The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Canvas Tent In A Thunderstorm

By W. Bruce Wright © 1988

Issue: October, 1988

Sometimes childhood fears do not diminish as one grows older. This was the case with my mother and her fears of storms and water. To my knowledge, she never overcame her fears. I understand that such fears are not inherited but I surely did acquire some of her fears. I am quite sure that her fear of water was imparted to me to the extent that I never became a good swimmer.

My father was aware of her fears and that we children had become instilled with them. If he was home during an electrical storm, he always made light of it and tried to quiet our fears. One way that he did this was by his carefree manner and light illustrations. As an example, we lived at one end of a long bridge, at least 300 feet long. Large stone piers supported the steel trusses upon which planks were placed. There may have been a way to hold the planks down but I believe they were loose. When a team of horses, shod with iron shoes, pulling a wagon with iron rims on the wheels, crossed it made the planks rattle and rumble for a long time. Thus, during a storm, Dad would say, "Listen to the horses crossing the bridge." or "That thunder sounds like a wagon going over the bridge!" However, his manner and illustrations did not have much effect on our fears.

I expect that it was about 1920 when I learned to lose my fear of storms. I still respect a storm, but my fears are gone. It came about in this manner. Dad and I were on a fishing and camping trip up stream from the above bridge. That evening it looked like we would probably have a storm. In preparation, Dad showed me how to be sure that the tent was well staked so that the storm would not blow the tent down; also, how to ditch the tent so that water would not run through the tent. With our gear well stowed away, we had just settled into our bed of hemlock branches when the rain started. In a short while, the lightning and thunder which we saw and heard in the distance, was now overhead.

Dad then told me that we were quite safe because we were at a low elevation and in a densely wooded place along the stream. He stated that when lightning strikes, it usually hits an isolated tree or at least a very high tree. He then told me to relax and look at the beauty of nature; to look as the release of energy caused the lightning to streak across the sky. He said in addition, "By having respect for storms and by avoiding places where lightning is prone to strike, very, very few people were ever hurt. Now, Son, look at it, don't fear it and then you can enjoy a display of power which is greater than any fireworks demonstration ever produced by man!" As we were watching the storm, Dad said something like, "Wasn't that one a beauty!" as a bolt of lightning would streak across the sky. In a short time, after Dad's repeated assurance, I too was watching and marveling at the heavenly "fireworks."

Sometimes the flashes were so close together that the tent seemed to be lighted from within. After the storm passed over, I settled into my bed for a restful night.

If anyone reading this has not watched the grandeur, the awesome power, the brilliance, the splendor of one of God's firework displays, at night, from within a canvas tent, I urge the person to do so!