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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Sky is Black as the Coal Beneath Our Mountains

The sky is as black as the coal beneath our mountains.

Stormy weather is coming through this morning, with watches and warnings all around us.

This makes me think of my mother. She was always afraid of storms. When bad weather approached, she paced  and kept a constant watch out the windows, even though there was nothing she could do to prevent what was coming. She once told me my Uncle Gordon was afraid of storms, too. She'd see him walking up the coal bank road before a storm and tell me he was going to go into the mines to get away from the weather.

When we lived up the holler, flooding was a constant threat to the houses that were built along the creek. After a big rain everyone walked up and down the road to look at the flood waters. We didn't live along the main creek, so we weren't worried about floodwater coming into our house, but we did have small coal mines on the hill behind our house. One time, it was either 1960 or 1961 when the big flood came through Kanawha County, the land slipped behind our house and we had to move out. I was just a young child and I remember Daddy waking me up in the middle of the night and telling me we had to get out. We lived with Grandma while we built another small house on the hill behind her. There were no coal mines behind this house.

The wind always scared me. After I finished high school, Mom, Dad and I left the holler and moved into the second story of an old house on the West Side of Charleston. My bedroom was a tiny room on the corner and you had to go through the bathroom to get to it. When the wind howled, it shook and I thought my little room was going to go with the wind.

During our first two years of marriage, we lived on the second floor of an apartment complex in Ripley, called Viking Village. I was around 6 months pregnant with our first child and Charley was on midnight shift. Waters came up during the night and covered the main road through town. Charley couldn't get home, we were flooded in on both sides. The waters kept rising and flowed into the downstairs apartments. People were leaving and I didn't know what to do. A strong neighbor piggy backed me through the deep water to the back of the apartments onto one of the back avenues that had not flooded. Charley was able to get on one of the back streets and retrieve me. I laugh when I think back to that early morning rescue.

Now, my family and I live on a little knoll and we get the brunt of the weather. Many trees have been blown down in our little subdivision during storms. Once, when my sons were young, we were watching out the front door while my husband (who can't stand storms) was outside. All at once we saw our plum tree blowing across our yard and my husband chasing after it (as if he was Superman and was going prevent what was happening).  Andrew screamed, "Mommy, daddy's blowing away!"
Well, as always, my husband is outside and I am inside, looking out. While I typed this post, the storm roared outside and the wind whipped ferociously.  I think all is well, though I haven't went outside to inspect the area. . . yet.

The weather is now calm and the sky has changed from a coal black to a mousy gray.

Are you afraid of storms? Do you have any storm tales to tell from your past?


  1. I'm not a big fan of thunderstorms. Our house was once hit by lightning ... The lightning bolt hit a fence, traveled along it and went through the garage wall, actually hitting a can of gasoline on the other side. The can did not explode, thankfully, but the accompanying thunder sounded like a bomb hitting our home.

  2. I grew up in WV and I remember the lightening seeming to get trapped between the hills and mountains and it scared me to death when it popped and cracked.

    What an interesting story about being saved from flood waters when you were pregnant. Great story. You sure could make that into a good fiction piece.

    I slept through the storm we had in the middle of the night. R said we had an early morn one that I didn't hear either. I had cotton in my ears because he snores.
    Of course he says I snore too!
    You can tell we are getting old.
    Good post, Janet. Love your stories. They always make me miss down home.

  3. Not nice weather here in Norteastern Pa either. I live in a hire elevation, so no flooding here, but still no fun. Try to stay dry and safe.


  4. Janet-I'm not afraid of storms now-but when I was young I was terrified. Granny is still so scared-she worries about everybody and wants to make sure none of us are out driving in bad weather.

  5. Janet, did you come up with that opening line all by yourself???? It is just gorgeous!

    "The sky is as black as the coal beneath our mountains."

    LOVE it!!

  6. Thank you, Keetha! Yes, I did. Joanne, you are so lucky the house didn't catch fire. Barbara, my husband doesn't sleep through storms at all, he's always up roaming around and keeping everyone else awake. Tipper, I always worry about my kids when they are out driving in bad weather. Dawn, hope you weather has gotten better, our waters are up, but they aren't over the road yet, just up in the fields and bottoms.

  7. Storms scare me, but like you I believe the older generation was worse in some ways. My mom would stand at the windows too. We've had some pretty bad ones here today and my little creek is rolling. It has been known to come up under my house, that's how close it is to the back of my house.I love your opening line.

  8. Except for four wasted years in town, I've lived all my life on a hilltop. You might get blown away, but you won't get flooded or go slipping down the hillside!

  9. I loved hearing your high water stories. I grew up in Tornado and we would always watch the water come up over Coal River Road.

    That storm was a doozy this morning! I came home to find our new flag stick (I say stick instead of pole because it's just one of those little porch ones) snapped in half and the flag flung across the yard!

  10. Hi Janet, what a great story! I so enjoyed reading it. You are a wonderful writer. I experienced my first flood last March. It rained and rained, until I thought it was never going to stop. We had water fill the front acre of our property and it came within about 3ft. of the front door. The hundred acre wood behind our house was turned into a marsh.

    At the time, I remembered with a smile in my heart, the old Johnny Cash song my parents and I used to sing when I was a child.

    Whenever it would storm, I would call to Mom: "How highs the water Mama?!" No matter what room of the house she was in, I would hear her sing out the answer: "The waters 3 ft. high and rising..."

    I would sing: "How highs the water Papa?!" and Dad would reply: "4ft high and rising!". Then we would all sing the refrain.

    I can still hear their sweet voices in my mind and it calms me when the wind lashes rain against the windows and the rooms rattle and shake. Delisa :)

  11. Hi Janet, Your story about the storms, the wind and floods, brought back a flood of memories for me, especially one about my mother. When she was thirteen, she was struck by lightning. I never knew she was afraid of thunderstorms until I was an adult.

  12. Susie, there is a house I've seen where the creek flows beneath it, I've always wondered what happened when it flooded. George, I'm glad I live up on a knoll now. Trinity, my dad used to live along Coal River. Delisa, I love that song! I've been singing it to myself the past few days. Clara, your mother was so lucky she survived, no wonder she is afraid of storms.

  13. Janet,
    I'm not fond of storms either. We did have a strong storm with hard wind and a lot of rain last night. I'm sure you got severe storms, too. I hope everything is okay with you living on the hill. Maybe you won't get floods living there.
    What a scary story about being in the flood. I think we all fear storms.

  14. This is such a good post, Janet; your memories are so clear. I can just see you being rescued from the flood! My oldest son and his wife lived in Viking Village too, on the second floor, after they were married.

    I hope Charlie didn't get blown away in the storm on Monday! That one was wicked.

  15. I guess the worst storm I've seen is when I lived in the third story of an apartment building in Charlotte, NC and hurrican Hugo blew through. That was not a fun night.

  16. On the Vintage Vera Facebook page (Discussion Tab) we have discussed this topic as well. We have a number of people who love storms, some who tell of disasters resulting from them, and even a pilot who tells about it all from his vantage point -- in the air. We would love for others to share your experiences on this and other subjects. I am one of the one who has a healthy respect for storms, but I always wanted to watch them from the front porch with my feet hanging in the drip from the tin roof. :-) Good topic!


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