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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Day I Met Carla

One of the things we could look forward to, growing up on the gulf coast, was hurricane season which came around every summer.  It seemed like several years we taped all the windows with masking tape and made sure there were new batteries to operate the flashlight as well as making other preparations to be ready for an impending hurricane.  Sometimes Daddy would even nail up old pieces of plywood over the windows as protection from the impending storm.

Most of the time the storms went around us and we only got some gusty winds and a lot of rain.  All of us remember Hurricane Carla because we were in her direct path.  We made our usual preparations and even boarded up some of the windows with plywood.  The winds kept getting stronger and stronger and the more the wind blew, the more apprehensive Mama became.

As the hours wore on, we kids became more excited about all the commotion.  The adults were tuned in to the news updates on the radio and we just wanted to look out and see what was going on.  When we found out it was headed straight for us, we had to go out and get the potatoes and other veggies that were ready to be picked out of Mamaw’s garden.  All of us older kids helped with this task.  We were down on our hands and knees digging up potatoes with wash tubs to speed the process up.  The sky kept getting darker and darker and the wind was strong and chilly.

As kids we were more excited than alarmed about the whole thing.  Nothing ever happened out on the farm and this was something happening that was out of the ordinary daily events.  We kept trying to peer out of the windows to watch the wind.  All of us crowded around the door and watched, wide eyed, as tree limbs and pieces of tin off the chicken coop went flying by.  We were spellbound by the wind and Mama was hysterical, running around frantically and yelling at us to keep away from the doors and windows.

Well, as kids, that was mighty hard to do when there was action going on outside.  We opened the screen door to take a better look and the wind almost ripped it off its hinges.  Instead it swung back, with a bang, flat against the house.

We could really see out then.  We had a large cottonwood tree at the corner of the house with a tire swing on it.  We watched in awe as a big limb came crashing down and landed right by the door.  By this time, Mama was beside herself with worry, all she could do was cry and yell at us repeatedly to get away from the door and the windows.

Daddy was very calm during all this.  He wasn't afraid of anything and kept trying to reassure Mama that everything would be alright, although I think his words were falling on deaf ears.  We couldn't help wondering why Mama was so afraid for all of us.

It wasn't long and Houston Papaw (Mama's daddy) and his wife Gelena drove up.  We didn't have a phone in those days and he was worried about Mama so they thought they would brave the storm and come and check on all of us.  Mama was so frantic that they were insistent we should all go up to their house in Houston.

Of course Daddy didn't want to go.  He was ready to ride the storm out right there.  Well we all know who would win that argument.  It wasn’t long and all of us were loaded up in the old pink and white station wagon.  We followed them back to Houston (about 30-40 miles). Papaw had a brick house and he thought it could weather the storm better than the sharecropper’s shacks we lived in.  The ones who stayed were Rosenberg Mamaw and Papaw (daddy’s parents) and our uncle, aunt and cousins, but the wind eventually got so bad that they went to stay at the National Guard Armory in Rosenberg (a town of 25,000 about 3 miles from the farm where we all lived).

When we got to Papaw’s house we all had something to eat and then bedded down on pallets on the floor.  The pallets consisted of a couple of quilts, or a quilt and a blanket.  We put these on the floor of the kitchen, dining room and living room.  It was wall-to-wall kids with the youngest kids in the kitchen because it had linoleum floors and Gelena was always afraid somebody would have an accident.  She would never let any of us sit on the furniture when we went to visit.  We always had to sit on the floor.

We stayed at Papaws for one night.  The wind blew hard, but the lights never went out.  We could hear it howling all night and things creaking and banging around outside.  The next day, with the worst of the storm over, we headed home to see what was left of the house.

It was still standing, but a big tree in the back yard was down, our tire swing was demolished, most of the chicken coop was gone and a few cats and chickens were missing.  Naturally our driveway and much of the field and pasture was under water.

My sister Scherri had a favorite cat that was among those missing.  She cried and cried, so Daddy put on his knee high rubber boots and took the flashlight and they went out in the rain to look for it.  They found it stuck in the water on one of the turning rows out in the fields.  They rescued it and brought it home.  The cat survived.

After a few days of heavy rain the storm passed on and the rebuilding began.  We never had another storm like that the rest of the time we lived there.

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