Thursday, January 10, 2008

Loving Winter Storms & Other Kinds


There’s something about storms that light my fire. I’m not certain just why I find them so intriguing, but I suspect it began near Flint when brother George and I were 10 years old.

We were outside playing catch. Even though I had (still have) small hands, I could throw a knuckle-ball. George was the person who could catch it.

He had a little nickel curve ball and I had my knuckler. It’s what we did in the early 1950s. Occasionally one of us would uncork a wild pitch, and one of us would go chasing the ball down the street.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, up came a big wind. Mind you: we were skinny little kids, and I doubt either of us weighed over 60 pounds. The wind was so strong we had to push hard against it to get indoors.

What we had felt was the outside winds of a massive tornado that followed an east-west road about seven miles south of our home, and it covered two or three miles before lifting back up into the turbulent clouds and disappeared. It left nothing but destruction behind.

Several people were killed, and the big wind would destroy three or four houses in a row, lift up to dodge a house or two, and drop down again for more devastation.

It made a big impact on me, and several years later, Max Donovan of Clio and I were traveling back-roads. He had me drive, and we were in Tuscola County when I saw a twister coming across a field at us.

“Out-run it,” Max hollered. He had an old gutless station wagon, and it was no contest. The tornado hit us, lifted the car two or three feet into the air, and then slammed us back down. My foot was still standing on the accelerator, and away we went, no worse for wear.

In 1970, my father and I joined another father-son team from Ontario, for a northern Ontario fly-in trip. We were crossing a large shallow lake that was filled with big pike when a storm popped up. We fought to keep from capsizing for two hours, and finally wallowed ashore on an island. We waited until the storm passed, bailed out our boats, and went fishing, again none the worse for wear.

That storm was the edge of a tornado that hammered its way through Sudbury, Ontario, causing massive destruction. We weren’t in the tornado but caught some of the heavier winds generated by it.

Some years ago, the sky turned that dark greenish-purple color as clouds rolled and tumbled in the southwestern sky with an ominous sound. The direction was a good clue for possible severe weather, and I watched the tops of nearby maple trees bend almost flat as my wife screamed for me to come inside.

No twister for us, but a neighbor a mile away watched a tornado demolish his new garage. Again. no injuries and the neighbor had insurance on his garage. It was a big inconvenience, that’s all.

Kay and I got caught in a hellish big storm on Great Bear Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories in the late 1970s. This lake is just slightly smaller than Lake Michigan. The lodge owner came by in a much larger boat, and took Kay with him. My guide and I followed the larger boat for miles, rising 12 feet into the air on the crest of a wave, and then we’d plunge into the trough with water all around us.

Up we’d go, and there would be the larger boat with Kay aboard, and it was pulling slowly away from us. We traveled into the waves within 10 feet of a sheer rock wal six feet awayl, and one mistake would find the waves pounding us and our boat into tin foil against the rocks.

We made it into a safe haven called Gunbarrel Inlet, and there were several boats milling about with smoke rising from a small wood fire on shore. I asked someone why they were not up near the fire.

“A bear chased us away,” came a reply. I told my guide to head for shore. I put more wood on the fire, shucked out of my rain-soaked rain gear, and stood steaming near the roaring blaze.

Someone hollered “Bear!” from a boat, and pointed down the shore. Here come a 200-pound black bear, and I picked up a rock and hollered at him. The bruin stopped momentarily, and I took several steps closer, and my old pitching days came through. No knuckle-ball ball this time but a high hard one that thumped his rump. The second rock was a bean-ball, and he ran off. We returned to the warming fire.

So tonight’s wind storm and the possibility of six inches of snow isn’t anything special. We may see lots of snow, some strong winds and moaning sounds from the eaves, but as far as storms go ,this storm doesn’t have the making of anything worth writing about.

But what am I writing about. I’ve already mention tonight’s storm, so in some way, it does influence my thoughts. Personally, I’d just as soon seen it get cold for two or three days to make good ice for fishing, and then we can get a bit of snow.

We’ve got a full propane tank, some firewood cut up, and it’s just another winter evening. Go Red Wings!

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/10 at 07:06 PM
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