Saturday, April 11, 2015

Evil wind blowing

Today will not be about Jordan Spieth, last seen birdieing the windmill hole as he goes about turning Augusta National into Shiver Me Timbers Pirate Miniature Golf. It will not be about baseball or whether Steph Curry is human or Cylon, or the Mad Ants trying to close out the Maine Red Claws in the first round of the D-League playoffs.

A pause in all of that, if you please. The Blob is open today only for a little back-in-my-day codgerism.

That's because April 11 has come 'round again, and April 11 means something to Hoosiers of a certain age. If we close our eyes, we can still hear the howling in the sky, still see the darkness coming down as the lights went out and stayed out.

Fifty years ago today the sky turned black and the tornadoes came out of it with a freight-train roar, and there has been nothing like it here since. It was Palm Sunday, and even now, five decades along, those words carry something more than a holy tinge. Fifty years ago, they meant death and destruction: whole towns blown to matchsticks, house trailers wrapped around trees like twist ties, debris dropped from who knows where back in granddad's woods.

I was 10 years old the night the twisters came, and my memories of it are purely sensory. Wavering shadows on the wall, cast by the candles lit all over the house after the power went out. The aforementioned mobile home, burst open around that tree, spilling its pink insulation innards. Melted candle wax on a Monopoly board, because once the power was gone we kids had to do something to occupy ourselves.

The rest of it is in the history books now, of course. As many as 100 funnels might have been aloft that night, and almost 50 of them touched down. Seventeen were F4s; of those, as many as six might have been F5s. Several small burgs -- Linn Grove just west of Berne and Russiaville in central Indiana among them -- were virtually wiped off the map, and the death toll in Indiana was 137. It remains the deadliest tornado outbreak in the state's history.

The twister that wiped out Linn Grove churned through four miles south of my grandparents farm in Wells County, and so the day after (or maybe a couple days after) we drove down to see the sights. The trailer. A barn with one corner torn off, as if chewed away by some ravenous creature. And, yes, much later, deep in my granddad's woods, a rusting piece of sheet metal that looked as if it might have come from a mobile home, and that my cousin, uncle and I stumbled onto one afternoon.

Debris from that day may still be in those woods.  It's a fanciful notion after 50 years -- but then, I wouldn't put anything past Palm Sunday of 1965.

Some things are just eternal, you see. God help us.   


No comments:

Post a Comment