Tag Archives: Irish setter

Our Storm Story

Our storm story doesn’t compare to those of the tornado victims in our area. But, puny as it may be, this is our story.

We knew thunderstorms were expected. I was actually looking forward to the stormy weather. Nothing is cozier than lying in bed listening to the rain on the roof. However, this storm was a real character! The lightning and thunder weren’t just playing. They were very serious. When you see lightning, then count till the thunder booms and the number of seconds in between is number of miles away to the storm. Right?

But this storm was present with us in force, present and accounted for, no doubt about it. Lightning and thunder were flashing and booming at the same time, over and over again. And then the rain! It was horrendous. Often when I say “Hear the rain?” Charles says “What rain? That’s the air conditioner.” But he heard it this time! We talked about how many inches we might be getting in the rain guage. We were glad our cats had such nice warm dry shelters and I pictured them raising their heads in what should have been the dark of 3:45 a.m. to wonder at the repeated sparking flashes of strong lightning. They’d be flicking their ears, too, at the claps of thunder.

I said something like “Glad our poor old dog Blake doesn’t have to endure this storm. Gone to his rewards. He’d be gone crazy before now.” Blake had a storm endurance disorder that made him go extraordinarily wild before we could even hear thunder. He’d huddle behind the toilet or squeeze behind the freezer trembling from his Irish setter nose to his sad fluffy red tail.

Charles crawled out of bed to go to the bathroom. I lay watching the amazing show.

All of a sudden there was a living, crackling presence right in our room. A huge chandelier-sized ball of lightning sparked and sizzled in a suspended state only six feet from me. At the same time a stroke of thunder boomed and crashed. It happened in a millisecond, I guess, but I will never forget the sight of that electrical ball beside my bed.

“Something very near has been hit,” I told Charles as he came out of the bathroom. Charles Douglas came in from his room. He, too, had seen an electrical ball. Charles told us both reasonably that what we had seen was just strong flashes of lightning, but we contend that this was quite different. That crackling ball of fire in my room is vivid in my mind.

I went to a front window to see if I could tell whether or not one of our pines had been hit. Charles D padded back to his room and came out reporting his television and play station were both dead, completely gone.

That was Sunday, January 23, the day of the deadly tornadoes in South Georgia. Though we did spend time in the basement due to tornado warning, we were not hit. We are so grateful, feel so blessed, we’d be ashamed to say very much about our tiny problems. But, though comparatively tiny, the storm’s hit wreaked havoc on our household.

All week repairmen have frequented our house. As one wire/component/fixture is repaired, another problem is discovered. One repairman who kept running into more electronic wires, devices, etc. “fried,” shook his head with a patient smile as he remarked, “Chasing down ghosts here.”

The inventory right now, I think, is: two televisions, one play station, one computer router, several smoke alarms, numerous wires, landline telephone wire, an entire security system (now restored and updated!) and more.

I asked one repairman for his thinking concerning the randomness of the lightning damage. He said the strike came in on the telephone wire (entrance right beside our bed) and “wandered” around the house striking here and there. “That’s the way it works,” he said. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It goes where it wants to go all in a second’s time. Like a tornado,” he added,” touching down here, skipping that house, demolishing the next one.”

I described to one repairman my visit by the sizzling electrical ball. He said, “Oh, yes, I’ve seen one too. It is awesome!”

When I described the electrical ball to my brother Charlie he said, “Remember Mamma’s story about Uncle Hugh?”

Our mother’s brother Hugh was walking through a storm one day when he glanced over his shoulder and saw an electrical ball sparking down the hill toward him. There was no time to do anything about it. Miraculously, the ball shot past him. As it disappeared in the rain and thunder, Hugh felt something hot on his side. A dime had melted in his left pocket.

Today is so sunny and bright with spring azaleas and Japanese magnolias blooming gloriously. A large umbrella propped near the door on the porch is one of the few visible signs a storm came through.

But for thousands across the Southeast the signs of storm damage are horrific. My mind cannot even grasp the sorrow and pain of those who lost loved ones in tornadoes. The most heartbreaking stories are of those whose children’s bodies have not even been found.

Why are some hit and some not?

It is a helpless question.

But I know this. The Most High God who allows the storms and the unbelievable (such as our daughter’s dying in her sleep at age 42) is the only one who can comfort and give us hope.




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Airplane Chaser

Charles came home from work (journal notes from 1980) talking about an Irish setter who had wandered up to the back door of the animal hospital. “He’s not pretty right now. He’s missed meals for a month or two at least. But if we can’t find his owner, I’d like to bring him home,” he said.

Sam (William, 12, Julie, 11, and I all agreed he looked like a Sam) looked rugged and ragged. He was as thin as a noodle on a diet, his eyes were deepset and sad, his hair looked like a worn out doormat, and he had no spirit. But it wasn’t long before he began to come alive under Charles’ careful treatment. His eyes took on a look of intelligence and inquisitiveness. His feathers on backs of legs and along bottom of stomach fluffed out. And he began chasing bees, wasps, and airplanes, ears flopping, tail wagging.

Sam is the only dog we ever had who chased airplanes. He’d hear the drone of a small plane, his ears would quirk and then, in a flash, he’d take off running, his lanky body a red blur in the wind. He always stopped at the edge of the empty lot next door, looked up in great disappointment and confusion, then sniffed around a clump or two of grass before running back home. He was a chaser of all moving things, flying or on the ground. And he was a good walking companion.

With Sam along, running ahead, dipping back to check on me, loping into the woods and swimming the ponds, a three-mile walk was sheer entertainment. I always said he covered nine miles for my three! Several times he picked up a terrapin that just fit in his mouth and took it the whole three miles, depositing it right where he’d picked it up when we returned. Those turtles had a free tour of the countryside!

One summer when William, Julie and I were all helping with Vacation Bible School at our church we came home at noon to learn from a neighbor that Sam had collapsed in her driveway. Rushing over to take him to the animal hospital, we were all horrified at the way he was shaking and his eyes rolling back in his head. We wrapped him in an old rug and William held onto him while I drove to the clinic. Charles was out on a large animal emergency but Dr. Janet Clark, our new vet at the time, treated Sam tenderly. Turns out, he had a heat stroke. He did recover but he never was able to run again without a hampering little side-swing in his trot. Not that he let it slow him down much!

When Sam was about fifteen years old he developed hip dysplasia and other arthritic problems. Some days he could hardly move. It had been a while since he’d been able to jump up in Charles’ truck. Charles would tenderly give him a boost and take him to the animal hospital for a shot of Rimadyl (sp?) and other comforts. At that time I was volunteering almost every day at our church’s day care. Our children were both grown and away at college (William) and married (Julie). There were signs around the yard that Sam no longer very neatly deposited his poopies under bushes as he always had done before. He laid them wherever he happened to be. He had also acquired a terrible fear of storms and always dragged up on the porch when thunder rolled. His chasing of planes had wound down to only an occasional whimper when a plane roared over.

One day when I wasn’t home, the thunder rolled and sam tried to get in a shed behind our house. He got stuck between two boards, halfway in, and was so weak that he couldn’t respond when we called him. It was hours before we found him. I cuddled him and talked to him. He gave me only the slightest response, like a flick of one ear. Charles ran his hands through his red hair and gently patted his unresponsive back end. “Gotta let him go,” he said quietly.

I went to day care that morning knowing he’d be gone when I got home. It was a rough day. Every time someone asked me if I was all right, I burst into tears! There was a fresh mound of dirt out by the pasture fence when I got home.

And that was our Sam, the Airplane Chaser.

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