COUNTY AGENT GUY
Call me strange if you like (many have), but I enjoy a good, old-fashioned, rock-’em, sock-’em thunderstorm.
It’s probably a guy thing. After all, guys tend to be fascinated with fireworks, and what bigger pyrotechnics are there than those provided by booming thunderheads? We’re talking about a light show that can literally be seen from space.
Part of the allure of thunderstorms and fireworks is that both are inherently dangerous. This explains why guys are instinctively drawn to such things as bullfighting, BASE jumping and variable-rate mortgages.
I was one of those boys who, upon hearing the first rumble of thunder, would run outside instead of ducking for cover like a sensible person. This has enabled me to witness some spectacular cloud formations. One of the most memorable was when I was a teenager and a small tornado formed about half a mile from our farmstead.
I was watching an approaching thunderhead when I noticed that dust had begun to swirl ominously in a nearby field. Glancing at the cloud base, I saw a thin white tube snaking its way downward. Seconds later, a connection was made and the pallid snake suddenly turned brown.
And that was it. The twister swiftly retreated back into the cloud and disappeared. I was deeply disappointed. It was as if someone had lit the world’s biggest firecracker and it went off with a weenie little “fsst!”
I wasn’t always a thunderstorm aficionado. Like most little kids, I was frightened by the earth-shaking booms that fell from the sky during storms. I was told that there was little to fear, that the racket was merely God and the angels bowling.
This made sense. Enjoying a few spirited games of tenpins seemed like a pleasurable way to pass a rainy afternoon. And it was easier to swallow than an explanation along the lines of “thunder is caused by the explosive expansion of air from the humungous sparks of static electricity that are jumping between ginormous conglomerations of suspended water vapor.”
The fact that thunderstorms can be damaging is something we have all experienced.
One midsummer night when I was a grade schooler, a thunderstorm churned its way over our farm. I had walked over to the bedroom window to watch the light show when a bolt of lightning struck the transformer on a utility pole located a few yards from the house.
A person usually sees a flash of lightning and the thunderclap arrives sometime later. In this case, the blinding blaze of a million-watt flashbulb and its accompanying KABOOM! occurred in the same instant. The detonation rippled through my body, turning my legs into rubber. Now THAT’S a show!
The transformer burst into flames and began to spew showers of sparks. This secondary light show wasn’t nearly as good as the first one. It also plunged our farm into darkness until utility a crew arrived to replace the transformer.
A summer thunderstorm recently rolled over our farm. I was out on the lawn watching the clouds while my wife sensibly stayed in the house and gathered candles and flashlights against a possible power outage.
The scudding clouds made weird, otherworldly shapes as they boiled overhead. Their appearance reminded me of recent close-up photos of Jupiter. Our clouds may not be as colorful as Jupiter’s, but they seemed every bit as tortured by turbulence.
The thuds of thunder grew closer and fat drops of rain – water blobs that were large enough to drown a sparrow in midflight – began to pelt me. I decided it might be sensible to retreat into the house.
Sparkles, our cat, appeared at the front door and began to yowl passionately. My wife let her in and Sparkles exclaimed, “Holy cow, it’s bad out there! Let’s run down into the basement and hide under the table!”
She didn’t use those exact words; that’s a rough translation from the original Cat.
“Sparkles is just a scaredy-cat,” I said to my wife.
“At least she has the sense to take cover when a storm is coming,” replied my wife as she opened the basement door. Sparkles shot down the stairs like a furry little cannonball.
The heart of the storm arrived. Thunder shook the house as howling winds whipped our trees like blades of grass. I watched the light show from the window, hoping not to see any swirling action.
The next morning, I chainsawed some downed tree branches while Sparkles superintended from a safe distance. The air smelled clean and cool, as if the entire planet had been washed.
“What do you think, kitty?” I said after I finished. “Was that a good storm?”
“Meow” replied Sparkles.
I couldn’t agree more.
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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