A perfect storm

Farm Forum

“The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.” – Mark Twain

With the Winter That Would Not Go Away finally fading in our rearview mirror, we can at last enjoy some summertime. And summer means warmer weather and a juicier atmosphere, which means higher probabilities of thunderstorms. Which delights me to no end, because hardly anything gives me more enjoyment that a boisterous, rip-roaring lightning storm.

This is a foolish thing to take pleasure in. It’s not like you can collect lightning bolts and put them in a jar on the mantle. Nor can a person tame lightning and teach it to do tricks, such as giving a small zap a to friend’s heinie when he isn’t looking. But what fun that would be during a backyard barbecue!

Lightning and thunder have been explained numerous ways throughout the centuries. When I was a little kid, someone — probably an older sister who knew full well that I would believe anything — told me that thunder was merely the sound of God bowling. It was humbling to think that the Almighty would choose to play a game of ten pins directly above our humble little farm.

Other fanciful explanations for lightning and thunder include Thor swinging his mountain-smashing hammer. This must be so, because there certainly aren’t many mountains hereabouts.

These mythological interpretations for lightning may not be accurate. But they are much more truthful than what I believed through grade school, which was “a huge giant rubbing his feet on a cosmic carpet, then touching a brass doorknob.”

We all realize that lightning can be dangerous. But this knowledge only adds to the thrill of watching an energetic thunderstorm.

And with this danger comes a certain beauty. What is more awe-inspiring than a bolt of electricity that shoots from horizon to horizon, lighting up the entire night sky? Add to that a “Boom!” you can feel deep in your chest cavity and you have the recipe for a cut-rate fireworks show.

Lightning has been historically used to portend future events. This has personally happened to me several times.

One June night when I was a kid, we had a boots-and-all thunderstorm. Awakened by the clamor, I went to my bedroom window to watch the celestial light show.

No sooner had I pressed my nose against the glass than I was blinded by a bright flash that was accompanied by an evil “ssst!” The thunder, which arrived instantly, threw me back from the window.

A utility pole that sat fifty feet from the house had been hit. The electric transformer at the top the pole was fountaining sparks and shooting flames. I took this as a sign that we wouldn’t have electricity again until we received a visit from a utility crew.

Another clear indicator from the heavens came when I was a teenager. I was planting corn on a hilltop field when storm clouds gathered and enormous sparks began to leap from cloud to cloud. When it got to the point where I could hear — and feel — the thunder over the racket of the tractor’s engine, I knew it was time to head home.

Safely in the farmyard, I glanced back at the field I had been planting. A forked tongue of fire flicked from the cloud base and licked the hilltop. I shivered to contemplate what might have happened to a person sitting out there atop a three-ton hunk of steel.

Thirty-some springs ago, I was doing chores on my little dairy farm when a strong thunderstorm arose. As I watched, a particular bolt of lightning dropped from the sky. It appeared to hit somewhere in the nearby town.

It had. A particular apartment house had been struck, the lightning coming down its chimney and setting the structure afire.

In that particular apartment building there lived a particular girl who had been spending a particularly large amount of time with me. The thunderbolt rendered her suddenly homeless.

I invited her to move out to my farmhouse, assuring her that I had plenty of space. And, as a bachelor, I also had plenty of bad habits that she could help me conquer.

“Are you sure about this?” she asked as we loaded her meager and smoke-infused possessions.

“Of course I am,” I replied. “You can’t argue with a sign from above!”

This turned out to be so, because that particular girl became my wife and we are still a couple. Good call, Thor!

Or, as Twain once said, “Thunder is good, thunder is impressive, but it is lightning that does the work.”

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