It turns out, it is a good idea to listen when the radio beep-beeps those emergency warnings. Sometimes, they are more than just a “test of the emergency broadcast system.”
My daughter, Abby, and I were visiting friends when the radio began beeping, the authoritative voice warned of golf ball-sized hail and strong winds, commanding us all to go inside and stay away from windows. The enormous black cloud cruising from the west confirmed a mighty presence, but the edges were clear. Someone would get some moisture. Golf ball-sized hail sounded a bit exaggerated. I crossed my fingers. My newly-seeded alfalfa needed one more drink to really take off.
Raindrops big enough to wash off splattered windshield bugs pelted us as we drove south to Conrad. We pulled under the canopy of the co-op for gas, then sat in the truck to watch the streets fill with water running everywhere. Driving rain and tiny hail curtained our view to two city blocks. We grinned at the unexpected excitement of the day. Before long, we headed through the flood back to the ranch.
A couple of miles from home, we stopped in the road to chat with the neighbor.
“We dodged a bullet,” I smiled.
He shook his head. My smile dimmed.
My alfalfa field confirmed my neighbor’s assessment. Leaves on the older plants were stripped, the tiny cotyledons flattened. Abby picked up walnut-sized ice balls that had just cost me a lot of money.
I don’t know why I was surprised by glass on the porch. A breeze blew through three windows of the north-facing door. I grabbed the broom and dustpan. As I swept, it occurred to me to check the north-facing, double-paned windows. Six had small, fist-sized holes in the outside glass. The inner panes held fast, though.
I bent to pick up a golf ball-sized hailstone. The radio voice had been right. My tomato plants were stripped to their stems. The small pepper plants huddled, protected, under some weeds. I wished I had not been so conscientious and pulled a bunch the day before.
Six trucks faced northwest, all with deep cracks weaving across the windshields. Their hoods looked like cellulite old legs, reflecting sunlight at odd angles.
The 42 solar panels on the shop roof facing south were spared, but the north-facing windows on my 1906 Grandma’s House and the storage house are gone.
By then, it was time to bring the sheep in from the pasture for the night. The ground was soaked and the wind was blowing so Abby brought the truck while I coaxed the flock into a tight bunch, ready to cross the county road. One ewe blatted insistently, but her lamb ignored her, blatting and running in wide circles. It acted like Rocky Balboa after Apollo rang his bell. The lamb trotted up to me so I picked it up and stuck it in the pickup. The ewe followed the flock for the half-mile jaunt to the barn, then found her lamb in the hospital corral. The lamb looked cockeyed at the ewe. Two days later, the lamb was still alive, still confused and abandoned. The ewe tired of calling to a lamb that would not listen. I understand.
A thunderstorm brought more puddles that night, but no more hail. The next morning, I carried my coffee downstairs to my office only to splash over to my computer. A basement window was not there. The thunderstorm’s blowing rain had flooded the basement.
I wondered if the universe was trying to get me to clean up. After all, no other suggestions had worked.
No humans were hurt. We will be fine.