Huddled very close on the slip covered couch, my arms around the two youngest children, I realized that I was not breathing normally but rather hyper-ventilating. The electricity had been off for forty minutes. I had lit several candles earlier so the children wouldn't be frightened: the candle light flickering on the mantle in front of Anna Martin's picture.
Anna Martin was the original owner of our small ranch in West Texas. Her picture was a tiny newspaper clipping I had copied and enlarged, framing it with a small black wooden frame. I questioned the children as to where it should be in the living room and one of the boys had put it on the mantle, just hours earlier. Giving the children a lengthy speech on Anna's accomplishments, it seemed appropriate she should be in a place of honor. After all, Anna Martin had been the first woman in Texas to own her own bank. Of course, I never knew her but I was proud of her and proud of the fact that we had been able to purchase this wonderful ranch of hers.
We actually bought the land from her great-great grandson several years ago and had moved a double wide mobile home on the property so that we could enjoy fishing and hunting with our family. As the trailer was quite sufficient for our needs, we had forgone the thought of building a permanent structure.
The storm outside was getting fierce. My husband was anxious but wouldn't sit still, checking doors and trying to see outside with his favorite flashlight. He has many flashlights, big and small, but this one was special. He and his best friend Bill have exchanged flashlights each Christmas, regardless of the number of them they already have. This one normally sits by the front door of the trailer on a small ledge so he can identify armadillos at night. Armadillos don't stand a chance in our yard which he has tended so carefully. It is lush and green; an oasis in this arid west Texas topography.
One of the older boys had moved closer to me, sitting on the floor next to my left leg. He wasn't ours, but rather a friend's grandson. He had been frightened from the first buildup of black clouds over the river while they were fishing a few hours ago. I knew he had been upset about the weather the night before, as he had called home several times. But his wonderful sense of humor was helping him through tonight's storm and also making us laugh from time to time.
My oldest grandson was sitting in the blue Papasan chair across the living room from me. I asked him to move closer but he is thirteen, to old to be scared by a storm or maybe too young to be scared by a storm. The winds were blowing so loudly now that they were scaring me too.
Then it hit. All Hell broke loose; windows breaking, glass coming in the room, branches coming through the windows, and the noise was deafening. I pulled the small boys as close as I could to me and lowered their heads trying to cover them with my arms. With little trouble at all, the trailer lifted, ever so steadily, slowly maybe about four feet into the air. We rocked to the left and the right and then we were gently lowered down to the ground. The noise was awful! Then suddenly the noise stopped: just stopped.
We had taken a direct hit by a two hundred yard wide, F2 tornado, minimum winds of one hundred ten miles per hour. It was on the ground for over a mile on our property and we were blessed to be alive. I hugged the children and loudly said, "Thank you God, thank you God."
The trailer shell has been moved from our ranch. All the beautiful old shady oak trees were either blown over or stripped of their limbs. The storage shed was lifted over the Jeep and exploded in the front yard, scattering old deer mounts and lawn equipment for miles. Our suburban was crushed by a four foot diameter, 300 year old oak. Our twelve hunting dogs miraculously survived in their kennel, although it no longer had a roof. The roof now looking a little like a pig's tail, most of it gone and the rest curled up pointing towards the sky.
But the children were safe, and we were safe and Anna Martin's picture never moved off the mantle. I often wonder if she had something to do with our survival, but for sure, God blessed us all.