Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustave Watch

Hurricane Carla at Lake Mathis
8.5" x 11"
Another month almost here, and another hurricane out in the Gulf, with several more, following along, that are named or will soon be named. We've been watching the weather news and our handy, dandy hurricane tracking chart from the local tv station, KBTX.
We may be inland, and won't get the hurricane force winds or storm surge, if a hurricane should make its way here. But, sometimes, they do head up this way, after slamming into the coast, with tornadoes, wind, and heavy rain. I can do without ever being caught in another flood or seeing another tornado!
Since I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast, I go into "hurricane mode" when I hear about a storm. Are we prepared? Where will we go and how? What will we take with us? What would we leave? Do we have flashlights, candles, water, food ready? Should we tape windows? Are important papers and pictures in waterproof plastic containers?
We didn't hear much about hurricanes, growing up in Calvert. The coast was far away. We did hear about the great Galveston hurricane that hit just a short while after Grandpa graduated from Galveston Business College and returned to Calvert. But no pictures or much information. Just that it happened and was so bad. We would see newsreel pictures of hurricanes in far away places, but we were far from any big bodies of water and just had to be concerned with the Brazos River flooding in the spring. That was to our west and never came as far as town.
My first teaching job took me near the coast. Daddy wouldn't let me take my ragged little MG that I loved but insisted that I take the family Ranch Wagon. It looked more like a teacher, for one thing.
And, "What if a hurricane comes?" he asked. "How would you get out of there?"
My MG was very low to the ground and would "drown out" in a puddle when it rained! Not to mention that the brakes didn't work right and I had to gear it down and hit something in order to stop. Lights would go out when I hit a bump and I had to find another bump to hit for them to come back on. And, the canvas top would slide down over my head due to rotten wood that held the supports. The only way to tell if there was gas was to get out and put a yard stick into the gas tank. On top of that, it wouldn't carry very much.
But I loved that little car! So much fun and so cute!
Sure enough, we did have to leave as storms threatened and I dutifully drove the Ranch Wagon. Until I got a pay check and bought....A new MG! It would "drown out", too, we found out, so I ended up driving the Ranch Wagon more.
Two years later, in a different town, we rented a tiny lakeside cottage, not far from the Gulf Coast. I was alone out there, with my car being used by my husband, when school was dismissed. Carla was headed our way. I was just a little scared as I had not been in a hurricane and knew little about them. But I was excited. I was going to get to see one for myself!
Just a short way from the cottage, the edge of the lake spread out to the distance. A double decker fishing pier loomed over the water. I didn't know anything about fishing, was not about to touch a worm, and didn't have any fishing equipment, so the pier was not of interest to me, other than to look at.
At the entrance to the pier, there was a small bait stand and a little conveneince store. I liked to walk there and get a soda water and cookies or chips when I got home from school, and just talk to the people there, before going home to cook supper, watch tv, and grade papers.
People were urged to evacuate. A huge hurricane was coming our way. I had no car and was wondering what people should do in a hurricane. I had seen pictures in movies of ships being tossed by huge waves, but that was all I knew about hurricanes.
I wasn't really into painting or taking a lot of pictures, then. I should have because all I have are the pictures in my mind.
I walked down to the little store as waves in the lake were crashing over the pier. They got even stronger as I talked to the owner. In fact, they were splashing up over the top level of the pier, which was way up in the air, for some reason.
"You'd better leave," the owner told me. "I'm closing up and leaving right now. No one else will be out here. If you need a ride to town, I'll be glad to take you, but I'm not staying around. I'm boarding up and getting out."
"Thanks anyway, but I'll be alright. This is all very exciting, " I told him.
He put the board over the opening to his stand, got in his truck, and left.
I sort of wished that he would stay. It suddenly felt pretty lonely, with just me and the lake and the trees.
I walked to the house and wondered what to do with myself. I heated a tv dinner, ate at the little kitchen table, and watched tv, walked back outside the house to watch the waves violently spilling over the top of the pier. I hoped it would all stay there, in the lake, and not come up to the house.
What might happen in a hurricane, anyway? Would the house fall in? Would the roof blow off? I just hoped that the little wooden house was sturdy! I could stay there and be cozy with my tv. I had candles for the table, in case the lights went off. That might be kind of scarey, in the dark, out there by myself. But I had notebooks to grade and could stay busy.
The clouds seemed to move very fast, and had a cold feeling to them. I felt like I could have easily communed with God in that setting. We seemed to be alone out there by the lake.
I had my one expensive, irreplaceable thing, I thought, my tv set, and I didn't want it to get ruined. (Tv was still relativley new then and this was my first.)
The sun had not yet set, and I was still watching the waves when a Highway Patrol car pulled up with two officers in it.
"You have to leave, " they told me.
"I can't. I don't have a car . I don't know when my husband is coming back."
"Well, we're closing the highways and no one can get in or out, right now, so we'll take you to the shelter in town."
"I can't leave my things, and, what if my husband comes and I'm not here! I'll be alright." I was thinking that I couldn't leave my tv set, and other things, and I wanted to see what a hurricane really was like. And, what if my husband came home and couldn't find me. He might just keep going and never come back, I thought in my insecure little mind.
"Lady, we don't have time for this!" I was told. "If you don't come get in this car now, I'm going to pick you up and put you in the car! You are going to the shelter! No one is going to come back out here and the highways are closed. We are the last ones who will be out here."
I looked past his shoulder as my car appeared on the drive by the pier.
"That's okay. My husband is here, now, and I have a ride."
The men talked to my husband and they agreed that we should leave. Rain started to fall and the clouds grew gray and billowed over the lake. Satisfied that we would go into town, the officers left.
"I'm not going!" I announced. "Who will take care of my things! And I want to watch, anyway. I can't do that in town."
"Oh, yes you are! What do you want to take with you?" My husband went into the house and hauled out the console tv set and put it in the back seat of the car. Then he brought out a box with the papers I had been grading, my purse, and a wine set that had been a wedding gift. The door was locked and we were on our way to the school in town. I turned to look at the waves that had now turned a blue black as they rushed high into the air and over the pier.
"Wow!" I thought in amazement.
I wish I had had a camera and film. All that movement and power. Totally awesome.
We hope for the best for all those in the path of Gustave, Hanna, and the other row of storms out in the Atlantic.
Anyone interested in participating in the 20th Sketch Crawl Saturday October 25?
I'm particularly looking for someone in Calvert, Hearne, Franklin, Bremond, Marlin, Cameron,Waco, Navasota. Rockdale, and other Brazos Valley areas who would like to get a group together or serve as a contact person.

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