Beating the Storm

Christine Maccabee

Usually I am pretty good at judging how fast a storm is coming, and how much time I have before it gets here. We have lots of late afternoon showers and thunderstorms up here in the Catoctin Mountains throughout the month of June (with the exception of the drought, summer of l999), and today was no exception. Late afternoon is the time of day I go up the hill to milk and to feed my goats their daily portion of grain. I can usually get up there, do what I have to do, and come back to the house before, or just as, the first few drops of rain begin to fall.

But today I was totally caught off guard. After a pleasant afternoon visit with a dear friend, I decided I was hungry. An early dinner would be nice, I thought, before going up to the goats. So, my daughter Marie started the water for the spaghetti, and then she left the kitchen for me to finish the meal (so what's new?) . As I prepared the food, mixing carefully cut up pieces of tofu with the sauce, I made two important phone calls, all the while totally oblivious of the darkening skies outside my window, and the storm-story they were telling.

A short while later I strolled out onto the deck with a plate full of food. As I ate, I admired the many wonderful pink flowers on my mimosa tree, and I watched expectantly for humming birds. I noticed the wind picking up, but it wasn't until I turned to admire the meadows and trees up behind the house where the goats live that I saw the sky. I became alarmed when I saw how black the clouds were and how quickly they were moving in our direction! I knew I had little time to act.

Gulping down a few more mouthfuls of my delicious dinner, I grabbed the milk pail and the coffee can with cleaning water, and ran up the hill. At least I'd made it to the goats before it started to rain, I thought. But I knew I would be coming back in the rain. I'd not won the game of beating the storm this time, and somehow I sensed I might be up there longer than my usual 20 minutes...and I was right! For no sooner did I enter the safety of the shed than the wind picked up and the rain began to fall. Never in my life have I ever experienced such a storm. 

To calmly milk your goats while a hurricane-like wind and torrential rain blow full force against the thin walls of a tiny shelter is an experience to be had. While milking I kept turning my head to watch the wind-whipped trees in the upper five acres through the protective glass of the window. Out the opening on the downside I watched as rivers of water flowed down the bark of the huge ash tree which towered above our little shelter. I was deeply moved by the contrast of the fury all around us and the utter peace and calmness in the milking parlor. I was thankful for the sturdily built shed and the mellow nature of my goats who seemed oblivious to the pounding and the movement all around us. The effect was surreal.

Finishing up with the final cleaning of the milk stand, and making certain all three goats had extra food in their pans to keep them happy, I crouched down in one corner of the shed and prepared to wait out the storm. FLASH! - 1 second, 2 seconds...two miles away. Again!...three miles, then five. Knowing we were located directly under the tallest tree on the hill, I prayed the lightning would keep its distance, which it did. The warm, friendly breath of my goats and the smell of the hay had a soothing affect on me. I was almost disappointed when the rain stopped.

Duties were calling me down the hill, but I was reluctant to go. I didn't beat the storm today, but it didn't matter. I was happy to have participated in it instead. Such is the stuff of life that creates delight and wonder, and memories to boot...and stories to tell!

Read other Articles by Christine Maccabee