The Cloud Roaring and the Aurora

I am now editing ‘Notes About Growing Up”. Here is one from that upcoming work.

In Texas we have a saying: “Keep Your Eyes On The Skies”. It usually means keep a sharp eye out for severe weather and one night it did and on another it meant something else.

In the 1960s before the Internet and other technological tools weathermen only had local observations and the early black and white weather radars, and the early black and white satellite photos. None were used to issue a severe storm or tornado warning since such things were in their infancy – eyewitness accounts from law enforcement or a citizen (untrained of course unlike today’s spotters) were the most frequent source for warnings but even so they were usually inaccurate or very late in coming. When storms were coming my Dad would listen to a local AM radio station for news of something coming and one night we fled our house after hearing a warning.

Unlike now many people thought hiding under a highway overpass provided safety from a twister so we piled in his pickup, still in our pajamas, and quickly drove up 380 to the overpass at I-35. The storm was very bad but no tornado was seen. But we heard something: the cloud was roaring.

Roaring you say? Yes roaring like a jet engine. It was constant, loud, and coming from above. It got our attention and no one really knew why. It went on for a while, it ceased its cacophony, and we went back to the house and bed. Since then I have only heard such a thing two more times and one of them did not even involve a thunderstorm. And I still have no specific explanation of the sound itself.

One clear night however we saw something that was unique too. It was a winter night and we got a phone call from our next door neighbor Don Johnson – we played with his kids Jackie and Scott – who once played college football and could easily drink an entire case of beer while mowing his yard. Don said the world was ending and there was a huge red glow in the northern sky. Knowing I was into astronomy he called us and asked if I knew what was happening.

I knew what it was and simply said “It’s just an aurora borealis”, turned around,m and went back to my room. Mom or Dad told Don it was OK and there was no need to make his peace with God just yet. So yes, “Keep Your Eyes On The Skies” since you never know what you may see or hear above your head on a dark night.

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