By Doris Schroeder
It was another beautiful day on the farm; it was the beginning of summer, and I loved it! The year on the calendar hanging on the wall said 1944.
Early that morning, I had awakened, looked out the little window of my upstairs bedroom and viewed the dawn peeking through the clouds. The crows in the nearby shelterbelt had articulated their morning rendition as they cawed raucously, perhaps a bit off-key, in the dawning moments of the day.
It felt good, we lived in the country, and school was out for the summer, wheat harvest would arrive in a few weeks, and somehow all was right with the world. I crawled out of the bed as the springs creaked like the bull frogs on the pasture pond.
I slipped on my one pair of jeans, tied up my ragged tennis shoes and slipped down the winding steps to the farm kitchen. Mom was in her domain, the one she was gifted at, happily making a farm breakfast on the kerosene stove. Somehow there was no way to be sad when my mom was cooking a meal…she was in her element…and living on a farm was mine, at least at the good ole age of ten years.
With a smile on my face, or at least a quiver of one, I hurried out to do my chores. I grabbed the empty bucket and went to the granary to get some oats for the chickens. As I got near the chicken house, I called out “Here, chicka chick,”as I scattered the kernels on the ground, and I was soon surrounded by the cackling hens and the robust roosters, each trying his best to get all the grain.
As I looked across the farm yard for my two-year-old sister’s black rooster, I noticed a dark cloud in the sky, a possible storm warning for later, but immediately dismissed it from my mind.
My one job done, I hurriedly made my way to the house to enjoy my Mom’s luscious breakfast. Dad had left early down the country road to the highway and to his job in Hutchinson. When I had finished my delicious repast, I again stepped outside to feed the left over scraps of breakfast to our two farm dogs, Shep and Spot. They seemed a little edgy and I wondered about it.
“Doris,” Mom yelled, “Could you look for Carol? I can’t seem to find her in any of her usual places!”
As always, I made a beeline for the stock tank by the barn. Ever since a neighbor boy had shot my older sister when we lived in town a few years ago, Mom and I took no chances.
There was nothing in the gushing water being funneled from the windmill pump to the stock tank, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Soon I spied her coming from in back of the chicken house, followed by her pet black rooster, incidentally named Blacky. She seemed all right and didn’t even realize the fright she had caused Mom and me…again.
I glanced at the back of the barn. For some reason, the cattle had all come in from eating grass in the pasture, and were standing near the barn, chewing their cud. I wondered about that and it seemed a little odd. “What are they standing by the barn in the morning?”
“Doris, come here!” my mother shouted, and I hurried over to the chicken house. “Can you catch that chicken over there so we can chop off its head and have it for supper?” Mom had already got the axe from the garage. The head of it glistened in the morning sun.
I did as I was told and although I hated this job, I realized it was a fact of life that had to be done. I caught the designated chicken and tried to hold it while it screamed and fought. Finally I laid it down on the chopping block and Mom swung the axe. We both detested this job with all our might.
That’s probably why she only dented the chicken’s neck. I let go and it ran away with all its fury. Neither one of us wanted to catch it again. We would have corn bread for supper instead.
By then the spokes on the windmill had taken up speed and were gyrating wildly in the wind that had come up. Mom and I looked at the sky and were surprised to see dark clouds all around us.
“I think it’s going to storm!” Mom yelled above the wind. “Let’s find Carol and go down the cellar, it looks bad!”
I looked across the farmyard and saw my little 2-year-old sister crouched down and talking to her rooster. I grabbed her up and we made our way to the door which opened up from the big farm kitchen.
Mom had lit the lantern and we carefully made our way down the steps as we heard some branches hit the big two-storied farmhouse.
Finally we were down and we huddled together in a circle with our arms around each other. Mom’s eyes got wide just like when she told us scary stories.. only this wasn’t a story, this was REAL!
Something hit the house real hard.
If ever there was a time to pray for protection, this was it! “God, help us!” we prayed, each in her own way.
We heard a loud noise and then, silence invaded our downstairs cellar. Mom lifted the lantern to see if we were all okay. One by one wemade our way to the steps and crept up the stairway to see what had happened. As we got to the kitchen, we were relieved to see the house was still there. We crawled to the door that opened up on the screen porch and checked the outside domain… “What was the garage doing a few feet from the house?” we wondered.
Part of the garage was missing; some lying on its side and several pieces had been plunked down right by the house. The fence to the garden was partially lying down and partly covered by the roof of the garage.
We shivered as we realized how close the twister had been to our large farm house on the hill. The tornado must have hit about the time we were asking God for help.
It was about that time; my Dad came up the driveway, home from work. He jumped out of the car and surveyed the damage. A big smile came over his face as he surveyed the scene and knew we were all right.
And that is what we all did as we sat down to our delicious supper of corn bread that evening, thankful there were no more storm clouds on the horizon…at least not in the next hour! We had survived another Kansas twister!
Doris welcomes your comments and can be reached at dorisschroeder @att.net