February 27, 2024

Cornstalk shock!

By Curt Swarm

It was hot and muggy, with temperatures in the low 90s in Missouri (making it misery) and high 80s in Iowa — unusually hot for early May. Ginnie and I had been in Liberty, Mo., for a surprise 70th birthday party for her sister. Pulling into our driveway we noticed the garbage can blown over and one of my sculptures, Mr. Olson (made out of Folgers coffee cans), with his arm broken off. There had been wind.

As we unloaded the car, we noticed storm clouds, with a greenish tint, brewing all around us. Uh, oh. We were in for it.

We turned on the tv to watch 60 Minutes. However, there was a weather alert. A harried weather person was standing in front of a brightly colored weather map, pointing out areas of hail, high wind, and tornado cells, just north of us, heading east. “Take shelter” she was advising.

“We should be okay,” I told Ginnie.

Just then the wind hit, I looked out the window and corn stalks from the fields were flying by in a straight line. The power went out. About five seconds later, it came back on. Our generator had kicked in. As I was shutting off the central air, rain slammed the side of the house, and it turned black outside. I looked at Ginnie, she looked at me. I said, “Basement. Now. You grab Buddy, I’ll grab Stormy. Let’s go!”

In the basement, with Buddy on Ginnie’s lap, and Stormy, our cat, prowling around, yowling, the hail hit. I looked outside through the egress window. Marble size hail was peppering the lawn like popcorn. The sound was deafening.

We were in the basement maybe an hour, coming upstairs periodically to see what was going on. Trees were whipping around like hula dancers, and cars were pulled over on the side of the highway, their lights illuminating a frightful scene of cornstalks, rain and hail.

Then the storm just stopped. The sun came out in the west, and the sky overhead looked like marshmallows. A rainbow actually appeared in the east. Glory!

The next day we surveyed the damage while we picked up limbs. There were two inches of rain in the rain gauge. A flowering pear tree I planted last year was snapped off. The hail hadn’t damaged our metal roof or the vinyl siding. One of my sculptures had blown across Highway 34 and was resting in the median. We were lucky it hadn’t caused an accident. And there were drifts of cornstalks and shucks everywhere, some of them knee-deep and deeper. What a mess! “How are we going to clean this up?” I asked Ginnie. She shrugged her shoulders. “I know. I’ll plant tomatoes and peppers. I can spread the stalks and shucks around the plants to keep down the weeds. When it storms corn, don’t be forlorn!” Ginnie rolled her eyes.

We heard a diesel engine running. The DOT had a track hoe and several dump trucks out on the side of the highway, digging huge piles of cornstalks and shucks out of the culverts and ditches. What a sight! In my entire life (I’ll be 75 in July), I have never been in a cornstalk storm. It was cornstalk shock!

Then we saw something that stopped us in our tracks. Outside our kitchen door, on the sidewalk, were two sticks in the shape of a cross. It was a Godwink. Jesus had been outside our door protecting us.

Contact Curt Swarm at curtswarm@yahoo.com