When we bought our country place in 1982, one thing I loved about it was this big, old hip-roofed barn.
The barn had been built by the previous owner, Albert Myers, when he was a young man. It was a beautiful barn, well-built and maintained, a charming and useful asset to our new country home. We didn't have much to put in it at the time, being newlyweds without much extra cash, so we had only a mower and a few chickens inside, as well as a few barn cats that had found us and taken up residence in the cozy barn.
In March 1986, just 3 1/2 years after we bought the place, I was a young mother with 2 toddlers (Kristoffer was 3 1/2 and Emily 1 1/2) with another baby due that summer. Kim's brother Kent was newly-married to Shellie, and they were living in a mobile home on our property on the opposite side of the road. Kent was doing some remodeling work upstairs for us while Kim was at work, and I was in the living room with my two busy little ones when the sky outside got dark and very suddenly the wind picked up.
I didn't have the television or radio on, so I had no idea that we were, at that very moment, under a tornado warning.
It all happened so quickly, there really was no time to do much. Hearing a loud howling noise, I walked into the dining room and saw rain and wind pelting sticks against the window. I yelled upstairs at Kent, who was already coming down on his own, and we hurried the babies into the downstairs bathroom. Having no basement in the old farmhouse, the bathroom was the only interior room downstairs that had no windows and we had decided when we first moved in that it would be the safest place to go in case of a tornado.
As I hustled the children into the bathroom, Kent was right behind me and glanced out the back door window. He was the first to see it.
The big white barn was gone, completely collapsed.
By the time we made it to the bathroom, the storm was over. We waited there a minute or two, but the wind and rain stopped as suddenly as it had started, and it was eerily quiet.
Besides the barn, we lost several huge pine trees along the road. Our yard was a disaster! We discovered later that the tornado had angled across our property and continued eastward, taking the roof off a neighbor's home the next road over.
Power lines were down across the road and splintered pine trees had fallen everywhere. I called Kim (this was a LONG time before cell phones!), the sheriff's department, and our parents, and the rest of the afternoon was spent assessing the considerable damage and thanking God over and over again that none of us were hurt.
The tornado completely missed Kent and Shellie's home, and the only damage to our home was a broken window and a couple of broken asbestos shingles that covered the house.
And a few very rattled adults. It had been a VERY CLOSE CALL!!!
It would take all summer to clean up the barn mess. The men were able to save and store many of the solid poplar and walnut beams inside, some of which eventually found their way into our rec room and later this cabin, becoming a fireplace mantel as well as supports for our kitchen island and built-in corner desk (where I'm sitting right now!).
Kristoffer has some vague memories of the day, I think. When we went to our small town bank a few days later, he told all the ladies working there about the "big tuxedo" that tore down our barn. Those ladies, all retired or gone now, would remember how cute he was telling about the "tuxedo" and mentioned it every time they saw him.
It seems like several lifetimes ago...and I certainly hope it's a once-in-my-lifetime event...
...that tornado 30 years ago.