Growing up on the Texas coast, I saw plenty of rain storms. Never thought about them one way or the other. That changed on July 14, 1962. That Saturday I was surrounded by relatives under Grandma’s porch in Arkansas as we watched a thunderstorm when Uncle Glenn, from Michigan, exclaimed,
“Never seen so much lightning in my life!”
“Me neither,” Uncle Walter, from Kansas, agreed.
Man o’ Goshin. These are grown men. Why, I’d seen more’n that in Texas and I’m only eleven years old.
Of course, I wouldn’t have thought of shaming my uncles by bringing that up—not even for a seventy-five cent package of marbles. So I just stood there with my teeth in my mouth, sickness in my stomach, and sadness in my heart, pondering the dismal fate that brought such boring weather to my poor Yankee kinfolk.
(Editor: Expect a letter from Mrs. Harmon, my seventh grade English teacher, regarding made up words. Tell her Johnny knows goshin, giganticous, and more’n aren’t real words, but his ultra-sophisticated readers will know what they mean.)
When we moved from Garland to Lubbock in 1978, my wife, Karyl, and I failed to consider thunderstorms—and it’s a good thing since they don’t have any.
We arrived in time for our daughter, Valerie, to be born on June 22, along with thirty-four other babies. Lubbock’s full moon really pulls them out. Some nurses call in sick rather than face the maternity ward on a full moon.
Lubbock residents were as friendly and outgoing as you’d find. Once as we sat in Abnuelo’s Mexican restaurant a man sang out, “Anyone catch the Cowboys game? I missed the second half.”
A guy from a table in the back answered, “Man! You missed the thirty-seven yard pass in the fourth quarter that won it.”
“No, it was their defense,” a middle-aged lady chimed in. “Held that Philly offense for six minutes to seal the win.”
“That’s right,” a guy with overalls added, “But without that fumble in the second quarter they wouldn’t have been behind in the first place.”
People added details for another ten minutes. Then a tall lady asked if anyone had gone to the rose growing contest. So we heard about roses for several minutes.
The skies were memorable, too. They were always clear and windy, but it never rained in Lubbock. We missed it. (Not Lubbock—we found it—we missed the rain when we got there.)
Confession: I exaggerated (my first time). It actually did rain occasionally—sometimes for fifteen minutes. My friend, James, a Lubbock veteran, with typical dry humor said, “We had a seven inch rain a week before y’all showed up. Yep. Those raindrops were seven inches apart.”
In my extensive five minute research, I found a paper: “Hydrology of urban playa lakes in Lubbock, Texas” by a civil engineering student that explained huh…well, something or another about Lubbock. It was well written, and even though it was as dry as Lubbock itself I learned something I can pass along for your edification: Civil engineering has nothing to do with training people to be courteous, as the name implies. Learned something, didn’t you?
We could’ve acclimated to the (near) rainless skies, but we’d never get used to the sand storms. We experienced seven of them in the eighteen months we lived in Lubbock and that was enough for several lifetimes.
The one described below was the proverbial last straw on the proverbial camel’s back that made us move away from the straw, the camel, and even the beautiful town of Lubbock itself.
When our daughter, Valerie, was eleven months old she was playing in the garage as I washed the car in the driveway. When I finished the last wheel, I stood up, and what I saw was so shocking that I remember it vividly to this very day. The Mathew’s house was sticking out of an impenetrable wall of sand that rose as high as the sky and stretched from north to south as far as I could see—and I can see pretty far. For example, I can see the North Star which scientists say is 323 light-years away—where each of those light-years is 5.87 trillion miles. It’s obvious that scientists have a seriously long tape measure—most likely tucked away in Area 51 along with their UFO collection.
As I watched the sand wall advancing, it finished the Mathew’s house. And then the house was gone—as though it never existed.
Yipes! I grabbed Valerie, put her in the car, pulled into the garage, shut the garage door, ran in the house, started to freak out, decided against it, ran back to the garage, pulled Valerie out of the car, carried her into the house, told her Daddy didn’t mean to leave her in the car, wiped her tears, and only then did I allow myself to come unglued. If you’re a new parent and you decide to blow a gasket, don’t let your children watch you. It’s traumatizing (to them, too).
Karyl and I moistened towels and pushed them against the windows and doors as we prepared the house to vanish into the sand. Some of the sand particles stuck to the towels, but you could still taste them in the air (the sand particles—not the towels). The next morning when I got a cereal bowl from the cabinet there was sand it.
James advised us to store our dishes upside down. He also warned us to keep the cars in the garage or the storms would sandblast the finish right off. James, like older Lubbock residents, had brown teeth. I didn’t stare at them. But one day while I wasn’t staring he said, “It’s the water.”
“The water made my teeth brown. Too many minerals, too much fluoride. You can tell who’s grown up here by their teeth.”
He was right about the water. When our water heater had to be replaced we could hardly move it because it was full of minerals.
“Oh. I hadn’t noticed your teeth.”
“Liar—pants on fire.”
“At least I didn’t exaggerate.”
“Yeah, I accidently exaggerated in my weekly journal once.”
“Yeah. I’ll use it when I write a newspaper article about Lubbock someday. I’ll include this conversation, too.”
“You oughtta mention that teacher you’re always talking about.”
“Mrs. Harmon? Good idea. Maybe I will.”
Johnny Hayre worked at E-Systems/Raytheon/L-3 until he retired in 2013. He and wife Karyl have lived in Greenville since 2002 and are now “empty-nesters.” They have three living children and seven grandchildren, who are each beautiful, intelligent and all the usual parent-grandparent praises. Email him at GHB.JohnnyHayre@gmail.com.