The Mice and the Tornado

I probably wasn’t much more than 7 years old when a tornado struck our trailer in Iowa.   I lived on a small farm.  We were poor growing up.  Of course, it is impossible to remember exactly how poor, until I look at the pictures of our home.  We lived in a small trailer.  There were very few trees and my then stepfather worked the field as a farmer.  My father had already gone to prison for robbery and my mother divorced him.  I remember a few things about the trailer.  I remember the floor plan.  I remember how the north wind used to blow right through the building, or so it seemed, as there was no protection up on the hill away from the trees that shielded my then stepfathers former home just up the road.  His daughter lived next door.  Needless to say, it was not a peaceful neighborhood.

A post shared by Andy Young (@andyyoung1992) on

I remember the tractor tire filled with sand and how I used to watch the sand fall through my hands and sift in ever smaller grains in the wind.  How the remaining chaff would blow into the dirt road that led to the front door of the trailer, swirling into mini vortexes  until they became invisible in the backdrop of dusty roads and weeds and stones.

Ain’t no people on the old dirt road
No more weather on the old dirt road
It’s better than a mudslide mamma when the dry spell come, yeah
Oh oh oh old dirt road

“Old Dirt Road”
John Lennon and Harry Nilsson, John Lennon

I remember, too, riding on the tractor with my stepfather.  I picture it now as John Deere 2010, but it was probably an old Farmall 560.  Either way, it was from the early 60s.  It seemed almost new, but was probably nearly 17 years old by then.  I can’t remember if it was green or red.  Time has a way of making us either color blind or etches these memories into our very fabric color and all.

One day as we were mowing hay, we happened upon a mischief of mice.  I just like saying it that way.  First, technically, it is correct.  It was a small batch of field mice.  Second, I am sure that mischief was what we were about to get into.   My prankster stepfather seemed to think that it would be a good idea to take these field mice under our wing, place them inside of a small cardboard box and have me bring them home with us.

I had a feeling what my mom would think of that.

But he did it none the less, and before long I had a much expanded home for field mice complete with cardboard box walls and nesting material right outside of my mom’s front door.

Now, my mom isn’t the kind of person who gets upset by a few field mice.  But she also doesn’t really appreciate vermin being brought to her front door to live, either.  She voiced her dissatisfaction, and having seen the rather unstable walls of the outdoor field mouse kennel, she both voiced that dissatisfaction to my stepfather and then conceded.  Likely knowing that I had trapped them within a bird of prey dinner plate and it was only a matter of time before the movement of these little mice in their corridor would tip the interest of a hawk.

So we left them there and took off to repair something or buy feed or do the countless things you do on a farm to keep it running.  We returned, or course, to no more mice.  Only birds circling the driveway searching for an additional morsel.  Thankfully, I was unaware of this until much later.  I was told that they simply escaped.

It was not more than a year later that my stepfather found out he was sick and passed away.  It was not much longer after that the spring rain and strong winds came for a visit in the form of a tornado.

I don’t remember much about the tornado that hit our trailer home other than the rumbling and howl of the wind.  It came upon us so quickly that there was really no where to go.  We were trapped inside of this long wooden and metal structure.  I heard the tearing at the windows and the shattering of glass as we ducked under the bed.  I prayed and counted the moments until I would be carried into the storm and whisked away never to be seen again.  I prayed for that moment and I feared it.

I thought of the mice and how I wished someone would come and grab me from this place.  That they could pluck us from the wind and the howling rain and the hail that pealed back the roof of the trailer like a can of sardines.  Pluck us out.  I dare you.

I was not plucked out.  I was not devoured by the storm.  What remained was the last of what we had and as we emerged from under the bed it was one of the first times I remember my mom crying.  I looked outside through the hole in the wall which was once a window and saw hail covering the ground and cornstalks drifted against the fence.  Pieces of our trailer had been scattered every which way like chaff in the wind.  My mom and I and my brother were the big stones in the sand that remained.

I was not plucked out.  I was not devoured by the storm.  What remained was the last of what we had and as we emerged from under the bed it was one of the first times I remember my mom crying.  I looked outside through the hole in the wall which was once a window and saw hail covering the ground and cornstalks drifted against the fence.  Pieces of our trailer had been scattered every which way like chaff in the wind.  My mom and I and my brother were the big stones in the sand that remained.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.