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01 June 2009

A Storm

I believe it was 1980. I lived in the "cement city" section of North Texas State University (as the University of North Texas was called in those days). Some friends called up and invited me over for beer, so I hopped in the car and headed over-- just about a mile or so from my apartment.

When I arrived, several persons were standing out in their complex's parking lot holding longnecks, and craning to look to the south. I parked and Ronnie handed me a fresh beer. "Come look at this." He said, and we walked over to a high spot where we could see between tow apartment units toward Forth Worth.

It was the strangest storm cloud I have ever seen-- to this day. All around, the sky was blue and clear; but coming from the horizon this small, compact, single cloud was constantly flashing with electricity. There was no anvil top like a thunderhead-- just a regular looking cumulus cloud (except for the incessant flashing within).

"Eerie." I said.
"I've never seen anything like that. If it comes here, something bad is going to happen." I looked at Ronnie to try and understand the omnicity in his voice and in his words. He went on, "We've been watching it for about twenty minutes-- it isn't natural-- that storm just isn't right. Have you ever seen anything like that?"

The sun was sinking, and the cloud seemed to double in size over the next few minutes. The several of us finished off the dozen or so beers, and I headed back soon after to fix something for dinner and call my girlfriend. The vesper light had a strobe-like source that was occasionally centered in my rear-view mirror, and I recalled the spooky way Ronnie and several others had interpreted what they observed.

Perhaps forty-five minutes later, I was just finishing my dinner, and the rain began. The sky was flashing, and bolts were coming down nearby, the roar of the rain istelf was so loud enough to prevent conversation-- had I been with anyone-- but the lightning strikes and wind contributed to cacophony which nearly overwhelmed the senses. A few minutes later I heard neighbors yelling something about the cars.

I ran outside, and saw their concern. The water was coming down the street in a rush, and was already about eighteen inches deep. Two cars had been shoved sideways, and suddenly neighbors were running out to try and move their cars before they were shoved together or swept away. I pulled my own up as close to the apartment as I could-- getting the rear wheels up out of the fast running stream-- others were parking in the middle of the crowned road, and remained in their cars.

Trees were coming down and large branches, rife with leaves, were sliding past at more than twenty miles and hour driven by wind and flow making no notice of the stop sign, but somehow steering around the cars in the street and those parked along the side.

Six inches of rain fell in about thirty minutes. An hour later, while several of us were clearing brush from around our cars and doorsteps, the stars were out.

It was bright, sunny and hot the next morning. I stood with a cup of coffee looking at the normally black asphalt streets now completely green with debris. A boy of about ten years of age came down the street with a wagon. When he got to my complex, he angled toward me with the wagon.

"Know anything about birds?"
"A bit."
"Think you could help?" His deep rural drawl coming through as we spoke.

In his wagon was a towel swirled around a fledgling blue jay that had been torn from its nest and tree in the storm.

I shouldn't have, but I did. Named him JJ. Fed him worms until he could eat seed. Watched him fly his first time. Raised him until he could go out on his own. That bird loved me, and had no fear at all of me. They do not make good pets, but I am glad I took him in. I suppose he was too.

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