The air was heavy with the approaching storm. I looked to the west, and a set of heavy clouds glared back. They looked like thunder clouds, but sometimes it's hard to tell from a distance. Sometimes you just gotta' wait. I didn't want to risk it. Out here, thunderclouds can mean twisters, and while rain, and lightning, and thunder are one thing, a twister is different—damn different. We had to get to the shelter sooner or later. I could tell by something, just a feeling mostly, this would be a bad storm. Maybe it was the air. The bad air. The cattle were still out, though, laying-down and lowing, their mournful cries traveling fast in the thick air. We had to do something about 'em. It usually wasn't this humid.
I took my hand up, wiping away a drop of sweat from my forehead. The sun would be setting soon, I thought, but it's already dark enough to be night. I couldn't help but also think that there's always something both scary and beautiful about a storm, when you're all safe and secure in the cellar, that is—rain pattering overhead and hail banging like an angry sales clerk. Now, outside in this humid nightmare, there's nothing beautiful. It's just worrisome and aggravating.
A particularly loud moan from the cattle brought me back to the present. Something had to be done about them—they couldn't just stay out during a twister or a thunderstorm, but then again, the barn was just as dangerous. A bad twister would rip that building to shreds, tearing up the cattle with fast-flying debris in minutes; or it could just bury 'em. Either deaths weren't very nice. Well, mulling over this for a minute or so, I decided to bring them inside—those that I could anyways. My family was still more important than a bunch of lowing cattle, and if the time came, I'd leave the cattle in Your hands. If You saw fit to drag them up there, then so be it—better then dragging up my family. I called inside for my two boys, and the three of us went to get the bulls first. Hopefully they'd be pretty trackable. I doubted it though. But we had to: the bulls were the most important, and as far as they was concerned, they'd be the first in. The other cattle would have to wait.
I could tell my oldest was nervous, 'cause as we were running over to the small pasture I saw him glancing up at the sky, full of nervous, quick looks. The young'un couldn't care less. He was excited: something was happening, and out here nothing happened much—good thing too. I don't know how some lived trapped in a sardine can of the city where all that hullabaloo happens. Ain't no crime out here. And you can't even see your neighbor, let alone smell him. Give me a tract of land, and I'll get you a harvest as soon as I can. I like the quiet of the country. I don't like storms, though.
We got to the pasture faster than I suspected we would. I guess we was running awful fast, the oldest especially.
"Father," he said "we'll get the big cows first, right?"
I smiled at him. He was real polite. "Yes we will."
"Then can we go to the shelter?" He was looking at the sky.
"Yep, and we may even be able to roast some sugar puffs down there."
"No, Dad, that's just foolish!"
"Noo sir, I got 'em there already—a nice big bag."
"Then we'd better hurry"
"Alright" I could see the two of 'em laughing as we scurried off to the first bull.
I normally don't joke, neither did my father, but to see their two faces, relaxed and smiling, was such a reward I couldn't help it. Especially the oldest, he was so serious, just like his pa' —and mine. Well, we had to get to work then and there—there was more then sugar puffs at steak.
I wont dwell on the details here. There first bull was only too glad to get inside. He was a little skittish 'cause a' the heat and wind, but we led him pretty easily into the barn. It was still a long walk, and as we was moving on back to the pasture, the rain started—slow at first. Noah's rain must have begun the very same way, with those annoying little drops that get in your eyes and everythin'. Well, that gave the boys a scare, and as we was runnin' real fast, he spoke softly to me, with a worried kind of quaver.
"Daddy, how many cows are we going to get?"
"As many as we need to, Glen."
"And not a cow more, right?"
The next bull was a beast. The rain must have had a bit of the devil's juice in it, 'cause this fellow wasn't moving—not one hand. He just lowed at the sky, and then at me, back at the sky, back at me. He kept' doing that. My boys tried pushing him.
"C'mon you fat, stupid cow!" The oldest shouted.
"Hey, Glen, there's no reason to act like that. Just stay calm, now. We'll get through this all right He's a-scared too, but you're right—he is fat and stupid.
Despite himself Glen smiled. Maybe it was my smile—no way to really tell, I guess. Anyways, this'un lurched up all of a sudden. He had a bit of anger in his face, so I told the boys to get back. He reared around at Glen, but I think he knew what we were trying to do, and he started a-followin' us to the barn. He was still pretty scared, I could tell; but the sky might have given him the extra nudge.
Meanwhile, while all this drama was going on, they sky was having its own series a' events. It'd grown darker as we worked, and the rain was up too. The wind was still eerily quiet, though; and beside the thunder and rain, the evenin' was quiet as could be. Well quiet despite that clapping, crashing rain and that rumbling, roaring thunder; which were both real loud. Fortunately, most a' the other cattle got the message and had already started back to the barn, scurrying unsure but steady-like. We helped steer them back, but as we worked, I could see the funnel touch down about a quarter of a mile off. I was calm for some reason—not really sure why. I didn't tell the boys, but they heard it.
Like a locomotive at full speed charging up a mountain, the air roared. It also shook like a quake. The deafening din was real frightening, rain drenching everything and thunder clapping every moment. All I could see was darkness, dust leaping up in the black sky as lightening shot through everything like a gun. A war. That's what it was like, with all Your artillery against my running. I sent the boys back to the shelter as fast as I could, but there was one more cow to get. It was close so I decided to get it.
"Daddy! C'mon!" Glen yelled through the fury.
"Don't worry. I'll join you soon!"
"But it's just one stupid cow!" Tears were forming a little.
"C'mon, Glen, do as I say, and don't cry! Everything is going to be alright. You need to watch after your little brother and your mother. She needs you to help set up the shelter. In a little bit we'll be sharin' sugar puffs. Now go!
"See you soon Daddy! C'mon Pete!"
I rushed out to the cow, even as my poor boy was talking; unfortunately the twister was rushing right at me, too. I shouted to that damn cow. She was running around like a loony, panicking. She was far from the barn, farther from the rest; so guess that she didn't see them go in. Anyways, my shouting did nothing, so I took her and started to pull. The sound of the storm was terrifying, but still she resisted. Finally after a few moments she started back pretty fast. I was running, too, as fast as I could. Then we hit a dip, her leg sinking in the mud. I was all soiled-up too, but the ground was just too bad for her hooves. I had to leave her. I wanted to shoot her, but I had no gun. It was a waste but I couldn't dwell on it. Nope. I had to run.
Fortunately we had closed the barn, so I only had to double check the lock. It was strong. I gave a quick prayer there on my way back, the funnel gaining. It would miss the barn, but it would head right over to the cellar, right were I was going. I needed to keep running. The sound was blowing away my ears, like an explosion every second, the mud rising and sticking as the rain got heavier and heavier. I got closer. So did the twister. My wife was yelling but I couldn't hear her. She was reaching, and screaming but I felt deaf in the storm.
Then my boot got caught. I fell face first into the sticky mud. There was a sinkhole or something, some animal burrow, some kind of damn trap. I didn't know. I panicked, trying to drag the boot out while the rest of me suck—while the funnel neared. Damn it, I thought, I'm going to die. Then Glen, the poor boy, ran out.
"No! God damn it boy! Get to the cellar. Get to your mother!"
"Not without you!"
We kept arguing as he grabbed me by the collar and pulled. It didn't help much, but maybe something else happened. I think that he gave me strength, or something. I could die, but there was no damn way that he was going to. I got out, and the twister was only about a hundred yards away, ripping earth from earth. I got dust in my eyes and mud across everting else.. But I was free, and we were both running for our lives.
Twister nearing, we got to the shelter. Glen ran down in, into his mother's tearful embrace. I was next, but the door needed to be latched.
"Get back!" I screamed.
They huddled into a corner. I slammed the door, struggling to close it as if Your hand was trying to keep it open. The latch was stuck, probably because of that mud. I could here the twister coming, but I still couldn't get the latch.
"Hurry!" Someone screamed.
I was trying to hurry, but I couldn't. Glen, I think, was trying to get up to help me, but his mother was true. She held him there, tight and safe. The damn latch wasn't working and the funnel was practically right above.
"All the way back!" I yelled preparing to dive.
They slid to the farthest corner and I jumped. The door flew off, and I went with it. They screamed, I screamed, and the storm seemed to scream. Everything was just a blurry, black noise. There was no order, and I was flying, my family safe below. There was debris everywhere—dirt, wood, brush, and cow. Yep, the cow was in the storm. It was a short flight, and I died as soon as I hit the ground.
Nope, that mud didn't help.
Now that I've said why I'm here, though I didn't need to say it, what are you going to do about their new problem? That was a couple years ago, true, but my family is still there. They're still working without me; their still weathering storms and saving cattle. They still struggle and sometimes succeed.
You're not saying much are you. No, you never do. Well, then I guess that I'd like to say this: my family is starving now. There is a horrible drought—you know this—,and there's more dirt and dust than produce sometimes. And they're not alone either. There's plenty of other suffering farmers just like them. You know this but You do nothing.
Well, I've always wondered why You sent me here, leaving my family down there; but now I think I know. I think You wanted me to advocate for them, to help send aid to relieve their suffering. Well if starvation ain't suffering I don't know what is. In school, I learned more than grammar and all that arithmetic; I learned more than Your ceremonies and rules: I learned that You were merciful, just and good—benevolent, I think they said. So act that way—please.
Still silent? The other night my son, tears in his prayer, told me to tell you to help. Now, I know my boy. He saved my life, and I saved his. He's no liar or coward. He's no fool. If he calls for help, then there's a problem. They're good people. They always were and they always will be.
Well, I can see that You're still not talking, and I've been pleading all day, so I'll leave You. You're a busy being, I understand. Well, farewell.
Well, you've finally said something. What is it?
Rain! Well look at that! My God, my God... Well look at that... I don't got many words myself, but thank You... thank you. You've saved them. You've really save them. Amen.
—"No, you have: Ask and you shall receive. Hope and you shall be fulfilled."
Now don't go quotin' yourself too much.