Summary: Prequel. Written for March 2019 Chaps & Spurs.
Rated: K+ WC 1700
Mother Nature’s Blessing
It was an early spring day in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Despite being at such a high elevation, the temperature was unseasonably warm.
It was the Cartwright’s first spring in their new home. So much had changed in their lives over the course of the past year. A new home, new surroundings, and a new wife and mother to Ben and the boys. It had been a challenging time and tensions had been high. They were positively certain there was no way they could handle any more changes. Unfortunately, their strength and perseverance were going to be tested one more time.
Marie sat sewing on the porch of their small house enjoying the warm spring air. Ben, Adam, and Hoss were outside as well taking advantage the nice weather to catch up on various chores that had been neglected over the winter. Finishing up in the barn and needing a break, Ben walked over to the porch. He took a seat next to his wife while silently looking over the land what he now called home. The wind was whistling through the tall Ponderosa pine trees and the sun was gently shining down on the ground. Everything was so peaceful. Who couldn’t love this land?
“It’s a fine day to be outside. If the nights weren’t so chilly, I’d be half tempted to sleep out here. I wonder if spring is always like this?” It was more of a thought he spoke out loud, so he didn’t expect an answer.
His wife, still focusing on her sewing, answered anyway. “Hmm. I am not sure. This wind is driving me crazy though. I cannot sew a straight line when the cloth keeps moving!” In her temper, she quickly and adamantly set her sewing down in her lap, clearly frustrated.
Ben leaned over and softly stroked her cheek, replying in a calm tone, “It’ll be alright. Perhaps you should finish up inside. The boys and I are almost done out here anyway.” While they were talking, the sky had quickly changed. It went from fluffy cumulus clouds to clouds that looked like cauliflower to dark angry clouds in a matter of minutes.
Ben frowned at the sky. “Actually, moving inside is probably for the best. I don’t like the look of those clouds. They look just like some of the ones I’ve seen in the past when I was a sailor out on the sea. From what I remember, they never brought good weather.”
No sooner had he said that, then the weather had rapidly turned for the worst. There was a chilling silence in the wind that had been whipping all day and the sky had changed to an unnatural color. Then he heard the faint roar in the distance. Looking up through the trees he could see it: a thick wedge tornado coming down from the sky. It was still off in the distance, but from what he could observe it was headed straight for their homestead.
“Marie, it’s a tornado! We need to head to the tiny root cellar! I’ll grab the boys and meet you there! Quickly now!”
Just barely reaching the root cellar in time, the four of them huddled together. It was very cramped in the little space and Ben was a little thankful his family wasn’t any bigger as there might not have been room for all of them. No one could move in that tiny space. Not that they wanted to. They were all petrified with fear. Besides the soft sobs heard coming from six-year-old Hoss, the rest of the family just sat there in silence hoping and praying it would be over soon. The wind could be heard howling outside and the flimsy cellar doors were rattling. Ben was certain they would give out any moment. Sounds of things breaking and snapping could be heard outside. Then as quickly as it began, all was quiet.
Unsure if the storm was actually over or if it was just a lull in the storm, Ben offered to take a look outside. Slowly opening up the cellar door, he stuck his head out. It looked like a massacre. Where a tall pine forest once stood, was a clearing with logs laying in every direction. A pile of wood and other unrecognizable items lay where their house once stood. The barn was gone as well. Thankfully, the horses had been out grazing in the far pasture and the few chickens they owned somehow miraculously survived. Still, all their hard work that took them months to build was destroyed in an instant.
Marie and the boys slowly had made their way out of the cellar, joining Ben who was just staring at the damage. Marie gently put her hand on her husband’s shoulder. “We will rebuild, mon cher. It will take time, but it is all replaceable. We have each other and that is what is important now.”
Before Ben could appropriately assess the damage, strangers started arriving at their homestead. It was citizens from the nearby settlement who had already heard about the devastating tornado. Ben was caught off guard. He was used to doing things on his own, without help. But he now lived in the west. That wasn’t how it was out here. Neighbors helped neighbors, regardless of who you were, where you were from, or if they even knew you.
Being new in the community, Ben recognized very few of the people who showed up. One man, who appeared to be the leader of the group, came up to Ben. Shaking each other’s hands, he introduced himself as the sheriff of the town. “I’m deeply sorry for the tremendous loss you have experienced. Is your family all safe and uninjured?”
“Yes, yes. We’re all alright. It’s just a bit of shock seeing everything we worked for wiped clean away. It’s as if it never even happened.”
“I can only imagine your shock and confusion. Please know that you have future friends here in this community. We will help you rebuild.”
Ben was grateful for the offer. “I’ve seen tornadoes before out on the prairie when we were traveling west. I just never thought tornadoes were possible in mountains. It just doesn’t seem like the right environment for them to develop so I figured it could never happen.”
“Unfortunately, they are more common than people think. Although, normally they aren’t nearly as devastating as this one. Many new residents think the same way as you. It’s an oversight that people often have to find out the hard way.”
“Is there no way to predict them?” Ben was determined not to have this happen again to his family. If there was a way to prevent it from happening or at the very least prepare for the future, he was going to find it.
Shaking his head sadly, the sheriff responded, “Not yet. Maybe sometime in the future, though. There have been some great strides recently in the prediction of weather. There is a man by the name of Elias Loomis who is currently studying the theory of how tornadoes form. He has already made some noteworthy contributions to the subject by observing changes in wind, temperature, and air pressure. I firmly believe one day scientists will not only be able to predict the future weather, but also predict tornadoes by noticing patterns in the atmosphere. For now, all we can do is prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.”
Ben thought about what the sheriff told him. So much was changing so quickly in the field of science. He couldn’t imagine one day being able to predict that which seemed unpredictable. Though, he had seen even more absurd things happen in his life. He couldn’t think of any words in response to what the sheriff just told him. As far as he was concerned there wasn’t any words to convey both his doubt and optimism at the same time. Instead, he just gave a quick and respectable nod of approval before moving off to go join his family.
As the process of reconstruction began, Ben sat at his temporary desk, sketching a new design to their future house. Marie wandered over to where Ben was sitting. Standing behind him, she just stared at the plans, trying to comprehend them.
“It looks so much bigger than the house we had before.”
“Only slightly. One big change is that I want to make sure we include a proper cellar in the new house. We need to be prepared if another tornado decides to visit us. Plus, we could use the extra storage.”
“Looks good, my love. Plus, with the extra space we will be able to store enough items to make it through these long winters. We almost ran out of food during that last blizzard.” Continuing to look at the plans, Marie is silently counting something before stating, “May I ask one question about the plans and possibly make a suggestion?”
“Certainly. It’s still early enough in the building stage that we can still make a change if needed.”
“There looks like there is four bedrooms here. That is more than we had before.” She looked questionably up at Ben.
Ben nodded. “Yes, one for us, one for Adam, and one for Hoss. I thought we may need an extra bedroom for visitors as well.”
Returning her gaze to the plans, Marie responded, “Wise choice on the guest room.” She briefly hesitated before continuing, “You may want to include another extra bedroom in the plans, though. We will need it in about eight months.” She let the statement sink in before looking up from the plans at Ben.
Ben, confused at first by the odd suggestion, suddenly had a giant smile on his face as he realized what the statement meant. Standing up, he pulled Marie into a hug. “A baby? Really? I’m so happy for you, for us! That tornado was a bit of a blessing in disguise. We can now design our home to better fit our growing family.”
Marie leaned into Ben’s hug and rested her head on his shoulder. “Sometimes Mother Nature has a funny way of providing what we truly need.” Ben couldn’t agree more.