These days, tornado watches and warnings are a normal part of life. They may not happen every day, but when they do sound, we know what to do to stay as safe as possible. The warnings don’t always mean that there are zero deaths from a tornado, but they do help. Unfortunately, the tornado warning sirens, Doppler radar, and television warnings did not exist in 1884. In those days, people had to rely on the skies to tell them what was coming, and as most of us know, that is not always an easy task. In fact, it has taken hundreds of years to even begin to come close to perfecting a system whereby the public could be warned of approaching severe weather, and even then, it hasn’t eliminated the deaths that can occur from these storms.
One of the largest and most widespread tornado outbreaks in American history happened at a time when warnings did not exist. It happened on this day February 19, 1884, and into February 20, 1884. The precise number of tornadoes, as well as fatalities incurred during the outbreak remains unknown. The outbreak was nicknamed “Enigma outbreak” and is well known by that name. Research of newspaper reports and governmental studies published in the aftermath reveals tornadoes, or in reality, long-track tornado families, struck Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. It is estimated that at least 50 tornadoes struck those states that day. Some events that had been counted as tornadoes in initial studies, such as those by John Park Finley, were actually downbursts, especially in northern and northeastern portions of the outbreak. Nevertheless, the damage done was nothing to be overlooked.
The majority of the reported tornadic activity was seen across Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, which were all struck severely by multiple waves of tornado families. In the Southeast, the outbreak began during the late morning in Mississippi, preceded by severe thunderstorms in Louisiana. Shortly thereafter, the outbreak widened and intensified, progressing from Alabama to Virginia between noon and midnight. In addition to the outbreak, wind damage, flash floods, with homes swept away by water in Louisville, Kentucky, New Albany, Indiana, and Jeffersonville, Indiana and other towns along the Ohio River, and Derecho-like effects in the Ohio Valley were also reported in published accounts of the outbreak. In case you didn’t know, a Derecho is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms. In addition to that, blizzard conditions occurred in the eastern Midwest, as a part of this storm series. According to an article appearing in the Statesville, North Carolina Landmark three days later, the damage tally in Georgia alone was estimated to be $1 million, in 1884 dollars. Today, the damage would have been approximately $23,660,667. That is an astounding figure, and that is just the property damage numbers. Loss of life simply cannot be measured in money. In fact, the greatest mystery surrounding this horrific event is the possibility that, in all likelihood, as many as 1,200 people lost their lives that day at the hands of the 1884 Enigma Tornado Outbreak.
When we think of standing guard over someone or something, we think of a security guard, police officer, or even a guard dog, but seldom do we think about a family pet, such as a dog or even a cat, but that doesn’t mean that pets can’t stand guard, because many do, and in ways beyond being a watch dog at the house. When I was little, and truly, all my life, I loved cats. Now I know that a cat would have a hard time doing anything to protect or help it’s owner, or as I have always thought…it’s pet, it still stands guard. It’s not about it’s ability to do anything, but rather, it’s loyalty. That’s how it was with my cats. And how it was with my mom’s cats too. I suppose mostly it was because they liked being near us, but when my mom fell at home, her cat Quincy was right there standing guard over her. He refused to leave her side until someone got there to get her up and safely in her chair. I don’t know what my cats did to protect me exactly, but they liked to sleep in my crib, and watch over me while I slept too. They liked being with me, and I loved being with them too. I guess we were like best friends, and while they couldn’t do anything to protect me, maybe they kept me out of mischief, because as every cat lover knows, they demand lots of attention.
I know that lots of dogs are trained to be guard dogs, drug sniffing dogs, and police dogs, and I know that they are very loyal to their owners, even to the point of killing for their owner. It could be their training, but I think it’s also their love for their master. Pets are that way. They get very attached to their owners, and they will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Their training helps them protect their master, of course, and they are very good at what they do. When they are on duty, they are working…no messing around, but when they are home with their master, they are as loving as they can be, because that person is family to them. That is when the love of their master kicks in…that and anytime that their master is in trouble on the job. In reality, they are always standing guard.
Sometimes the guard dog is on duty for a different reason. Such was the case with my in-laws dog, Brownie. My sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg was developmentally disabled, and sometimes it was hard for my mother-in-law to watch her all the time. In the house, she was relatively safe, but outside there were more perils to consider. Still, they never worried really, because when Marlyce went outside, Brownie went with her. Brownie made it his job to stand guard over Marlyce to keep her safe. No one had to tell him, he just understood that Marlyce needed special care. When Brownie was on duty…standing guard…the family knew she was safe. Aren’t pets amazing?
As small children, most of us have no fear of things…at least not in the early years, before bedtime monsters tend to show up. We instinctively know that our parents will take care of us. Of course, part of it is that we don’t understand the possible dangers around us, and part of it…a major part is because, we simply trust that our parents are well able to keep us safe. It is a matter of trust. Things like going into a pool or lake with our parents seemed like no big deal, although if we had known, we would have realized that they were watching us like a hawk, making sure that we stayed safe. Most of us don’t really fully understand that until we have our own kids.
Like my sister, Cheryl Masterson and me, most kids think their dad can do anything. If you will notice, even though I am in back of Cheryl, and much lower on Dad’s back, my face shows no fear. I knew that my daddy would not let me fall. Somehow in his big strong hands, he had a hold on Cheryl’s hands, as well as my hands and feet. I was not afraid. In fact, I was smiling, as was Cheryl. We always knew that we could trust our dad to be there for us…not just as children, but all through our lives…for as long as he lived, we knew that he would do whatever it took to take care of us and to keep us safe. What a wonderful feeling that is. Trust…that is what it’s all about.
I think that for most kids, their dad is their first super hero figure. Like Superman or Batman, we think that they will always rush to the rescue, and they always will do their very best to be there. None of us wants to accept the fact that there might come a day when our parents can’t be there for us, whether it is because they life far away, or they live in Heaven. Most of us hope that day never comes, but if it must, then we hope we are grown adults, because we don’t want to live without them ever, but especially not as kids. Nevertheless, someday that day will come, and then we have to hope that the lessons we learned from our super hero parents will carry us through the changes in our own lives.
By then many of us have our own children or even grandchildren, and we have spent a number of years being the super hero for them. It is just a part of the journey we all take through this life. What we learn from our parents, we pass on to our kids, who pass it on to their kids. We can only hope that the lessons we pass along are of great value, and that we are worthy of the trust that our little ones place in us. I think that most of us are the kind of parent who deserves to be looked up to. I know that my own parents certainly were, and as I think of them, I feel a sense of pride and yes, still trust. I trust the lessons they taught me to shape me to be the kind of person they knew I should be. I have tried to train my children to be the kind of people my parents were…and the kind of person I am trying to be. It’s a matter of trust.
It seems that little boys are always getting into some form of mischief. That is not to say that little girls don’t do so as well, but this story is about two little boys and a certain episode of mischief that was never forgotten. My nephew, Eric Parmely and my first cousin once removed, Brian Kountz were second cousins, and sometimes they played together, because they were so close in age. As little boys, your first friends are often your cousins, and that was the case with these boys. These two little boys seemed to get along real well, so it was nice for both of them to get to play together.
On this particular day, they were at Eric’s house with my sister-in-law, Jennifer, who is Eric’s mom, watching them. The boys, being 5 years old were old enough to play outside without much supervision…or so Jennifer thought. She was checking in them often, but as most of us know, kids can get into lots of mischief in a matter of minutes. The boys decided that they needed to go for a walk, but they forgot to check with Jennifer first. That was their first mistake. Their second was a little bit more alarming to Jennifer, and Sandi, Brian’s mom, when she found out.
For any of you who do not know it, 2nd Street in Casper, Wyoming is a really busy street. The thought of two 5 year old boys crossing 2nd Street unsupervised to go to Kmart is…alarming to say the least…especially when they have never done it with supervision. Kids don’t often even think of using the cross walk, especially when they are only 5 years old. When Jennifer realized they were gone, she panicked. When she located the boys, she wasn’t sure whether she should laugh, cry, or beat them half to death. My guess is that she opted for a little laughing and crying…accompanied by a little yelling, of course.
The boys lived through the experience, both the crossing the of the street and being found by Jennifer, and I’m sure they learned a valuable lesson in the process. Never leave the house without telling your mom or aunt where you are going…at least when you are just 5 years old…or until you are 18 years old. It’s whole lot safer that way.
From the moment the were born, my dad’s grandbabies loved to cuddle up with their grandpa and take a little snooze. He just had a way of making them feel safe and warm…not to mention loved. Dad always loved to take a little nap, when his schedule would allow, and so became the logical choice for a nap time babysitter. Those little babies just loved their grandpa so much, that they seemed to actually be reaching out to hold on to him, and it didn’t matter how small they were. These pictures are among those that we wouldn’t trade for all the gold in the world. They are the moments that you can never get back, because babies just don’t stay this little for more than a minute. They are a glimpse of the past that we can’t ever get back.
My dad had a way with little kids. They just seemed to gravitate to him. He was a great friend, playmate, and a great snuggler at nap time. It always seemed like at some point during our visits, those babies and little kids would get tired after all the playing, as would my dad, and they would end up on the couch, where both would be sound asleep. When we would notice that things had gotten awfully quiet, we would tiptoe out to the living room fully expecting to find two exhausted playmates, sound asleep on the couch…and that is exactly what we would find. Grandpa and grandchild, often with a blankie or some such bedtime item to cuddle with. These moments were always so cute that they must be captured in a picture that always brings a collective “Awwwwwww!!” comment from those who see them.
Every so often, we would be treated to one of the cutest pictures, when a grandchild trying to be just like grandpa would so closely follow in grandpa’s footsteps that it was like looking in a mirror. I suppose that originally, Ryan was sitting on grandpa’s lap, but he slowly slid down into the gap between the seat of the chair and the foot rest, to end up looking just like his grandpa, but a little further down in the chair. It would prove to be one of the treasured pictures of grandson wanting to be just like grandpa…and maybe succeeding…just a little. My dad’s grandchildren all loved him so much, and thought so highly of him that they wanted to spend time with him…mimic him…play with him…and mostly love him. And all of them were greatly blessed to have known him.