Palabras Pintorescas: Lessons learned in tornado country

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I think spring in finally here. It is a beautiful May morning and I have just fed some hungry critters. One of our cows gives little milk, so she and her kid are in the corral for a spell, until the baby’s bottle is no longer needed to supplement.

The three old horses need extra hay as well. Their teeth aren’t good, they are “stove up” as old timers would say, and they appreciate any and all handouts now.

This is a horse retirement ranch now for the most part. The daily feeding, the regular ranch chores aren’t chores in my book. Although it was cold last night, 32 degrees again, the sun has brought back the rainbow glitter off early morning dewdrops. A bit of moisture hangs on, hides from the eight tenths of measureable moisture we got in a fast-moving rainstorm last week. Any moisture is true gold here, and all around this big southwest.

I write this while listening to the radio. The news is so regular, usual, except for one big item, tornadoes. I have never been near a tornado, but I understand the horrifying danger and the unbelievable aftermath of such a storm. I have always thought I’d prefer a house fire to a destructive tornado. I know, from experience, that nothing was left when our house burned so long ago, but had the disaster been a tornado, I’d still be looking for some lost treasured item that blew away.

My aunt and uncle had a ranch in southern Oklahoma when I was a teenager. I spent a week with them one beautiful fall when the pecans and persimmons were ripe. I met feral hogs (not nice critters) and rode several colts my uncle was breaking through beautiful, Ozark-like country.

I asked my aunt what she would do if a tornado hit, and she told me they were prepared. She took me out back to the cellar where we would “hole up” until the storm passed. This was a sort of dugout, cave like, small room, with a heavy door on top.

There was a shelf along one wall, and she kept her home-canned garden produce there, quart jars of beans, tomatoes, okra and much more.

This “safe” hole in the ground was shared with all sorts of critters, from snakes, both friendly and poisonous, rats, mice and scorpions, plus all sorts of spiders. It didn’t take me long to figure out I’d probably just hang on to the huge old oak tree in their yard instead of riding out a tornado in that cellar.

I don’t think they ever used it as a shelter, and I’m amazed someone didn’t get bit by one of those dangerous beasts in there. I also learned wild hogs helped control the snake population, so yes, there is a reason for all things natural.

I know the weather pattern won’t change for a while, and every time we get a big windstorm here, plus the tempting rain clouds, Oklahoma can brace for yet, another tornado or two.

Drought is terrible in so many ways, but the violent weather, these storms of such magnitude are worse in my book. I continue to be very thankful my family found northern New Mexico for so many reasons!

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.