we’ve already found OZ thanks, no need for the twisters

I realize that in the Spark(ly) Notes I mentioned a Tornado Story, a story which I completely overlooked in the detailed tales that followed. Texas and I have a history of fascinating storm encounters, a collection of memories that seems to be growing by the week.  So, having just battened down for yet another round of thunderheads on the way, I feel now is a perfect time to spin some yarns.

I suppose I had my first Great Texan Storm Experience two years ago when I was working for Medieval Moccasins.  It was the middle of the night, as tends to be the case, and all was quiet in the Moccasin Booth.  The storm began to pick up.  Winds roared and rain poured.  Hail could be heard pounding on the building’s wooden walls.  I huddled in the kitchen beneath the staircase with Chela, Klaus, and their dog Cisco and we discussed our options.  What if a tornado did come through the site? Where should we go? Stay here beneath the wooden stairs, the sturdiest part of our little structure? Make a dash to the bridges and hunker down in the ravine beneath? Bring a mattress to hide beneath for protection from falling limbs and flying shrapnel? Leave the mattress and favor speed and mobility?

Suddenly Chela’s face went white.  “What?” I asked nervously, prompting her to reveal her thoughts.  “We are next to a sword booth. A Damascus Steel Sword Booth! Have you seen their demonstrations?! What if those swords and knives get sucked up into the tornado? They will wreak havoc. And we will be chopped sushi.”

Perhaps beneath the staircase was not the best place after all.

But luckily we didn’t need to test our theories because the storm eventually passed us by, and though twisters did touchdown in the towns around us, all was safe and sound in Rennieland that evening.

Later that season, however, we were not so lucky and a tornado DID touch down on site. In the campground actually, and there were a few crushed trailers and cars from falling trees, though thankfully no people were hurt.  I wish I could tell you more about my first true tornado experience, but sadly I can’t. Why not? Because I slept through it!

Yup. I must sheepishly admit that when Klaus ran in to wake Chela and I up it happened so quickly that my sleep fogged mind convinced myself that it was all a dream and they were still sleeping quietly in their rooms.  So I rolled over and did the same.  Oops. And Darn, because reports from Chela the next day were stunning.  The air pressure was so strange and warped during the time of the storm that the shops curtains- heavy canvas weighted with wooden dowels- were floating eerily in the air.  Straight out from the roof as if gravity was inconsequential.

After that basically missed experience I was on the lookout. I wouldn’t be missing any more storms if I could help it.  And a year later I had my chance.  It was late January, and I was driving to Arizona with a friend.  We were just passing through Texas, driving in the dead of night, racing the white lines towards our goal.  And then, passing through Amarillo, we hit The Storm.  It was wet and raging.  Rain poured so thick we couldn’t see anything and had to pull over.  Winds roared.  It was epic. And then it passed.  The watery part anyway.  Following on the heels of the thunderstorm was the most epic light show we had ever seen. Lightning ripped so fast and so often that the air smelled like acrid electricity and the sky lit up as bright as day.  We drove a bit farther down the highway and found an overpass to tuck underneath just to watch the show.  And there we sat in my blue Jeep, Alice, listening to techno house music and watching the lightshow in front of us.  I tried to take a video, a pitiful camera phone video, to record the wonder and if you’d like you can see The First Lightning Video here.  I had never seen anything like that lightning storm, and I haven’t since.

Though the storm last week is certainly a close second.  Last week was my first battle with the elements while camping.  My tarpentry skills seemed to suffice for all the previous heavy rains and thunderstorms we’d had this season, so I was feeling fairly confident in my house; a feeling I hoped would not reveal itself to be hubris by the end of the evening.  We began the night celebrating a friend’s birthday and playing some silly games in a tent, listening to the rains come and pitter patter on their roof.  I was happy that I was visiting with friends that evening because I had no idea what the weather channel was threatening.  Suddenly and simultaneously a “bring” and a “chirp chirp” rang out.  Several rennie’s weather warning apps were ringing out warnings. Tornado warnings. For our county.  On closer inspection of the report itself we realized that we were very nearly the exact center of the danger zone.  Yikes! We had some time, the warnings said, until the real danger was upon us, and so we took that opportunity to prepare and plan, happy to use the time wisely.  Boots were donned.

I scampered across site to check on my booth tent, my pile of stock, and the Moccasin Booth. I made sure they were as battened down as they could be.  I checked my tent’s guidelines, and threw some extra storm lines over the tarped-over tuppers.  Once back with Team Tornado Survival (as I’ll henceforth be calling the group) we discussed options. Stay here? Go somewhere? Where to go? We decided to go to the flushies, the site bathrooms: solid cement buildings with electricity and barn doors that could close.  And so Team Tornado Survival engaged Operation Bathroom Party.  It was actually quite a fun time. We brought a laptop and watched cartoons, intermittently taking breaks to dance in the rain, check out the lightshow, and check-in with the local weather station for updates.  This lightshow was pretty epic and of another new variety.  I saw flashes of yellow, pink, and blue in the sky.  And lightning with layers of rainbows and eerily lingering brightness.  I had never seen pink or blue lightning before. I tried to take Another Lightning Video and again, justice is just not done.

After the last strong storm passed over us, we gratefully decided that Operation Bathroom Party was a success, a success in that the tornados passed us by.  Taking advantage of a lull in the storms we scampered home to bed.

This morning I passed through Ennis, a town just to the south of Waxahachie (where the faire is), on my way to the mechanics.  Ennis was not as luck as we had been the week before.  Their downtown square was completely closed off, yet damages were apparent everywhere.  Chains had lost their signs, buildings lost their roofs.

I thought about my extra storm lines and I laughed. With storms like these, you are either lucky or you aren’t.  Either the storm passes you by, and all you really need is enough protection to keep out the rain; or the storm chooses you and then shit is fucked. And there is no really delicate way to put it.  One extra 45 lb rated rope is not going to do much of anything at all in the face of a storm that can rip bricks right out of walls and knock down massive “seen from the highway” signs.  That rope is like going deep sea fishing with dental floss.

And yet when I heard that heavy storms threatened again tonight I scampered over to the booth, tied up my floss, and tacked down the Moccasin Booth’s cloth curtains. Personal comfort more than anything else I think.

And now with the winds getting louder and the pattering of rains just beginning, I think it is time to sign off for the night and rejoin Team Tornado Survival.  Hopefully Operation Bathroom Party Version 2.0 is not necessary tonight, but if it is- wish us luck.

And if anyone has an in with the Universe, can you let her know that we’ve already found OZ here and that delivery tornado is no longer necessary. Call off the twisters please and thank you!

Hold on to your hats!



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