From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Hurricane Memory

Medieval night with Hurricane Rita


Tonight, the very muggy weather and the threat of Hurricane Isaac is giving me déjà vu. I've never experienced the full force of a hurricane firsthand. But I did have a surreal secondhand hurricane experience, one humid night in southern Tennessee that comes to mind tonight

Keely was still in college in September 2005, and she was a member of  SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), a medieval reenactment group. Her group was attending a reenactment near Columbia, Tennessee, so Isaac and I went along. We arrived late on Friday night in torrential rain, and decided to sleep in a motel instead of setting up our tent in the downpour.

On Saturday, the sun was shining. We drove out to the site, found Keely's group, set up our tent, put on our medieval garb, and had a very hot, humid day of medieval entertainment and activity.  That night, we enjoyed a nice medieval meal with several courses. That ended the official activities, so Isaac and I wandered back to our tent and settled in for the night.

Hurricane Rita, September, 2005
It was still very humid as we lay down to sleep. There was a reason for all that humidity: Hurricane Rita was hitting the Gulf Coast that night. But steamy or not, the weather was friendly in our curious camp in the woods. At midnight, dozens of people in medieval clothing were still gathered around the embers of bonfires, talking and laughing and enjoying homemade wine and mead.

I couldn't sleep, so I turned on my little radio and put on my headset. The emergency broadcast of a Mississippi radio station was coming in clearly, and I listened to it for the rest of the night. Tornadoes, high water, toppled trees, downed electric lines, impassable roads, emergency vehicles-- I participated in a long, dangerous night on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, as I tossed and turned and dozed in my tent. The hurricane in my ears that night was the closest thing to a real hurricane that I've ever experienced.

At daylight, the radio waves became faint, and static overrode the voices.  I turned off my radio and got up from my air mattress, tired and sticky. The camp was quiet at last, except for the twitter of birds and a few loud snores.

We packed our tent and headed back to Kentucky. Somewhere between Columbia and Nashville, we stopped at a Waffle House and had an exceptionally good breakfast. I mentioned that Waffle House breakfast to Isaac a few weeks ago and he remembers it, too.

Oh yeah, definitely surreal.

I do not mean to speak lightly of the dangerous, very real hurricane that people faced that night. As I remember the terrible storm I heard described on the radio, my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path of Hurricane Isaac. Please be careful.

Related:
Hurricane Ike in Christian County, KY

2 comments:

Elaine said...

We camped in an east-Texas state park a year after Rita had passed through. Most of the trails were still blocked by downed trees. We were encouraged to cut as much deadfall as we wanted for our campfires. The only wildlife we saw were lizards and tortoises on land, turtles in the water. The park map bore no resemblance to what we were seeing. People spoke of being "Rita'd."

Genevieve said...

My husband was still working for AAFES (the PX system) the year of Katrina and Rita, and he spent several months in Biloxi and New Orleans, supporting the troops that were there and helping with cleanup of AAFES facilities. So he saw the aftermath firsthand, and he says that the most staggering thing of all was the extent of the damage -- mile after mile after mile.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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