The Storm

Carol Stober 

Copyright 2001 by Carol Stober 
Photo of a trailer park with a pit bull dog tied to a tree.

You know how hard it is to make a living these days. All the old folks is on social security and they get them senior discounts. All the incompetents and lazys are sitting in front of their t-v sets watching soaps or old movies or Oprah while they're drawing welfare checks and food stamps. And who's paying? It's us hard working middle-aged, middle class. I know that. You know that, and so do they.

Well, anyhow and anyway, all complaining aside. I'm a honest and half-intelligent guy just trying to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach.

I set my alarm clock for 5:30 every morning and drag myself out of the sack whether I feel like getting up and going to my job or not. I suppose that I am lucky that I even have a check ever' week from being employed. Some folks just drift through life trying to figure out ways to live off others. I can tell you, that's not me!

I done made it through high school, just barely, but some of my friends dropped out along the way. I figured they was stupid not to stick it out like I did even though I never liked going to school. The law says that you got to go 'til you're sixteen, and you might as well tack on another year and get that diploma. My Maw and Paw were proud that I had that attitude. We was good family, we was.

On Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, my relatives for fifty miles around gathered at my Grandma and Grandpa's trailer house in Alabama. Now you may be thinking they were trailer trash, but that ain't so. They just never wanted anything very elaborate to take care of, so they settled in and always raised a few chickens and a couple turkeys, so that Grandma could fix a traditional holiday meal when the end of each year rolled up on the calendar.

As I was saying, my kin sometimes showed up in big old souped-up pick-up trucks and maybe one or two had a fancy car that they was making payments on. They brought lots of food and their sleeping bags, and just wanted to share everything with us all. Some folks even brought fireworks to shoot off at night time when we celebrated together. It was one big, and I mean "big" party!

Now to get back to my original story. I worked long enough to make a down payment on a good piece of flat land that had once been a hay field and lay right next to the creek on one end. Man, that tasted of fishing with a cane pole and a worm on a hook, or just laying back on the bank watching the fireflies at night and hoping the mosquitoes don't bite too bad.

You know it is warm in Alabama most of the winter. Don't get below freezing very often. Now an occasional winter storm will swoop through from all that cold air up north clashing with our warmer weather. But that ain't a problem unless one is right in the path of it.

Finally I got kind of fed up with living with Maw and Paw so I decided that maybe I should put a trailer on my piece of ground and just kick back and enjoy my weekends and evenings in my own place. After all, I work hard at an eight-hour job five days a week, and I deserve to be some time off to be happy and independent.

So I arranged for a loan and picked me out a double-wide and figured when I get it all paid for I'd put a swimming pool off my back deck, you know one of those that sit on top of the ground. Then I'd have my friends come over. We'd barbecue outdoors, watch Alabama and Auburn play football on the big screen and maybe I'd even think about getting me a woman to shack up with if I could find a young blond.

I put that fabulous new trailer right in the middle of my land and was feeling almost rich as a king. I come home really tired one night and turned on my t-v to Channel 6 when suddenly Mickey Ferguson, the weather man popped up on the screen with a tornado warning that looked like it was hovering right over me. Before I could run for cover the lights went out, the walls collapsed and I was under a pile of debris trying to figure out if I was alive or dead.

Somehow I managed to survive, but my trailer was gone and my family just shook their heads and said, "don't you know boy, that any time you put a trailer right out in the middle of an open field that a storm will be attracted to it?  You can have a brick building right beside it and nothin's gonna happen to it when a storm blows through." 

Now that got me to thinking and mending my ways.

Being that I was a smart fellow and being generous as I was, I decided to run an ad in the Birmingham Newspaper offering rent-free space for trailer houses. Just bring 'em on! 

They began rolling in and I lined 'em up starting at the middle of my big hay field and putting them in all directions from the center. There must have been 200 trailers in my new sub-division before I had to start turning folks down that wanted to live there.

Then I started selling tickets for a real big party. I figured that somewhere around the holidays would be a perfect time, so I called it the Holiday Blowout Event. Each family in my sub-division got free tickets for selling 10 tickets at $50 each to their friends or friends of friends. We'd have a barbecue and fireworks, and I'd be able to make over $100,000 just for being so generous.

Oh, I guess that I forgot to tell you that I took the insurance money from my old trailer and built me a brick building over by the shade trees next to the creek so that I could do some fishing on my off-days. I strung up a hammock, and sometimes I'd lay out there in it and dream of how I'd spend my big windfall.

Come the month of December, folks started showing up in their pick-up trucks and four-wheelers and motorcycles and whatever kind of wheels they drove. They brought sleeping bags and food and the party began to look like one big happy family getting together.

I almost couldn't make tickets fast enough to keep up with demand when the word got out that we was congregating. I hardly had time to keep running to the bank in town with my brown paper grocery bags full of all that money I took in.

It was Christmas Eve. and we was all keeping our eyes peeled toward the sky for Jolly Ol' St. Nick when a pudgy little child standing right next to me tugged on my shirt tail and pointed his finger upward and screamed in a shrill, excited voice, "Look!"

There was a deafening silence and all eyes began to focus on the inky, black cloud was reaching toward the earth. At first, it appeared no larger than a man's body but then it seemed to rapidly increase in size to an awful roaring monster. While some of the crowd started screaming and running towards my brick building for shelter others stood watching the rapidly whirling demon of destruction with grief-stricken faces and terror in their eyes.

The storm crossed the road towards us, then swirled to the southeast and caught the first few trailers as it swooped from the sky towards the ground. Suddenly more trailers were picked up and exploded into pieces. A fever of excitement and breathless suspense came over me as a whole section of trailers was instantly blown away, whish, they evaporated and was gone forever!

Next the twister jumped back up in the air and hovered for a few seconds. Some people narrowly escaped death by laying flat on the ground as the funnel cloud veered west. It gobbled up trailers in a path that wiped out three complete rows and splattered contents like rain for hundreds of yards northward. Numerous pieces of furniture whirled about in the air like chicken feathers and then fell to the ground. I even saw some bodies of dead chickens and turkeys laying around the few trailers that remained standing.

Suddenly I realized that the trailer containing my cache of fireworks, that was right beside my brick building, was in line for a direct hit from the full force of the twister. It swirled, and an explosion rocked the earth below my feet as I stumbled and fell backwards.

The sky lit up like a giant Christmas tree all decorated in red and green and pink and purple and gold. On the ground anything that had missed the destructiveness of that monster tornado was engulfed in flames that shot high in the air like a giant bonfire.

Within minutes helicopters was circling overhead and cameras was pointed down toward us. CNN interviewed me for news on national t-v. My picture was in newspapers across the country and even in Newsweek Magazine. So if you think I am exaggerating, you got another think coming because it is well documented, and I am telling you exactly the way it all went down.

After all of the commotion got over, I moved back home with my Maw and Paw. I still get up early and go to work every day and it's no secret that I'm living on the far edge of middle age, but I learned that being famous or having lots of money didn't make me any happier than I am right now. 

So that is why I am sharing my Christmas story with you. I really do wish ya'll a Merry Christmas.

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