As a true southerner, I like a good story. Even better than hearing a good story, I love to tell a good story. My mind has wandered lately to some of my favorites and I hope you will bear with me as I tell one more.
[I feel as if I need to make a qualification here. I have lived in Alabama my whole life. I know the devastation that tornadoes can cause. I vividly remember the tornado outbreak in 1974, the tornado outbreak in 2011, and all the terrible storms in between. They were horrible, deadly, and destructive. Please know that this light hearted tale in no way discounts the suffering that has affected my neighbors and friends.]
I think the year was 1999. This would have made Emily 9 and Erin 5. Our precious little Katie Dumplin’ had passed by now and we had recently adopted Daisy Dumplin’. (No, they were not related by blood, they were only related by love.) Daisy was a cute, sweet white peekapoo. We fell in love with her quickly on the day we met and she lept into Erin’s arms as soon as we walked through the front door.
It was an ominous day…dark, hot, sticky, still, and greenish-gray. Living in Alabama, this kind of day only means one thing…tornadoes. As any responsible southerner does on days like this, we had kept the TV on all day, half listening to the weatherman, half watching the sky.
We still lived in our little mobile home in the middle of our small 20 acre farm. ( The ultimate redneck joke…living in a trailer in the middle of a tornado-producing storm.) According to Dan the weatherman, storms were bearing down and we needed to stay “weather aware”. He then proceeded to say that he would rather be in a car with a bicycle helmet on his head than in a mobile home when a tornado was coming. Comforting thoughts!
The husband decided that now would be an excellent time to jump in the shower in case we had to leave later. (He is now the ex-husband, but not for this reason!) About the time he started the water for his shower, the tornado siren went off. In case you don’t know, a tornado siren sounds when there has been an actual tornado spotted in the county or in a surrounding county.
“Hey” I yelled. “The sirens are going off. Don’t be in there long!”
“OK. I’ll be out in a minute!”
I told the girls to put their shoes and raincoats on and grab the dog so that we could leave as soon as their dad got out of the shower. I turned the volume of the TV up and began pacing.
Dan the weatherman said he was tracking a storm that could produce a tornado and it was headed for our little community west of town, not far from the county line. “There’s one coming this way! We need to get to your brother’s cellar!”
“OK, I’ll be out in a minute!” The water was still running strong in the shower.
I looked over at the girls. They were sitting side by side on the couch, eyes big, not talking. Daisy Dumplin’ looked like she had a wasp waist, they were squeezing her so tight. I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head.
“Please, come on!”
“I said I’d be out in a minute!”
With that, I threw open the front door. I then saw the most frightening sight I had ever seen. About a mile away I saw a tornado heading straight for our mobile home. (Insert redneck joke here) I had always wanted to see a tornado and now I never want to see another one.
“Come on girls, we have to go to the ditch!” I yelled. In my mind’s eye, I could already see the tornado hitting the mobile home. Just like…no, kind of like…no, nothing like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, all I could imagine was my naked husband being sucked out of the shower and thrown all over the county. I could hear Dan the weatherman talk about a naked man found in a tree on the other side of the county knocked senseless and if you know this man please call……. I could also see me never acknowledging that I knew this crazy naked man.
The husband heard me yell at the girls and jumped out of the shower, into his clothes and to the front door just in time to watch the tornado lift, as if by magic, and disappear into the low, black clouds.
As quickly as the tornado lifted, the sky began to clear and the sun began to break through the clouds. We all just looked at each other in stunned silence and quietly turned and sat down.
“I thought you were kidding about the tornado until I heard you tell the girls to go to the ditch.”
“Why in the world would I kid you about a tornado coming?”
“I don’t know…”
We just sat and looked at each other. About 10 minutes later, we saw a TV weather truck drive by. It pulled into our driveway and stopped. We had a very long driveway. My husband saw the truck and immediately stood up. “They probably are coming to talk to us about the tornado!” He exclaimed, and headed out the door.
Every tornado news story I had ever seen flashed through my mind. I firmly believe that news stations keep a family living in back of their offices for just such an occasion. They raise them and groom them and pay them to say things like…”Yep, I seen it comin’. Sounded just like a freight train. I screamed at Calvin…CAAAAAAAAAAALVIIIIIIIIIN! Come on and grab Ethel’s casserole dish! It ain’t mine and I’d shore hate to have to buy her a new one!”
Anyway, we saw the weather truck and the husband was at the door in a flash. They say that in times of great duress, a person can gain strength they never knew they had. I have heard of children lifting cars off of parents, women performing great feats of strength to save loved ones. Just as the husband headed out the door, I grabbed the back of his jeans and lifted (!) his 6’3” 200+ pound frame and set him back into the living room.
“The truck’s just turning around in the driveway!” I said.
And it was. It had pulled into our drive only to back up and drive back the way it had come.
He considered this for a moment, then turned and sat back down.
And that is my tornado story. And I laugh myself to tears every time I think of it.
Here’s one of our “go-to” recipes. We’ve loved it for years!
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 oz. chopped jalapeno peppers
4 oz. chopped green chile peppers
1 tsp. ground cumin
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
2 (15 oz) cans white beans
1 cup shredded Montery Jack cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook and stir the onions until tender. Mix in garlic, jalapeno, chile peppers, cumin, salt and pepper and cook until tender. Mix in chicken broth, chicken, and white beans. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat. Slowly stir in cheese. Serve warm.
Emily, Erin, and Daisy Dumplin’