Dateline: Greyhawkin' Table Rock, Mo.
I took with me to bed a tiny photograph.
Of Ashley and Jimmy.My children.
If the tornado came my way, I wanted to be found with their picture in my hand.
I wanted to be found as Daddy.
Not as a writer.
Not as some guy from B.A.S.S.
If the storm is going to take me, it will take me as a Father.
My last thought will be that of a Daddy.
" … there is still a light, that shines on me … "
They came here to fish, compete in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open, 160 boats, 320 anglers. They came from all over America, B.A.S.S. being a microcosm for America that it is.
They came from lands far away as well … from Japan … from all the way out there at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
They brought with them hopes and dreams, looking for glory one cast at a time.
Beneath the Wind crushed the hopes.
Beneath the Wind came nightmares.
Beneath the Wind came to Vilonia, Ark., and took with it the town, and took with it some town folk, and took with it the safety that we all feel here on earth.
Beneath the Wind that touched down in Vilonia was also felt up here, up Highway 65-North, just outside of Branson, Mo., just across the campground road from my RV as Elite Angler Billy McCaghren and his non-boater friend Lee Anderson desperately tried to call home to their families.
" … shine until tomorrow, let it be … "
"I called and called but it had already hit by the time I got through to Norma."
Norma is Billy's wife. Billy's wife who is due with their first child in three weeks.
"The tornado went by my house before it hit Lee's. It came very close, very close. Norma was hiding in the closet with a weather radio."
Billy normally doesn't talk much, but he is a friend, as is Norma, as he handed me a Thank You note from Norma for the shower gift Barb and I bought her, I could see in his face his concern, see his hands slightly tremble.
"It got the homes of six, maybe eight people I know."
Anderson, a tall man with a soft accent that mixes his Texas roots with his Southern upbringing, is sitting in my RV looking at Billy, both look to each other for comfort.
"My family was all home last night."
Lee is saying that while constantly looking at his cell phone, looking both as a husband, and as a Daddy.
"My daughter's high school … Vilonia High School got hit."
Think about that quote for a moment. Imagine you saying that, saying that ANYTHING concerning your child, "got hit."
Lee is married to Jamie, they have two children, 13-year-old Brooklyn and 6-year-old Gracie and a dog named Susie.
That's his family, his joy, his love, his whole state of being and they are huddled, scared, at home.
In a tiny closet.
As a tornado roars their way.
"I was on the phone to them, telling them it was going to be alright. They were scared, and db I was scared too, real scared … "
I am a man of words, but if my family were all huddled scared in a tiny closet, I would have no words to comfort them, I would have no words to comfort myself.
I would only be screaming inside. I would only want to run to them. I would only offer myself to the villain beneath the wind.
" … and then the phone went dead."
And at that point, so would have I.
"So, so, I just started texting them, and for some reason the text messages went through. But … but … (a long pause with no sound)… I was wanting to go home. I was wanting to go home. I was scared, real scared, and so were they."
" … I wake up to the sound of music,
mother Mary comes to me … "
Within three miles of Lee's front door, people in Vilonia were taken by the tornado.
May their souls rest in peace.
"The tornado got my wife's aunt's house. She escaped right before and stayed in her neighbor's safe room until it was OK."
And then Lee, a tall man, a strong man with a voice that rolls on his tongue like the comfort of sweet tea on a sticky day, goes quiet.
You give a man that, especially one who has just went through a night knowing he is here.
And they are there.
Scared, and huddled in a closet.
Take your time Lee, I'll wait, I too, am a Daddy.
"My family … family … they didn't know … didn't know it was safe to come out of the closet until I texted them that it was … OK."
And I have to take my own time.
"My wife told me all the schools in Vilonia are closed, that the tornado was a half mile wide and went for three or four miles, and that it was so strong that some of the asphalt on the roads was pulled up."
Billy and Lee then left my RV and headed a few camping sites up to pack up their boat, camper and gear and head home as quickly as possible.
"There is supposed to be another line of tornadoes tonight, we are going to try and beat the line." As Billy tells me this I look down at the Thank You note from Norma's shower that I have in my hand, "I'm going to be home with Norma, be there with her …"
Then Billy goes quiet, as we both look at the card, and think of the baby boy Norma carries within.
And through tears I write that last line, knowing that tonight my friends, all THREE of the McCaghren's may be huddled, scared, in a tiny closet beneath the wind.
Lee adds this as he walks away, the fast walk of a daddy "wanting to go home."
"My wife told me all the roads to our town are closed, she said the cops say that if you don't have ID saying you live there you can't get in. Jamie said that you can only get in to town with ID … or if you have a chainsaw."
There will come a time when we will know all of those taken beneath the wind. We will read of their names, their ages, where they lived, what they did for a living.
And the next time my weather radio starts to screaming.
I will pray for those in the face of the wind.
And I will pray for those who were taken by the wind.
Pray for the souls taken in the wind.
For the Mommies.
For the Daddies.
Pray for those left behind.
And I will hold tightly, my small black frame.
Beneath The Wind.
" … speaking words of wisdom … "
Let It Be