Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Home Safe

Home Safe

As eerie as the sound of half-starved wolves lifting red throats to the winter moon. Frightening, almost brutal, it reverberated through the restaurant, freezing forks in midair, suspending the chef’s wooden spoon, silencing the most chatty diner. The tornado siren. Lord, how I hate it. We had just ordered dinner when it sounded. I opened the shutter slats on the window beside me and looked out at a scene worthy of Dorothy’s Kansas on that most fateful day. A swirling black sky, tinged with green. And Edward and Apple home, alone.

We did not have a television for the first five years of my life, a fact I am most grateful for today. Those five years gave me time to simmer an original imagination, allowed me room to create unique mental images without the interference of Hollywood. But when we finally did acquire a television set, the first thing I remember seeing was The Wizard of Oz which, of course, sent my already fantastical little mind into hyperdrive.
Strange, tiny munchkins that danced and sang.
Grouchy trees that hurled apples at you.
Fields of red poppies that could put you to sleep.
Snow that could wake you back up.
A good witch with a sing-song voice and most enviable crown.
A bad one with a sharp green face and armies of uniformed monkeys that flew.
And through it all, a little dog in peril.
I was glued to the screen, lost in the colours of exhilaration and terror.
I still shudder when I picture that wicked witch of the west riding past Dorothy’s window on her hideous broom.
But as scary as that green faced witch most certainly was, nothing petrified me more than that 1930’s black and white recreation of a tornado. I’ve yet to see one depicted on film with more power. Like the long-nailed index finger of Satan himself, lazily drawing hideous pictures on the homeland, it cut a quite horrible figure. Though I have yet to meet one of these twisters face to face, the mere threat of their visit retains the ability to send me racing to the closet with my dogs.

As the tornado sirens blared last night, all I could think of was, of course, those two wonderful dogs facing this experience without me. We had to get home to them, now. Our dinner left uneaten, the check hurriedly paid, we ran through the storm to the car, embarking on one of the more perilous journeys in memory. Hit with too much water to be called mere rain, we were driving blind - streetlights out, windshield wipers useless as noodles. Trees were transformed into monsters that twisted and bent into grotesque positions as though under a green witches’ spell. Thunder like cannon fire, lightning like a strobe, icy hail that bounced off the car like tiny white apples thrown towards the dark earth by those Ozian trees. We inched along in total silence, with me in my scary movie pose - hands to my face, peeking out through my fingers - my thoughts back at home with those two furry dogs. Before the car fully stopped in the drive, I jumped out and ran - soaked to the skin in just a few steps. We threw open the door and ... there they were... a big, black and white blur spinning in the entry hall, incredibly happy to see us. The four of us collapsed on the floor of the bedroom, - us, weak and wet - them, dancing in circles. The pack reunited and safe.

At three in the morning, the same dreaded siren sounds once more.
But this time, snuggled down as I am with one white sheepdog on one side, and one black sheepdog on the other, it holds no power to scare me.
Perhaps we shall all awaken in Oz.


  1. Oh....how I understand your feelings. I grew up in Oklahoma where tornadoes are just a part of spring nad sometimes fall. My hometown was actually hit by a tornado one fall that left both my parent's house and grandmother's house severely damaged. Not to mention 1/3 of the town.

    The Wizard of Oz as always one of my favorites from the time I was a child. Yes, that tornado seen is the most realistic of any I have ever seen. And I just saw this movie again last year on the big screen in a movie theater.

    The tornado scene is still scary and so much like how it really is. And I cried even as an adult when Toto gets taken away. I remember as a child being so scared someone might take away my dog. Dogs have always been my most important thing.

    So happy to hear you made it home safe and sound to be with your wonderful dogs.

  2. Whoa. So glad it ended well. Nothing scares me more than tornadoes. Your writing is so incredible. You can get one lost in another world with so few sentences.

    That vision of mrs.gulch ? Was that her name? on the bike with toto in the basket is one of the most terrifying images of all time. I always scream!!!!

    What a movie. They never could make that one better

    I always liked the black and white portions of the movie more than the color portion. I suppose it was more real life I guess.mmme

  3. And today we are so tired from the stormy night! I couldn't decide what to do, watch the news or read. I finally just got up and waited out the storm from 2:30 - 4:30. Looking forward to a peaceful night of rest.

  4. How terrifying! I'm glad you made it home safe and survived the tornado. I loved the Wizard of Oz, both the series of books and movie as a child. I limited TV time for my kids, just as my mom had done for me, so that there was time for creative play and reading. Have a good rest tonight.

    I spent most of today talking to dog breeders about summer and fall golden retriever litters.

  5. I am terrified of twisters. Every since I was a little girl and overheard a conversation between "the grownups" about an aunt whose family was hit by a tornado and all they could find was the piano key when it was through, I have had a fearful respect for them. When the sirens go off, I go to shelter. Of course, last year, deep in the basement, it didn't stop me from being interviewed by the local newspaper about our garden walk. Oh dear.

  6. This was very good Pamela.....and I am from Kansas City and the Land of Oz!!

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  7. The terrors that dogs experience in severe storms are unimaginable for us humans as their hearing is so much more acute than ours but it is so satisfying that the love shared with a protective human can make them feel safe through the fiercest gale.
    Our Border Collies were working dogs and normally spent their nights in the barn, but at the hint of a thunderstorm were brought inside. Sadly our last Border Collie has now departed and how can one replace a most beloved member of the family?
    We still have my great-granddog here on the farm. My grandson's German Shepherd who loves and protects us all.

    Your dogs have chosen good pets to look after them.

  8. I can't imagine how frightening a tornado must be...so happy that you are all safe and sound together pamela...xv

  9. I did the same thing when the storms hit hard here last week - no thoughts except how frightened my babies must be with the wind howling down the fireplace and rain pelting the windows. In my minds eye, I could see the patio umbrella blowing over with a fierce bang and the trash cans rolling in the driveway - all invoking fear of unspeakable magnitude in my little dogs and cat.

    I am in complete agreement about the twister in Dorothy's gray world. Just like you said - the devil's finger, slithering closer and closer to Dorothy and Toto...hard to believe it wasn't a real tornado.

    When I was about 10, I think, we had a tornado touch down on our street. The church on the corner lost its steeple, everybody had roof damage, and our dining room picture window was completely blown out. It was found after the storm had passed - in the cotton field behind our house...INTACT. Not even a crack. Amazing force, those storms.
    Well, I'm glad to hear you and your babes are safe. Looks to be one of those springs where we can look forward to one of these systems often, so batten down the hatches and get used to to that siren!

  10. I think tornados are like earthquakes, there is little to be done and no where to hide, perhaps the cellar. It's a rather helpless feeling. My Honey dog is a Norfolk terrier and everyone says she is just like Toto but red; be safe.....thinking of you.

  11. Ah, there is not place like home, is there Pamela :)
    So happy to hear you were all safe and sound in the end. If your dogs are like mine they must have been beside themselves with the noise and commotion of the storm.

    Those childhood memories of The Wizard of Oz are like no other. A dreamland that happened once a year? My favourite scene was the final one, with those red shoes tapping away..."no place like home".
    I must buy myself a pair like that someday. Just maybe.......

    I hope the tornado warnings are behind you. I can not imagine what that must be like. My daughter had a sizable tremor in Christchurch last night. Fingers crossed.

    Jeanne xxx

  12. Dorothy and Toto. Pamela and Edward. Both have a nice ring to them.

  13. Thank heavens you are all safe. Terrifying times I am sure.

  14. We are thankful you are all safe and sound.

  15. Beautiful. I'll hazard a guess that you were more worried about the boys than they were about you!

  16. It's because of that wonderful movie that I will always have Cairn Terriers as family members too. They're sweet creatures who are always unfailingly brave, loyal, and smart as the dickens...just like Toto. I've never heard a tornado siren living way up North as we do, and I hope I never shall. So pleased all was well in the end.

  17. Edward and Apple had probably been worried sick about you both, they obviously felt such relief when you finally arrived home safe and sound where THEY could protect you if the need arose. So glad you all weren't carried away by a twister...although, if YOU were to land in OZ, the stories you'd bring back and share with us I know, would be just incredible!
    Wishing you peaceful skies...
    xo J~

  18. Just had to pop back in and say I'm watching "Oz" right this very minute! The tornado scene should be coming up in a three minutes!

  19. Ooooh, I felt like I was right there with you, Pamela! So glad you made it home safe and sound!

  20. this sounds so frightening. I have only ever been in one real storm, the hurricane here in the eighties and it was so strong and frightening. I was in a tropical storm in Bermuda once too (where I have family) and was too scared to move all night (I was a child) all I wanted to do was run to my parents room but there was lightening dancing all over the terrace and I didn't know there were lightening conductors so was paralysed with fear and thought If I moved it might get me!

    very glad you're all ok

  21. Terrifying, but so beautifully told. Glad you are all safe. Do write us from Oz if you go. :)

  22. i'm glad you're safe, but am grateful to the storm for prompting this beautifully-told story. i can't wait to hear about oz...

  23. Hi Pamela,

    I have to say, I really like reading your blog. You have a real knack for saying what you mean in neat, unmistakable language that cannot be confused for another meaning. I read your posts all the time, but this is the first time I've commented.
    I live in West Virginia, (Morgantown), where we hardly EVER have tornadoes - the mountains keep them out, mostly. Our natural disasters are mostly flooding - rather terrifying in itself, as the waves roar down off the mountains, sometimes bringing the mountains with them. Yesterday, however, had me thinking back to when I was 15 and a tornado got into our valley. Ripped the roof off a barn, put the scare into a local baseball game that was going on at the time, and in the end crashed into the side of a mountain (clearing off most of the trees before it dispersed). The sky was green and black, with red and purple lightning. Never had I seen such wind - it lifted my bedroom right off the house and then set it back down over and over - with me trying to get out! Luckily there was not much damage, but there could have been. Yesterday I was in my dining room with my cats - I don't have a dog, but have no issue with them- and as one cat and I were watching the storm out the french doors, the limbs off the trees in the backyard crashed into the patio after being blown off - and I instinctively grabbed the cat and yelled for the other. We spent several minutes in the basement (all 3 of us) before venturing out. Luckily the only damage was to the trees (It totally smashed into the patio but missed all the furniture). Needless to say, despite my having cats instead of dogs, I certainly understand your fright.

  24. So glad you are all safe. You are such good parents to Edward and Apple.

    My beautiful Charlie (golden/collie mix) was terrified of storms. I sat up for hours on many nights holding him, trying to comfort him. I would give anything to have him back, to hold him through one more storm.

    Your stories are wonderful. Thank you.

  25. Wow, how scary Pamela. I am so glad you were all safe in the end. What a dreadful journey though. We are amazed in England that a country could have so many tornadoes at the same time. We just sit glued to the TV in horror and sympathy. So many poor souls killed by the weather. My thoughts go out to you and everyone else affected by such incredibly powerful weather.

    I agree about the tornado in Wizard of Oz. I love everything about that film. It is pure magic whether one is 8 or 80. Keep safe.

  26. Pamela, I would feel the same! I am so glad you were all safe that night! And hopefully spared in the future too!
    Those hurricanes are so scary!
    Our dog goes insane with fright every time the weather is bad and it has been bad over the last days! Storms and masses of rain, we had a waterfall literally in our family room! As they fix the roof right now Oscar shakes and shivers because of all the noise!
    Poor dog! We send him off with a pill, that puts him into lala - land!

  27. I've never been near a tornado but am totally terrified of them. A tornado seems to be Nature's ultimate fury, and she doesn't care where or how she unleases that fury.

    The Wizard of Oz is one of the all-time greats that never fails to move me to tears.

    It's a relief to know you're safely home. Thank you for sharing so much with us. You are a very talented writer.

  28. Glad you are safe! and yes, the Wizard of Oz is a wonderful film, one of my little lady's favourites :-) we don't have 'TV' but classic films like this we do like to indulge in :-) x

  29. Safe, safe with the darling pooches...what a scary evening. Some strange weather is afoot. What’s going on? I’m glad you all are safe and sound...take sweet care fine friend.

  30. I am so happy that you are home safe and sound.

  31. My husband and I were in Charleston during Hurricane Hugo. It was an unforgettable time and I shall keep praying for those that have survived and those who perished. Mother Nature is angry with us. We need to reduce, reuse and be kinder to our Mother Earth.
    Glad you are home sweet home and safe with your companions.

  32. Oh gosh - are you guys okay? I can only imagine how terrifying that tornado siren must be, and I felt like I was with you dashing through the storm to get home to Edward and Apple. I would have been the same with my cats!

    I love the Wizard of Oz film, but you are right - that tornado is so darn scary. The idea of all that power from the sky... it makes me shudder. Stay safe!

    And re your comment on my blog - yes, next time Highgate! I know my way around there - promise! ;)

  33. How scary for you Pamela! Just watching tornados on film gives me the shivers. I can't imagine how hearing the siren would make me feel?
    I still love the Wizard Of Oz now. :)x

  34. It sounds awful! I'm glad you're alright Pamela and back with your gorgeous dogs xx

  35. I would have thought only of the dogs too. What a relief for them and for you to be united against the storm. And what a storm! Such a good description. The windshield wipers like noodles...yes, I've been in storms like that.
    So glad all is well now.

  36. So glad it ended well. And I'm glad you made it home safe and survived the tornado.

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  37. So glad you are safe and sound. Must have been terrifying!


I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!