I’m sure anyone who has taken photos for publication has hoped for one of those “Ruby-shoots-Oswald” moments — you know, when some incredible event occurs and you take the defining picture.
My newspaper photo of a funnel cloud on the afternoon of May 2 might be the closest your cat juggler will ever come to Ruby v. Oswald. I am not a trained tornado spotter (nor do I play one on TV) but I think I am correct in calling it a funnel cloud. I’ve also called it — incorrectly, I’m sure — a “quasi-tornado” and a “practice tornado.”
I am sure many of you — well, one or two, anyway — are wondering, how did you get that picture, cat juggler? Did I analyze the weather reports, realize conditions were ripe for a quasi-tornado sighting, and then rush to the Heart of Texas Dojo, 211 Fisk for the best vantage point? And, you are probably wondering further, once the quasi-tornado showed itself, which of my considerable skills did I rely on to pull off the technically difficult photo?
Wonder no more. Here’s the real story.
As the late-afternoon storms began to form, I looked up at the sky and thought, “sure looks nasty out there.” That was about the extent of my expert analysis.
I made a quick trip to Northwest Elementary School to fetch my son Johnson and my other son Johnson to take them to their karate lessons at the Heart of Texas Dojo, 211 Fisk. After we arrived and got out of our van, I looked off to the southeast and saw an appendage start to slowly dip down from a cloud. It started to look like a tornado, although it never did touch the ground.
“Hey, that looks like I tornado, or at least a quasi-tornado,” I thought. (Expert analysis no. 2.)
Remaining cool, I fetched my camera from the van and aimed. The exposure was set automatically, and when the little green light in the viewfinder appeared (meaning “auto focus! Go!”) I mashed the button on the top of the camera. And that’s how I did it. I’m sure all my fellow photographers out there are taking notes, and you may feel free to use this technique.
So was I good, or just plain lucky? OK, I’ll admit, there was a little bit of luck involved.
I was swamped with e-mails from people commenting on the picture. OK, so I got one e-mail. It was from a former co-worker, Ginny Taylor, who lives off of Austin Avenue in south Brownwood.
“Thank you for taking it,” Ginny wrote. “Now I can put an image to what I was hearing as I was hiding in the closet. I don’t think I’ve ever been that scared before.”
I e-mailed her back and axed if I could tell her story in my column and use her name.
“Sure. Why not? Am I going to regret this?” Ginny e-mailed in response.
Ginny explained that she had her 19-month-old granddaughter with her when things got bad. Ginny’s a grandma? Wow, I thought she was around 32 or so.
“As the storm got closer, I decided there really wasn’t a safe place in the house to hide, so I called (husband) Randy at HPU and told him we were coming to join him at the HPU library,” Ginny wrote.
“ … I opened the back door, then stopped. The sky to the west was black and I heard a low roaring that didn’t stop or change in intensity. I stood for a few seconds listening, realizing I wasn’t hearing a train downtown, or trucks, or thunder. It was a sound I’d never heard before.
“ … I turned around, hurried to the bedroom and pulled open the bi-fold closet doors. By that time it was so dark I couldn’t see … so in the dark with one arm holding a squirming toddler, I yanked suitcases and gift bags out of the bottom of the closet tossing stuff everywhere.”
I can relate, sister, I can relate! Our house doesn’t have a closet with a spare square inch.
“Then pushing my granddaughter into the closet, I grabbed a flashlight I had by the bed, groped for my purse and her diaper bag and pulled the suitcases in on us,” Ginny continued. It was pitch black in there.
“ … The sound I had first heard at the back door got louder and the house just sort of rumbled — like when you’re driving down a dirt road.
“ … I realized, sitting in that closet, that I had no control over what was about to happen. If a tornado was to hit, there was nothing I could do.
“…That’s when I really got scared. And then, scared as I was, I knew that whatever happened, God was in control. It was His storm, this is His world, I am His child.”
Steve Nash writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.