Long-Legged Geeky Girl

Whew! I’ve been up to my ears in busy so have missed posting for a while…sorry! I did just enter an essay contest and thought I might share my non-fiction entry. Go GIRLS!

 

Long-Legged Geeky Girl

Mary Ellen Wall

 

“What are you all red-eyed about?”

“High waters. All I got is high waters. Bell bottoms gotta drag the floor!”

“Prissy girls.” Mama went back to her crossword puzzle and I stomped back to my room to take off those durn blue jeans that showed my ankles as soon as possible. It wasn’t my fault I wasn’t born a boy. Tossing my book bag and shedding my shame, the treasure spread across my bed stole my attention.

My Bookmobile treasure: Pollinators, Geology and the Inland Sea, The Science of Fire, Storm Dynamics. With a fluffed pillow at my back and my bare giraffe legs stretched out before me, I reached for the nearest tome. The 8th grade science fair was only 27 days away. Hmmm, weather instruments.

I had a jelly jar in my hand wondering what to use as a membrane when I saw the fancy syrup bottle with the plastic handle and spout in the trash. Ditch the spout. The jelly jar went back to Mama’s canning supplies. The smaller opening would mean a little balloon would fit lots easier and still be big enough for a pointer. A needle would poke the balloon. Dootdootdoot…what the hoot? Epiphany! A toothpick, flat rounded end stuck down. Glue, where’s the glue?

The two poster boards were a breeze to do. One had a wild tornado in the center with a spotted cow and a couple trees in it. Labels and arrows artfully drawn noted the meteorological details. The other had a precis of my EXPERIMENT. The harder part turned out to be affixing the index card to the bottle neck. Scissors! Tape! Where’s the durn tape?

I added another reading from the nightly weather report; the toothpick had a great range against the card which gave me pretty good space to record the data. The weather guys said a band of storms were on the way. Great! I might get a couple data points in the low range right before the science fair; the top of the card looked a bit blank.

Me, the biggest idiot in the room. The guy to the left of me had put an Apollo capsule model together. On the right, the guy with a hamster in a cage kept trying to make the critter run in the wheel. Across from me the guy had a printed, full color diorama of the Grand Canyon. Several boys had volcanoes. I had taped the cow tornado picture to the front of the table and whapped up a poster full of news of the record-breaking storm swarm and a fairly well drawn map to put in its place. Was it hokey? The boys had more polished displays. Except for me, all the contestants in the gym were boys.

Seeing the strange high school teachers quizzing the Apollo fellow reminded me of a Wild Adventures show including a warthog. Me, the warthog, now realizing lions approached. Could I still run? Where were the exits? I blinked at hearing someone knock on the table and there they stood, directly in front of me. Holy bovines.

“Miss, please explain why you brought this mess here.”

Mess? By golly, warthogs got tusks. “Sirs, Ma’am, I made this barometer from ordinary items and calibrated the device using the National Weather Association certified reports that are televised each evening.” Here I pointed at the data on the card. “There are 23 data points taken before Wednesday. On that day, the barometric pressure got so low, the diaphragm busted. This ‘mess’ is the evidence that my barometer worked.” I did not add that the sight of that balloon getting sucked way into that bottle and popping while Mama clutched my little sisters under the kitchen table and screamed at me to join them will amaze me to the end of my days.

Well, 1st place won me a whopping $50. The April 3, 1974 avalanche of ravaging tornadoes allowed me to proceed directly to the Woolco Department Store where I purchased a gleaming new Brother sewing machine. I figured out how to use it. From then through now, I choose the material for my clothes, I select the patterns and alter as I please. And my pants are always the right length.

Schrödinger’s Cabin: A Reason to Panic?

This week a mean streak of violent storms pounded us in Western Kentucky. Storms happen, the Cabin is built halfway up a ridge so shouldn’t flood, up here in town I didn’t hear any sirens. I even worked late to get stuff done and didn’t leave the factory until after 7 pm.

I stay up in town during the week to be close to work, but could still barely get home. The buckets of rain falling were hippo-sized! 20 mph all the way. That put me in a state of agitation by the time I got to the house.

I turned on the radio to get the alerts. Severe thunderstorms, yeah, yeah. I opened a can of beans for supper. Then I heard this:

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I have NEVER EVER heard Flint Springs called out in an alert of any kind! It is not a town, it has no traffic light or post office, it is a gravel road! Every hamlet called out in the warning at least had a store or something, and they all surround the cabin, my precious, beloved home place as if they were the red circles around the big red cabin-shaped bullseye!

My heart thumped like mad. I turned the radio up to hear a repeat, maybe I was mistaken. The rock and roll station abruptly came back blaring Jimi Hendrix ominously whispering, “…and the wind cried MARY…”

Rural areas don’t have eager reporters nearby. I don’t have any close neighbors. Nobody would know. Schrödinger’s Cabin!

I panicked and emailed my boss that first thing in the morning I absolutely had to go to the cabin over an hour away and ease my mind OR face the carnage. I even told him about Jimi. I wavered…I could go now…no stupid, the weather was still too way too rough and the way there was probably flooding. Have faith. Have common sense – what could I do there at midnight? I forced myself to wait.

At dawn (so I could see the debris on the road) I headed south. I measured my breathing carefully until I got to the gravel and had to get out  to move big limbs off the road. A very tall tree had fallen across the road but was held up enough by the trees on the other side for me to get through. I craned my neck to get the first glimpse of the cabin as I powered up the steep driveway.Cabin June 2015 003

Pristine, even the flags. Halleluiah!

 

 

 

Warnings in the Night

I have a confession to make. I didn’t start cleaning up because I couldn’t stand the stacked and jumbled-Cleanup messtumbled boxes of plunder that impeded the use of the great room, that wouldn’t let me even reach the windows for a breeze. I did it because of a premonition.

I had a powerful dream that I was in a shack with no lights, on a dirt floor. I was making a small fire to heat some meager food. I was sitting cross-legged, wishing I had taken precautions against the monster tornado that had demolished the cabin and all I owned. I was so sad that years of my accumulated history and the beautiful things I had were gone. Tornado, a danger I should not ignore.

Twisters are not uncommon in Kentucky; the vast swarm of them that destroyed Xenia, Ohio in the 70s also ripped up Cherokee Park in Louisville where I grew up, and tore up part of the Fairgrounds. I won a science fair because of that! Cabin June 2015 016The old-timers around here talk about them. I put in a basement as a safe place in the event of one. I respect their might.

I came to believe the danger was real and imminent. I started packing crammed load after load of stuff up to the house in town. I took thousands of books, appliances, tools, clothes, DVDs and CDs. Up went the vacuum cleaner and the musical instruments Up went the dried fruit, the sewing machines, the cloth, the painting accoutrement, the pictures on the very walls. And I waited, worried about my beloved cabin.

A month went by with no catastrophe. I would not let myself doubt. Maybe I’d been given time to move my stuff? Then came the storm I’d waited for. The sirens went off in town and I got Ma to the basement. Over the radio we listened intently. More warnings. I didn’t care about the sightings Cabin 20130721 050near me in town. A tornado was spotted along the Green River in Muhlenberg County headed northeast. That aimed it at the cabin. It dissipated. Then a spotter reported one south of Hartford, going south toward the cabin. Which direction would it come from?

Several homes just a couple miles from me were hit. I drove down with trepidation. I looked closely for damage along my route. The cabin was safe. I felt the danger was over. Relief flooded my being.

Gee whizz, with the cabin cleared out I had the perfect chance to clean it up before I hauled it all back! Cleanup Open WindowAm I upset because the cabin didn’t really get destroyed? Give me a break, please. I am grateful! And now after years of neglect I am well on my way to making it into a place I’d be proud to take pictures of.