Prairie Tayles: Hard Times, Strong People

Aug 25, 2017

Right now, Kansans who live anywhere near Wakeeney can only shake heads and wring hands. As they survey profound destruction wreaked upon homes and farms by gust-driven ice missiles the size of baseballs, they reveal the tenacity of prairie residents. They don’t lament, “Woe is me.” Instead, they count their blessings.

More than one battered resident has remarked that they lost property, but no one died. Even in instances where people lost livestock or pets, they express gratitude that family members are well. I can relate. I was relieved to hear my own mom’s voice telling me she was okay after that monster storm battered her house and yard.

Via radar, I watched that white mass embedded in purples, pinks, and reds as it cut a swath across Western Kansas. I called Mom to be sure she knew it was coming. She didn’t need my warning. Her Nex Tech device alerted her to danger so she was heading for shelter.

Knowing she was protected inside her home comforted me.  At Brownie Scout camp decades before, we faced an evacuation through golf-ball size hail. I recalled welts and bruises ice balls raised on young campers and couldn’t imagine facing even more powerfully driven projectiles. After I saw storm-damaged vehicles, windows, and roofs, it was clear anything living outside suffered trauma from that assault.

A friend posted the storm in real time on Facebook so I imagined everyone experiencing that icy barrage felt like they were entombed in a continuously battered barrel. It had to be the closest to war that citizens who never serve in combat experience. Mom confirmed this when I contacted her following the storm.

Once the front passed, the true ordeal began. As people inventoried damage, they found shattered windows, punctured roofs, damaged siding and fences, destroyed lawn furniture, naked trees, and vehicles pocked with more and bigger dents than a golf ball has. Some even discovered that the knife-like wind flipped trailers, trucks, and grain bins topsy-turvy. It stripped fields of ripening grain to toothpick-like stalks.

While those viewing devastating photos bemoaned their friends and loved ones’ fates, I read so many grateful responses. Caveats such as “Others had it much worse,” or “It can all be cleaned up,” echoed through social media.

A friend with his own troubles helped Mom reinforce her broken windows. A cousin with carpentry experience drove over two hours the next morning to seal a roof so punctured it could function as a colander. He found a reliable repair company to restore her property. His guidance is a blessing because he has insights the rest of us don’t.

My friend on the farm who noted that others had things much worse than she did brightened lives when she posted a story about her Great Pyrenees pup that found a storm-battered dove and gently carried it to her. She protected it and watched to see if it would mend enough to fly. Distant and close friends smiled when she reported it flew away despite significant feather loss.

Right now, it’s hard to think about normal for folks living in this battered region. But like that dove, life will once again take off.