Just Another Tornado

      My family and I were on our yearly camping trip. This time it was Kauaʻi, my father’s birthplace.

      We were stocking up on camping supplies at a small Mom-and-Pop store in Waimea. The store owner was an old high school friend of my dad’s. Their “good old day” talk was pretty boring. Wandering outside to the elevated lanai area that ran the length of the store front, I was working on an ice cream bar that wanted to disappear faster than I could eat it. I noticed a pair of tough, oldish looking men eating plate lunches in their rusted-out green jeep. They were dressed in torn up T-shirts, faded khaki pants, and big leather boots caked with red dirt. They were hunters.

      The air didn’t move. Heat waves rippled straight up into the sky. I stared out into that heat and listened to the drone of activity coming from inside the store.

      Suddenly, there was a swirl of leaves and dust about five feet in front of the jeep. At first I didn’t think much about it, but the twisting action kept up. The circular collection of debris kept defining itself more distinctly; the column’s height grew a little with each revolution.

      In a matter of only a few seconds the red funnel of wind rose to the height of the jeep’s hood. Then together, the two men dropped their lunches on the seat. One of them shouted at the other one and they jumped out. The shouter grabbed a beaten up gray Army blanket from the back seat. They ran toward the funnel, spread the blanket between them, lifted it over the whirlwind, and dropped slowly to their knees. This move snuffed out the tornado instantly. The whole scene ran like a slow-motion movie for me.

      Calmly, as though nothing had happened, the two men refolded the blanket, jumped back into the jeep, and resumed their eating and talking. It looked like some kind of routine activity for them.

      My father tapped me on the shoulder. “Let’s go.”

      “Did you see that?”


      “That twisting hurricane thing.”

      My mom and dad exchanged parentally knowing looks.

      “No really,” I insisted. “A big swirly thing, like in The Wizard of Oz.

      “A tornado?” my mom, a Chicago native, asked slowly, giving me one of those looks I’ve since come to know she reserves for students who claim that some dog ate their homework. “Where?”

      “Right there.” I pointed to the jeep. “Ask those guys.”

      Of course just at the moment I wanted to get confirmation of the event from the hunters, they started up and drove off in a cloud of dust. I watched intently, hoping the dirt they’d stirred up would form another tornado. It didn’t.

      My folks were already down the stairs at the end of the lanai. “Come on, Son,” my father called, sounding a little rough and angry this time. I followed them very slowly. It was just another one of my stories they didn’t believe.

Talk story

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