GRIT associate editor, Caleb Regan, texted me one evening last week to know whether the funnels that had been sighted several miles southeast of Carbondale, Kansas had crossed my farm. I had seen some weather on the way home, and noted a certain closeness to the air while doing chores, but I was blissfully unaware that tornados were on the prowl in my neighborhood. Sometimes it's just not possible to keep tabs on Mother Nature down in rural Osage County. Mostly, I don't even try to keep tabs.
Back in the late 1980s, I watched a tornado blow up a neighbor's barn just across the section. I was transfixed by the sight, sound and power of it.
I was amazed by how quickly it appeared and how rapidly it moved. The thing about the prairie is that most of the time you can see weather coming -- all you have to do is pay attention.
In the 1990s, while cultivating half-mile-long rows of newly-planted South Dakota shelterbelt, my long hair quite suddenly stood up and bushed out from beneath my Stetson.
I caught a good whiff of ozone as I dove from the still-cultivating tractor and hit the earth a split second before the bolt of lightning obliterated a century-old Cottonwood tree growing in the creek bottom about 100 yards away.
As fast as that squall snuck up on me, it was gone -- poof. Lucky for me, I managed to roll out of the cultivator's path and catch up with the tractor before destroying the young trees.
Powerful tornadoes, and other damaging weather have avoided my 1907 four-square farmhouse for the past 103 years. I anticipate that the place will stand more or less unmolested for the next 103. If not, so be it. There's nothing I can do about the weather on my patch of the Kansas prairie. And that's exactly the way I like it.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.
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