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Stories Archives for 2019-07

Why Don't They Name Tornadoes




On the night of April 24, 2019, I became personally acquainted with a tornado up close and personal.  This mighty wind did considerable damage to my house, particularly my wife’s music studio. I now wonder how tornadoes know which room of a house has the most expensive contents to zero in on.  The music room had two expensive organs and a new piano, all of which sustained water damage.


In the future, I will have to remember the date of the tornado to relate the details of it to friends and family.  I wonder why they don’t assign names to tornadoes like they do hurricanes.  Most people remember past hurricanes such as Rita, Katrina, and Carla.  Why, you ask.  Because they have names which identify them. The same should be true of destructive tornadoes.

The World Meteorological Organization is responsible for assigning names to hurricanes.  They began in 1953 using American female names.  Apparently they were running out of female names, so in 1978 they began using male names.  In 1998 they began using foreign names.  The first male named hurricane was “Gilbert”.  I note that today they use foreign male names as well.

I think that tornadoes should be named.  Research reveals that in an average year tornadoes cause some $400 million dollars in damages in North America, and will kill 70 people.  Over 1,000 tornadoes will hit the United States each year.


I would recommend that tornadoes be named after vicious animals and poisonous snakes. A few suggestions would be – Tornado Asp, TornadoViper, Tornado Rattler, Tornado Cotton Mouth.  As for vicious animals, I recommendTornado Hyena, Tornado Lion, or Tornado Black Bear.  Any of these would be appropriate names to use.


I have decided that Mother Nature will occasionally insert some levity among the destruction.  Case in point – Our yard was awarded “Yard of the Month” in April by the San Augustine Garden Club.  They placed an appropriate sign in our front yard.  The tornado blew the sign across the road and into a vacant lot. Someone found it, brought it back, and planted it in our yard amid all the debris. Almost everyone caught the humor involved.


The morning after the storm, we kept hearing someone singing the song ”Jingle Bells”.  I was unable to locate the source. Later on a visitor spied our small singing Christmas tree in the debris pile in the front yard.  After hearing the song over and over, he went over and stomped it dead. 

Hopefully we will be able to return to our house in a couple of months from now.  It appears that the cost to repair the house will exceed its original cost.


I have decided to name this tornado “Rattler” because it rattled our senses as nothing before has done.  Our cat, Maggie, is still in a catatonic state.   


It appears that Tornado Rattler deposited many things from our storage buildings in White Rock, and Patroon.  Chances are my power lawn mower is lodged in a pine tree somewhere in Shelby County, along with other keepsake items. We are thankful that God watched over all three of us, and we were not harmed.  Good bye, and good riddance Tornado “Rattler”.


The Lost Weekend


Character actor Ned Beatty’s first film was released in 1972, and was entitled “Deliverance”.  It was the story of four male friends from Georgia who went on a weekend outing of boating and fishing in the mountains, and encountered trouble with mountain people. 


Long before this movie was made, I was involved in a somewhat similar occasion, a similar mission, but, however, with a decidedly different outcome.  In 1965 while living in Houston, Texas, several of my male friends decided we should go on a weekend trip of fishing and camping.  Our jobs at Allstate Insurance Company were hectic and frustrating at times.  So, this idea of relaxing and sleeping out in the open was very attractive to me and five friends.


We elected to drive north to the small town of Hemphill, Texas and find a spot on the Sabine River, which was the border between Texas and Louisiana.  After stopping for bacon, eggs, bread, and coffee at a small mom and pop store in Hemphill, we made our way through the piney woods, on red dirt roads to the banks of the river.  Compared to the mighty Mississippi river, the Sabine is a rather small river.  But its waters contained bass, perch, cat fish, gar, and probably a few alligators – more than enough for our motley crew to handle.


After unloading the cars of our gear, mostly sleeping bags and cooking utensils, we began to notice the northwest sky.  A breeze was kicking up, and a dark cloud began to appear.  Soon, lightning was streaking through the sky.  Having grown up near the Sabine River, I felt obliged to offer some sage advice – let’s get out of here before the dirt roads get wet.  I knew from prior experience that one could get stranded or stuck in the mud very easily.


So, it seemed wise to pack up the gear again, and try to get back to a paved road before the rain hit us.  About the time we got back on the paved road the rain came down in buckets.  I felt that we were lucky to have gotten out safely.  Consensus of opinion was that we might as well head back to Houston since we could not sleep on a wet and muddy ground.  We recalled the old adage, “You win a few, lose a few, and some get rained out.”  So, this was our rain-out.

On the way back home we drove past a new man-made lake, Dam B, a Corps of Engineers project that had developed a nice lake.  The rain had stopped, the stars were out in abundance, and even the moon was peeking out from behind clouds.  We decided that we might salvage at least one night of our outing by camping out on the shores of Dam B.


Again, we emptied our cars of our camping gear, built a fire, and cooked a supper of bacon, eggs, and bread.  We unrolled our sleeping bags and settled in them for a night’s sleep.  The storm had passed, we had full bellies, and the world was good.


Around 2:00 in the early morning, we were awakened by the sound of a motor boat out on the lake.  The operator was operating his boat recklessly, loudly, and unsafely.  I suspect that alcohol was a contributing factor to his conduct.


One of our crew sat up and made this statement, “I hope his dang motor blows up!!”

We all know that God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes exhibits a sense of humor.  This was one of those occasions.  Even as our brother was uttering his wish, there was a loud boom out on the lake, a fireball erupted around the motor, and we could see the operator diving into the lake, silhouetted against the red fireball.  We all looked at each other in amazement.

Several people rushed their boats to the aid of the victim and apparently he was unhurt.  I am unable to make the same statement about his boat and motor.


Well, our “Deliverance” weekend came to an unusual conclusion.  We never planned another outing.  I left Allstate in 1967 to work for another company. 


Now the Sabine River is under the waters of Toledo Bend Reservoir, although Dam B Lake is still yielding its fish to the locals.  Somewhere on the bottom of the lake rests a small boat and motor that seemed to have come under the condemnation of the Almighty.




107 Hemlock Street
P.O. Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972

Cell: 936-275-6986

769 Words


The Shelby County Houdini



Harry Houdini was a Hungarian born magician, escapologist, and stunt performer in the early years of 1900.  He was famous for somehow getting himself out of locked boxes, straitjackets, and handcuffs. In fact, in 1904 a locksmith named Nathaniel Hard spent seven years in making a special set of handcuffs that he felt would be impossible for any human to escape.  In a sensational stunt, Houdini freed himself in one hour and ten minutes.  No one knows how he accomplished this feat.


Not to be outdone, I once met a Houdini, of sorts, in Shelby County.  I do not know his name but would like to meet him and find out how he accomplished his feat.


While working for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department several years ago my partner, Larry, and I were patrolling the northern part of the county near Joaquin when we saw an old pickup having difficulty in staying between the white lines on the road.  After following the vehicle for a mile or so we decided that the driver was intoxicated and pulled him over.  After a couple of roadside tests, our suspicions were confirmed - the driver was under the influence and thus a danger to himself and other drivers.


We put handcuffs on the driver and placed him in the back seat of our patrol car.  I had brought along a sandwich and soft drink in a cooler for later use.  I moved it over to the other side of the floorboard to make room for our prisoner.


It took about fifteen minutes to drive to the Shelby County jail, during which time the prisoner was quiet and, we thought, napping.  After booking him into the jail system, we returned to our patrol car for further activities.


Several hours later my hunger was getting the best of me and decided that it was time to eat my tasty sandwich.  We pulled into a deserted cemetery to park and fill our empty stomachs.  I retrieved my car cooler from the back seat and eagerly opened it expecting to see my sandwich and a cold soft drink.  To my surprise there was only an empty can and empty sandwich bag inside.  Confused, I asked Larry, “Have you seen my sandwich and coke?  They are gone!”  Larry gave me a funny look, “Nope.  I brought my own.  Haven’t seen yours.”  “Well, I know that I put them in the cooler and brought them with me”, I stated.  “I remember that I had to move the cooler over when we put the drunk driver in the car…”, at which time a light bulb came on inside my brain - the prisoner had eaten my supper!


“Larry”, I whined, “the drunk has eaten my sandwich and downed my coke on the way to the jail.  That has to be the answer.”  “But”, Larry protested, “how could he?  His hands were cuffed behind his back the whole time.  And besides that, we would have heard him moving around back there.”  I tried to reason this out ...only three people knew that my sandwich and coke were in the cooler, myself, Larry, and the prisoner.  I knew neither Larry or myself had consumed them, so by deduction that left the drunk prisoner.


Over the years I have tried to figure out how a man whose hands were handcuffed to his back could open the cooler, eat the sandwich, drink the coke, leave the empty containers inside the cooler, all in fifteen minutes, and without making any discernible noise.  It just can’t be done, but it did happen. One answer may be that he worked one hand out of the handcuffs, did his deed,  then slipped it back in when reaching the jail.


At any rate I discovered that Shelby County has a modern-day Houdini in residence.  If I ever learn his name I will try to learn his escape trick.  In the meantime I just keep wondering.


PO BOX 511
Cell: 936-275-6986

665 Words


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