lightning

King Edward IIIBefore scientists learned how to predict the weather, and before the weather predicting equipment came into being, people often found themselves outside, without any place to get under cover, during some really bad storms. Such was the case on Monday, April 13, 1360…later dubbed Black Monday, when a hail storm killed approximately 1,000 English soldiers in Chartres, France. England and France were in the middle of the Hundred Years’ War. The war began in 1337, and by 1359, King Edward III of England was pushing forward to conquer France. In October he sent a massive force across the English Channel to Calais. The French wouldn’t fight back, but rather stayed behind protective walls that Winter, allowing the King Edward’s men to pillage the countryside.

Then in April of 1360 King Edward’s forces burned the Paris suburbs and marched Huge Hailstonetoward Chartres. The night of April 13, while they were camped outside the town, planning a dawn attack, a sudden storm developed. Lightning struck, killing several soldiers, and hailstones began pelting the men, and scattering the horses. One man described it as “a foul day, full of myst and hayle, so that the men dyed on horseback” Two of the English leaders were killed and the troops panicked…they had no shelter from the storm. They were at it’s mercy. King Edward’s forces suffered heavy losses that some of the men saw as a sign from God, that they should not be fighting against France. King Edward was convinced that they needed to negotiate peace with the French, and on May 8, 1360, the Treaty of Bretigny was signed, marking the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War. King Edward renounced all claims to the throne of France, but he was given control of the land in the north of the country. Nine years later, fighting resumed Hail Damagewhen the King of France claimed that King Edward had not honored the treaty. the last phase of the Hundred Years’ War finally ended in 1453.

Hailstones have long been known to be very deadly. The larger the stone, of course, the more deadly it is. Some have been known to crush the roofs of cars. The largest hailstone recorded in modern times was found in Aurora, Nebraska. It was seven inches in diameter, about the size of a soccer ball. Hail typically falls at about 100 miles per hour, which explains why getting hit with one can really hurt you, no matter how small the stone might be, and why huge hailstones would mean instant death.

ben-franklin-portrait-national-portrait-gallery-smithsonian-museum-washington-dcI don’t know of any family relationship that exists in my family or in Bob’s family, but I have always had an interest in Benjamin Franklin anyway. I have done a lot of hiking in my life, and sometimes, like it or not, bad weather comes in before we were done with our hike. I think anyone who has hiked much knows that one of your worst enemies on a hike…other than mountain lions, bears, or snakes…is lightning. Personally, when I start to hear thunder, I figure it’s time to head for shelter, but when you are four or five miles from your car, in the middle of a bunch of trees, heading for shelter isn’t always an easy task.

Ben Franklin, on the other hand saw lightning as a challenge to be explored. I think he had to have known the dangers of such an adventure, because he was a scientist after all. That didn’t really matter to him much, or if it did, he did not show it. Ben Franklin became interested in electricity in the mid-1740s. Not much was known about the subject, but he would spend the next decade conducting experiments using electricity. It was Ben who coined terms still in use today. You now them…battery, conductor, and electrician. He also invented the lightning rod, which is now used to protect buildings and ships. All of these things came from his many experiments. Ben Franklin was an amazing man, publisher, and writer, but it is really not in his writings that I find myself intrigued, but rather his electrical experiments. On this day, June 10, 1752, Ben flew his now infamous kite during a thunderstorm to collect a charge in a Leyden jar, when the kite was struck by lightning. He wanted to demonstrate the electrical nature of lightning.

Benjamin Franklin was born January 17, 1706. People might think that Benjamin Franklin was a highly educated man, but in reality, his formal education ended at age ten. Then he went to work for his brother, James as a printer, but after a dispute in 1723, he left Boston and moved to Philadelphia and found work as a printer. He moved to London for a short time and worked there as a printer, and then returned to Philadelphia. He became a successful businessman whose publishing ventures included the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanack, a collection of homespun proverbs advocating hard work and honesty in order to get ben-franklin-kite-experimentahead. Eventually, Benjamin Franklin became an overachiever…or at least in the eyes of many people. I think he was just interested in a lot of things.

Of course, we all know about Benjamin Franklin’s career as a statesman, which spanned for decades, his years as a legislator, and his diplomatic years in England and France. He is the only politician to have signed all four documents fundamental to the creation of the US: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris (1783), which established peace with Great Britain, and the U.S. Constitution (1787). Yes, he was an all around amazing man, but I will always love the idea of his lightning experiments the best.

Zina HansenJust seventeen hours after my mother passed away, my son-in-law, Travis Royce lost his grandfather, Zike Hansen.  I knew Zike even before I knew my son-in-law, because I worked for Zike’s sister-in-law, Jimmy Foster and her husband, Don. When I went to work for Don and Jimmie, I had never even touched a computer. I’m sure you are wondering what that has to do with anything, but believe me, it does. At that time Zike and His wife, Virginia, who is Jimmy Foster’s sister, were working in Deadwood, South Dakota on the gambling machines. What struck me the most was that they knew about computers, and when laptops came out, they got one right away. That impressed me, because I knew so little about  computers…unlike the me people know today.

When my daughter married, her husband, Travis, a new connection to the Hansen family. I had known them in a round about way for years, in that I went to school with their son, Randy, but I never knew them personally until I worked for Don and Jimmy. Now, we were family. Most people might think that it wouldn’t have changed too many things, and I suppose it didn’t exactly except that we saw a little more of each other.

Nevertheless, it seems strange to me the number of things I didn’t know about Zike Hansen. I knew that he was a Christian, because the kids got married in their church by our pastor. It was a good way to join the families. What surprised me at the funeral is that the cross that graces the alter at their church was built by, none other than, Zike Hansen. I have always though it was beautiful, but I had no idea that it wasn’t manufactured at some factory. Good job Zike!!

Another thing I had never heard about Zike is that he was struck by lightning…not once, but twice!! The first time he was about fifteen or sixteen years old…that was about 1949 or so. The second time was in the 1950s. Now I can’t imagine being imagestruck by lightning once, but twice…well, all I can say is, “Wow!!”  Zike was never struck by lightning again, so I guess that he must have decided, that given his electric personality, it was best to…run whenever the sky started to grow even the slightest bit cloudy.

Zike Hansen was a one of a kind sort of guy, with a great sense of humor. He was the kind of man you thought of as a friend from the first time you met him. He just made people comfortable that way. I’m thankful that he knew God, because I want to see him again when I get to Heaven. In the meantime, I’m going to miss his electric personality, but I know that he and my parents are having a great time in Heaven.

For a number of years, we went with my father-in-law and the guys in the family, to the Shirley Mountains to cut up downed wood to bring home for firewood. Sometimes the girls got to come with us. When they came, we tried to turn things into an adventure. If you wander around the woods long enough, you are bound to find something that is unusual. Sometimes trees and other plants can take on unusual forms. While exploring the area around where we were working, the kids found a tree that was so totally deformed that it went up a ways and bent straight over and then curved back up again. I suspect that it may have been struck by lightning or maybe the wind partially broke it,  and then persevered to continue growing. It was, to say the least, a very strange sight…and one tough tree.

What happened to it didn’t really matter to my daughters. Corrie and Amy were completely thrilled with this tree. When it swung down to the ground, it came down quite low, and it made the perfect, goofy tree chair. They spend the rest of the day playing around it and having a great time. They liked the tree so much that they wished they could take it home. Of course, we all know that was impossible, so we took a picture of it so they could always remember it. They talked about that tree for quite some time, and have looked in other places we have camped to see if they can find more of them.

Kids can make an imaginary world using lots of things. My girls loved to play house and clubhouse, so having a chair appear out of the middle of a forest, made out of a tree, was very cool to them. It was a like a whole new way to play. They imagined living in the forest, the mountains in the old west, or maybe a tree house. I can’t say as I blamed them for coming up with so many ways to imagine their lives to be. We have all have wanted to live an adventure, and maybe…just for a minute, my girls got to do just that.

We are a little bit past the middle of summer, and it is a time when it usually starts to get pretty dry in Wyoming, but this is not a normal year…in many places. We have had a wet year so far, but nevertheless, in the last few weeks, I have noticed more brown in our lawn than before. One would think that with all the snow we got this year, and the overflowing rivers, that the lawns would be lush and green, but that is not the case. It doesn’t take many days at almost 100 degrees to scorch the grass…not to mention the people.

My daughter, Amy loves the rain. When the clouds start moving in, she stars cheering. Most people hate to have it rain at the end of a work day in the summer, because it ruins their plans for the evening, but rain makes Amy come alive. When it starts to rain, it is all Amy can do not to run out the door to go drive in the rain. She says there is nothing quite like driving in the rain. Each of us has something that makes us feel alive. Of all the different things it could be, rain is probably one of the nicest.

I particularly like thunder storms, provided I am not out in them. Lightning and the ensuing thunder are God’s fireworks, if you ask me, and I think it is beautiful. I guess that is why I would rather see those clouds move in a little later in the day. Lightning is at its best after dark. I love how it lights up the whole sky, and when the thunder rolls, especially if the strike was close, the whole house shakes. It’s very cool and it always makes a cozy night at home that much more cozy.

There just really isn’t a negative side to a rain storm, including afterward. The lightning flashes, the thunder rolls, the rain pours down, the air smells fresh and clean, and then, after it’s all over, comes the promise…the rainbow…the last beauty of the storm. There is just something about a rainbow. It’s beauty and mystery are beyond compare. Though many have tried to explain how it might come to be, but it just doesn’t add up. It’s God’s masterpiece. His gift to us. His promise. And it is awesome. All of it, together making up the beauty of the mid-summer rain.

The morning started out sunny with only a chance of late afternoon thunderstorms. We headed out at about 9:00 am for a 2 hour hike up the mountain, an hour on top for lunch, and a 2 hour hike back down the mountain. That was the plan anyway, but as sometimes happens, things didn’t go according to plan.

We were about half way in when the clouds rolled in and the thunder began. It wasn’t the first time we had hiked in a little but of thunder, but it is in moments like those that you begin to look for possible areas of shelter as you hike along. Knowing what I do of the area, I know that many of the lightning strikes in the area hit on or very near the Harney Peak tower. Being about 1.9 miles from the top gives a little feeling of safety, but you still need to be on your toes. Since we could see areas of sunshine behind the clouds, we decided to press on and hoped the storm would pass uneventfully.

Of course, when we were thinking of uneventfully, we meant that the lightning would pass on. That did happen, but in it’s place came the rain, and soft hail. Since we were higher now, and after trying to wait it out for about 20 minutes during which we were pretty thoroughly soaked, we made the determination that it would most likely not blow over.

And so it was with sadness that we decided to turn back only 1/2 mile from our prize. This was to have been our 6th trip up Harney Peak, but instead it would be trip 5.8. As we head back down to a rock that would make a perfect shelter, the rain continues to pour down. We are still amazed at the people who we continue to pass heading up as we head down. Finally, we get to the rock shelter and finally we are able to dry out a little. We stayed there about another 20 minutes, then decided to head back to the car. We were cold and bummed.

Heading back we could see the clouds rolling in again, as people continued to head up the mountain. Then the thunder began to roll again, and we knew we had made the right decision. No sooner had we reached the car and started eating our lunch, than the rain poured down with a vengeance. Oh well, maybe we will try again tomorrow.

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