Posting this quickly and then off to bed before Wolf growls. At least I feel better than I did this morning. Ugh.
“Get up! Grab your clothes and meet up at the back porch!” a female voice yelled in the door.
“Wha?” Sadie was only half awake. It was the middle of the night.
“Hail storm! Get up or we don’t eat this winter!” she yelled and then was gone.
Sadie blinked and began to grab her clothes. She’d had to switch to skirts and dresses as her pants didn’t fit any more. She pulled the last of the fabric straight and stuffed her feet in her shoes. Grabbing her jacket and a scarf, she ran downstairs. All around her people were running; heading outside. As she got to the door, she could hear the noise. Thunder, rain and the thudding of hail stones.
Kirsty grabbed her hand. “Come with me!” She and Sadie ran down the stairs and out into the fields. People were everywhere, covering rows of veggies with tarps, boxes, straw, anything to prevent hail damage. The hail stung as it hit, and the noise was punctuated with cries of pain as well as directions on how to cover things. The two women grabbed a long row cover, and began to drag it over the hoops that were still in place from earlier that spring. The smell of pulverized green onions wafted up as they ran.
Everywhere around them, people were doing the same thing. Children were grabbing chickens, ducks and other small animals and heading towards the barn with them. The wind picked up and the hail stones turned into vicious pelting bullets of ice. Animal cries added to the confusion. Voices were lost in the wind as it increased. As people finished covering a row, they weighted down the covers with stones. Some had to redo the work as the wind whipped covers up. One twisted into a tall column in the wind, and then was swept away.
Sadie heard a high pitched scream, and ran to where one of the little boys had fallen. She picked him up, cradled him and the rabbit in his arms and ran for the cover of the porch. Depositing him with on of the old aunties, she ran back out to help. Another shout caught her attention. A funnel cloud had begun to touch down at the edge of one wheat field. The voice shouted for everyone to take cover. Kirsty, Sadie and some of the other women ran for the barn. The hail had doubled in size and was striking hard enough to break windows. Sadie felt something hit her head, and then blackness.
“She going to be okay?” a male voice asked.
“Yes. She got knocked out and she’s damn cold. Just like the rest of us. She’s going to have one hell of a headache. Curl up around her and warm her up.”
Sadie vaguely recognized that authoritarian tone. Then warm arms picked her up and held her. She fell back asleep.
Ken held Sadie as she slept. He’d run halfway across a field when he saw her go down. The hail and approaching tornado was beating everyone to a pulp. He’d picked up the soggy, muddy mass and ran with her to the shelter in the barn. Wiping the mud off of her face, he reassured himself that she was breathing. Nanny had dressed the wound on her head where the hailstone had struck and then he’d wrapped the two of them in a blanket and gone to sleep.
He’d woke up in the night when the noise of the storm had stopped. As much as the men wanted to go out and assess the damage, they hunkered down until first light. When his two uncles rose, he gently put Sadie down next to other sleepers and covered her with the blanket. Then he and the other men went out to see what was left of the settlement.
Sadie woke and regretted moving quickly. “What in the hell?”
“You took a hailstone to the head,” said Jean. Ken, he picked you up out of the mud and held you all night.”
Sadie looked around, and realized she didn’t know where she was. Nor were there many men in the room. “Where are we?”
“Storm shelter. It’s under the barn. And before you ask, everyone fit to move is up figuring out how to clean up the mess.”
“Jean, what the hell happened?” Sadie tried to stretch and figure out what did or didn’t hurt.
“Tornado. All that hail was just the precursor to the real mess. Wind twists all up and then eats the ground.”
Sadie nodded. She’d heard of tornadoes, but never seen one. “Maybe I should go help.” She stood up and realized that the room was spinning.
“Nope. You just sit till Nanny takes a look at you. Knocked out you were.” Jean helped her to sit back down.
Ken and the men stood slack jawed as they viewed the damage. The house was fine, except for a few broken windows. Part of the garden area looked like it had been shoveled away. The grain fields were a similar mess. Some parts flattened while other areas were untouched. The massive damage had been done to the chicken coops, and some of the out buildings.
“I’ve seen kindling piles with bigger pieces.”
Jethro nodded. “Let’s get working. Some of this can be salvaged if we work fast enough.”
Paul and Ken began organizing teams. Dead animals were butchered, while injured ones were seen to by Alice and some of the women. Destroyed or damaged buildings were seen to by teams of youngsters. Nanny directed people and no one disagreed with her. When all the broken glass had been cleared up, she sent a boy to tell the people in the shelter to come out.
Kirsty helped Sadie walk to the porch. Both of them were mud colored with purple bruises showing where the clothing had torn. When they got to the porch with the rest of the injured, Nanny directed them to the baths. There was no time for a soak, but simply to clean up enough not to look or feel like a mud pie. Sadie grabbed clothing, cleaned up her boots and was back down before most of the rest had finished.
“What can I do to help?”
Nanny turned to her, looked at the bump on Sadie’s head as well as her eyes. “Not too concussed. Start washing those greens. If you feel sick, sit down.”
Sadie nodded and began washing spinach, lettuce and other greens that had been salvaged from the damaged garden. Vegetables that could be used were cut up for soups. She was glad she wasn’t part of the bunch plucking chickens. From the look of the pile, there must have been thirty dead. Not one to waste things, Nanny had the canning jars out and ready. Meat cuts went into pots and then jars. The bones and bits too small went into the stock pots. The air began to smell like chicken soup.
By the time the sun hit zenith, there was bread, chicken soup and salad. Nanny rang the bell on the porch, and anyone within hearing came running. The tables filled up with people eating and talking.
“Damned plow in a tree…”
“Sad about the colt…”
“I hate tornados.”
“…just finished that corral.”
“You okay Sadie?”
She turned to see Ken standing there with a bowl in hand and a roll in the other. “Yeah. Head hurts, but I’ll be okay. Thanks for grabbing me.”
He sat his bowl down and looked at her head. “I’m glad you’re okay.” Then he pulled her into his arms and held her for a moment. Sadie didn’t fight the contact. “I thought I’d lost you.”
Sadie pulled out of the embrace. “You did? Why?”
“That hail felled you like a tree. One second you were running, and the next, you were flat out in the mud. I ran, and good thing, as the water was rising fast around you.”
“Oh.” Sadie wasn’t sure what to think. She wanted to trust and like Ken and yet it seemed that every time she relaxed a bit things went crazy. “You okay?” She looked at his face, which was bruised and had a strained look to it.
“I’ll be okay.”
“Besides half of everything being destroyed?”
“Billy and Jeff didn’t make it.” His face was gray as he spoke.
“Didn’t make it?”
“The storm drove a fence post through Billy and Jeff drown. Plus, we lost a lot of animals and crops. I’m shattered, and we can’t stop. Not yet.”
Sadie wrapped her arms around Ken.