Polly Rogers BrownThe early evening sky of June 8, l953, hung over us like a wet woolen blanket. The oppressive humidity made us walk slowly, stooped and shuffling like old people in dim light.

Mother had told us after supper to work in the garden while there was still light; the carrots needed thinning and the rest of the rows could use a good hoeing. But as the evening wore on and the air grew hot and heavy, we shuffled toward the back porch to plead for mercy and a cold drink. Mother came out and looked toward the southwest, one hand shading her eyes, the other smoothing her gingham apron. “Something doesn’t feel right,” she murmured to no one in particular as she walked down the steps and stood beside us. “I’ve never seen the sky that color before.” The tone of her voice made us suddenly afraid, as if someone were standing behind us and ready to grab us by the throats.

We watched as the sky in the distance darkened into navy tinged with green. Little tufts of white dotted the darker clouds like foam on a windy sea. An eerie yellow cast moving in from the horizon overspread the storm clouds, and they looked like old, angry bruises.

Suddenly the air became totally still. No leaf moved, no breeze made the willow by the creek sway. Our eyes were drawn by the southwestern sky that moved relentlessly across the horizon, sagging lower as it approached until we felt compelled to duck down and hide.

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