Stories of the Siren

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.

"... and when I die,
when I'm dead, dead and gone ... "

Dateline: Greyhawkin'

The lady holding the puppy had tears in her eyes.

And the sirens called.

One by one they came.

And the sirens called.

Streams of water ran off the roof.

And the sirens called.

One side, locals and campers.

And the sirens called.

On the other side, us.

And the sirens called.

In between ...

And the sirens called.

... the sky.

And the tornadoes within.

Here in Florence, Ala.

On the shores of Pickwick Lake.

Where the sirens called.

And the lady holding the puppy. Cried.


"... and all I ask of dying
is to go naturally ... "

Tournaments seem silly when you are huddled for safety in a bathhouse with some of the best anglers in the world, and their families.

Seem silly when the weather radio is telling people in one area to "seek shelter."

And you are in that area.

And you are in a shelter.

And you are one of those people.

As I was.

It began as most bad news does. With a knock. On the Greyhawk door.

"We gotta go, now."

As I looked down from the RV door, Kerry Short was looking up at me.

The look, one of movement.

"Now" hung in the air.

Off to my left I could hear K-Pink in the pink dually.

And without me wishing so, my eyes left that of Kerry's and rose to the sky.

A mean sky. A sky of anger. Clouds at turnpike speed. The trees across the water of Pickwick Lake leaned left in the wind, on our side of the lake, the branches on the bank pointed right.

"Now."

"Why?"

"There's reports of a tornado on the ground near here."

The sky was coming for us.

Now.

So as Kerry went to the truck, I threw on my green breathable rain coat, grabbed my digital camera, unplugged everything attached to my laptop and stuffed the computer inside the airline approved black carry-on case and started down the RV steps.

And stopped.

And reached back up to the shelf that holds the bolted down TV and picked up a tiny, 3x5 black picture frame.

With the photo of my two kids.

And shoved that into the laptop bag.

When the sky came for me ...

... I took the stuff needed to do my job ...

... but on the last step ...

... under the sky of anger ...

... no matter what would happen ...

... never would the angry sky ...

... take from me ...

... my memories.

And then I climbed aboard the pink truck.


"... and if dying time is here ... "

One by one, they came.

 

To the green cinder block campground bathhouse.

Not knowing "seek shelter" etiquette, I did as the crowd did.

Stood under the small roof overhang with my back up against the cold cinder block.

And watched the angry sky.

And listened to the emergency broadcast on the weather radio held by Mark Burgess.

The weather radio that was speaking to us.

Us seeking shelter being:

Alton Jones' wife, Jimmye Sue, and her children. Alton Jr. brought his computer, too, and had it fired up and dialed into the National Weather Service radar.

db: "So where are we?"

AJ: "Right here."

I don't see any town names ... the radar is covered in green, with large spots of orange and red.

db: "Where?"

AJ: "Right here."

And he points to the red spot. I can tell you from being under that red spot, that when you look up, it's not red at all.

Just black.

With a tinge of mean.

A white minivan pulls up, and out pops James Niggemeyer and his wife Sandy with their two young children.

And as we stand with our backs against the bathhouse, I wonder, why would the universe bring a child in diapers to the cold cinder blocks?

An old fat bald guy ... Ok, I get that.

But leave the children be.

Leave the children the blue sky and sun.

Send the angry sky just after me.

Around the corner stood Kotaro Kiriyama. His girlfriend would every once in awhile peek around the corner and came away with a face dripping of angry rain.

I stood between Billy and Norma McCaghren. Both of them from Arkansas, which is why Billy told me, "Welcome to the south in spring, you get used to this."

Billy's eyes spoke otherwise.

Norma's hug of my arm spoke otherwise.

And then somehow, the clouds turned sideways and shot the rain straight at us. A horizontal blast of water forced all into the nearest door.

And behind the safety of green painted cinder block.

And coin operated washer and dryers.

In the bathhouse, we were huddled, shoulder to shoulder, in the laundry room.

If the end was coming, it was going to smell like ... Tide.

Someone in the crowd talked of how the campground host told of the reason one part of the campground was covered in trees, and one part, where some of us were parked, me included, was barren of trees.

"Because that's where a tornado came through once and took them all out."

Giggles.

And quiet thoughts.

To the smell of detergent.


"... to carry on ... "

Then, the radio in Mark Burgess's hand said go home.

 

Not in those exact words, but when I heard the pink truck fire up, I knew the sky of anger went somewhere else.

Not here.

Not to this blob of red on the radar.

Not to these cold green cinder blocks.

And after the threat, came the peace.

Clear, cool, bright. Almost an apology from the earth. Sorry about that sky.

Here's a breeze where tomorrow floats, cleaned of the threat of today.

Here's blue sky, blue water, bright green grass and leaves, instead of dark green cinder block.

For those in diapers, the rain of anger, now, a playground of puddles.

Play on.

And as you splash in your tiny boots.

And as you muddy your clothes.

Look to the sky.

And see the clouds of white.

And pick out the shapes of bunnies.

And pick out the shapes of toys.

As the sky should be.

With children, underneath.


"There'll be one child born
In this world to carry on."

And When I Die
Blood, Sweat & Tears

PS: And for all the people in the town of Yazoo City, Miss., where the angry sky tore up ... goes my heart, my prayers, my tears.

Don Barone is an award-winning outdoors writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Guild of the U.K. You can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com.

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