#AtoZChallenge 2020: J Is for Just One Story & an Inconvenient Prayer

Just one story, then I’m gone.

***

Around the year 1900, several miles outside the little farming community of Fentress, Texas, a boy working in the field looked up and saw a funnel cloud. He ran home, shouting that that a tornado was coming.

The family gathered in the kitchen. They were frantic. The whirling black cloud was headed directly for the house. At any second, it would hit. All they could do was pray.

So they dropped to their knees and closed their eyes, and the father prayed the only prayer he could think of:

“Father, for what we’re about to receive, make us truly thankful.”

And then he jumped to his feet and shouted, “Oh, no! That won’t do!”

 

***

The story is true. My great-aunt Bettie Waller, who had known the principals, told it while her husband, Uncle Maurice, sat by and shook with silent laughter. Last fall, while going through old pictures, I found a piece of paper with story notes written on it—in my great-aunt Ethel’s handwriting—a scrap of the history of a small place.

***

Epilogue: The tornado turned, missed the house, and hit the barn. Neither humans nor animals were harmed.Everyone was truly thankful.

Y’all Stay Warm

Freezing rain, sleet, and drizzle. Williamson County is getting snow, but we’re getting freezing rain, sleet, and drizzle.

I’m fortunate. I don’t have to travel. JFTHOI Writers meet tomorrow–or meets tomorrow–but attendance isn’t compulsory. When roads are icy, few things are compulsory. I fell off one highway once because of a patch of ice, and I don’t care to repeat the experience.

If my husband has to leave for work at the usual time, I’ll worry. But when roads are bad, his office generally delays opening.

So there it is. I have a stack of books. If the power is on, I have the laptop. If the power isn’t on, I have a bed and a heavy comforter and a couple of cats.

Y’all stay warm.

Day 31: The possibility of light flurries

 

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The little white flakes you see floating across the screen don’t mean a visit to the ophthalomologist is in order.

They’re snowflakes, courtesy of WordPress. After January 4, they’ll disappear. If our weather doesn’t change radically, they will be the only snowflakes most Central Texans see this year.

We’re finally getting some 50- and 60-degree weather during the day. It was supposedly in the 40s when I left home early this morning. It’s now back down to 48.

I didn’t hear the forecast, so I don’t know whether to expect William and Ernest to sleep with us tonight. If the temperature dips into the 30s, the bed will be crowded.

One day last week, we had a high of 87, which I consider excessive even in summer. After a day like that, the cats won’t even sleep in the same room with the humans.

This being Texas, of course, nothing is certain. To quote the adage, “If you don’t like the Texas weather, just wait.” Christmas Day could bring icy streets and frozen water pipes, but we could as easily be running the air conditioning. Been there, done both. And no matter how much I grouse about the heat, I prefer AC to frozen plumbing. But most of my Christmases have fallen somewhere in between.

When it does snow–as it did two consecutive Christmases in the mid-80s, measuring twelve inches when packed and iced over–things stop. Most natives don’t know how to drive on snow and ice, and automobiles aren’t equipped for it. Road maintenance crews do what they can, but they’re not equipped to deal with streets and roads that need attention perhaps once in five or six years. It’s safer to keep drivers at home.

I speak from experience. When I was a college senior, I hit a patch of ice and ended up in a ditch facing the wrong direction. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I landed right across the four-lane lightly-traveled (that morning) highway from my father’s workplace. He didn’t appear surprised when I straggled in wearing a sheepish smile. Having driven from Normandy to Cologne under less-than-ideal road conditions, he calmly drove the car out of the ditch filled with slick Johnson grass, and twelve miles later deposited me at the bottom of College Hill. Getting up the hill to comparative anatomy was my problem.

The fact that I remember that incident is significant. It’s the only driving-on-ice story I have.

But this far south, we like to pretend. News anchors and meteorologists (I’d rather write weathermen, but I won’t) speculate on the possibility of a white Christmas. We sing “White Christmas.” Shoppers trudge through malls to the strains of “Sleigh Ride,” “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland,” and “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.” We hang tinsel on fir trees to simulate icicles and put cut-outs of snowmen on lawns. We do much of this wearing cotton t-shirts.

Our friends Greg and Maryellen have the right idea. They bring a cactus plant in from the patio and string it with lights.

When we get all excited at the prospect of a white Christmas, they smile and let us talk.

They’re from Ohio. They know exactly what we’re talking about.

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