is completely mangled although most of the farm equipment my dad sells — that which I spent many, many hot outside hours assembling as a teen — appears to be in tact. I helped build the hay barn nearby even though I was (and am) pretty afraid of heights and every other screw I tried to put through the corrugated steal went in crooked. It’s gone too. The tornado also took the rickety old chicken house where I once accidentally grabbed a huge chicken snake hiding in a feed bag and knocked myself down in a pile of chickenshit in my hurry to escape.
My mom said inside the closet they could hear what sounded like hail but not much else. They were completely shocked by the devastation. I am completely shocked that an old frame house on a prominent hill, somewhere around 100 years old, is standing unscathed while iron and steel and concrete are ripped out of the ground all around.
Some settings for memories may have been lost but most importantly none of the family was. My mom credits God with their escape. I’m thankful they’re ok.
Winston Churchill once wrote that, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” I think he was talking about architecture and design but it has other applications too.