Fall in the lovely Shenandoah Valley was always an exciting and beautiful time of the year for all that dwelled there. The trees became ornate colors of orange and yellow, and the air crisp after the heat of the summer months. It seemed to put me in a high mood to frolic and play among the falling foliage of the maples, oak, and whitebarks birch. However, in October an awesome storm came through our beautiful valley.
Her name was Hurricane Hazel. Hazel crossed the eastern seaboard and headed toward the Shenandoah Valley. My Dad was perceptive to know that it was going to be a doozy no matter what the old folks at the country store touted. They all said a storm like that one would never cross the high mountains that embraced the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Dad instructed Mom to get in the root cellar to protect his family. Of course, Mom never did listen to anything Dad had to say. She had never experienced a storm of the one about to befall us. Thunderstorms and lighting, wind yes but nothing like Dad knew was coming to our mountaintop home.
“Git under the dining room table and stay there,” Mom told me.
The air got cooler and the wind began to blow. Mom opened every window in the house so the air would flow through so as not blow the house away. She was yelling, “Walter, git in here ‘fore the house comes apart,” as she rushed from room to room opening more windows of our farmhouse on the big tall mountain we called home. The wind becomes more intense, where was my Daddy I had to know.
I crawled out from under the big oak table and found my way to the dining room window. Holding on for dear life I called out the window, “Daddy, Daddy, where are you?” The wind became forceful now so much so it almost blew me off my feet and out the big floor to ceiling window.
My Dad had gone to the barn to bring in Bessie the milk cow, round up the cattle, the two plow horses and the turkey we were fatting up for the big feast of Thanksgiving to protect them from the approaching storm and shelter them in our big barn.
I saw him holding on to the fence wire trying to make his way to the root cellar. The wind was blowing so hard now it picked him up off his feet swinging him level with the fence line he was desperately holding on to making his way inch by inch toward the root cellar. He saw the window open with me peering out at him and realized Mom did not take refuge in the root cellar.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he yelled. By some miracle, he made his way back up the stairs of the side porch and came in through the blown open kitchen door pushing with all his might to close it. The wind was blowing through the old farmhouse banging and breaking everything tossing the cast iron kettle off the old wood stove along with the stovepipe laying it in sections across the kitchen floor.
Dad began closing the windows that Mom had opened and yelled, something about wind pressure. She became hysterical with fear screaming, “Walter the air needs to pass through the house to save us, reopening the windows he had just closed”. Bewildered and afraid, I slid back under the old oak table while the two ran from room to room opening and closing windows. Suddenly we heard an explosive sound. Dad grabbed Mom and under the old oak table, they dove with me. It was under that sturdy old oak table with the big pedestal we stayed for an unendurable amount of time while the storm bore down on our old family farmhouse.
When the great hurricane Hazel finally passed, the house was still standing.
Dad said, “It’s a gosh darn miracle, that’s what it is.” We all went outside to investigate the damage, and when we looked up, we saw that the wind had peeled back the tin roof off the front porch and the part of the house that covered two of the front bedrooms like a sardine can!
“Della, that there’s wind pressure, he said!” He proceeded to the barn and retrieved the ladder, a sledgehammer, and a smaller hammer with a pocketful of ten-penny nails. Upon the roof, he climbed. He was holding onto the sledgehammer and had the hammer to pound nails stuffed in his belt. He began pounding away with the sledgehammer to put back what the storm had done to our tin roof. Once he had the roof flattened to his satisfaction down the old wooden ladder he descended. “Thank the Lord and pass the peas, he said, the entire roof isn’t in the back forty acres.”
The wind was still blowing, not as hard as it had been, but now followed by rain torrents of rain. Mom took me back into the house. We all grabbed every bucket and bowl we owned and went upstairs to the second floor to put them under the places where the rain was pouring through.
Once he was finished with the roof, Dad said, “We’re too dang poor to put on a new tin roof, and ‘sides it’s a lesson to your Mammy about air pressure.” In the years that followed every time it rained, it was up with the buckets and bowls to catch the rain from water coming through the now rotting rafters. Time passed, Dad sold cattle to replace the old tin roof.
Times were tough in those yesteryears and as for me, I learned about wind pressure and how to look forward when times were tough enough to break most souls.
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