Ozarks: Uncle Cranford's Place
Yesterday, we drove to the homestead of Uncle Cranford Hodges and his wife, Gay, where the children once again fed cattle, played with cats and dogs, and watched deer bound across fields, three activities that they've not yet tired of.
Uncle Cranford lives about 10 miles north of Gepp, Arkansas, not far from the Missouri line, on a farm that blew away in a tornado back in 1982, leaving them with nothing but the determination to rebuild. The storm came from the southwest heading directly for their place, and Cranford watched the quarter-mile-wide funnel coming across a field toward him from about 200 yards away before he and his family retreated to the safety of their storm cellar. Seconds later, the cloud hit, and within 20 more seconds, everything was gone.
Cranford described the sound as like that of a jet engine. The winds were blowing so powerfully that even the underground walls of the cellar shook visibly each time that a nearby tree was uprooted. A heavy branch fell across the cellar door to block their exit after the storm had passed, and only with difficulty could Cranford use a board to leverage the branch far enough away that his youngest son, James, could manage to slip out and pull the branch off, freeing the rest of the family. Their house was completely gone, leaving only the kitchen table, still laden with the evening supper as though nothing had happened.
They rebuilt and continued farming. The location is beautiful, and they are only a mile from a paved road that used to be dirt, for I recall the area from when Uncle Woodrow used to work as the foreman on Mr. Heldenbrand's Little Creek Ranch. That's the same ranch where I stood and watched a tornado pass directly over my head one summer when my brothers and I were staying with Woodrow and Pauline. That storm passed us by but touched down in Bakersfield, Missouri and blew the roof off the school.
Fortunately, yesterday's wind and clouds brought neither rain nor tornado, and the evening passed pleasantly. The kids played on Gay's piano, Cranford strummed his guitar, and I tried to sing. We stayed for dinner, then did some virtual bowling on their television. I won twice but couldn't get as excited as En-Uk, who leaped for joy each time that he made a strike.
The evening passed too quickly, and we had to leave by 8:45 because the drive home at night would take an hour along the dark and winding roads back home.