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A perfect storm

05/13/2013 @ 9:25am

“The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right.” -- Mark Twain

With the Winter That Would Not Go Away finally fading in our rearview mirror, we can at last enjoy some summertime. And summer means warmer weather and a juicier atmosphere, which means higher probabilities of thunderstorms. Which delights me to no end, because hardly anything gives me more enjoyment that a boisterous, rip-roaring lightning storm.

This is a foolish thing to take pleasure in. It’s not like you can collect lightning bolts and put them in a jar on the mantle. Nor can a person tame lightning and teach it to do tricks, such as giving a small zap to friend’s heinie when he isn’t looking. But what fun that would be during a backyard barbecue!

Lightning and thunder have been explained numerous ways throughout the centuries. When I was a little kid, someone -- probably an older sister who knew full well that I would believe anything -- told me that thunder was merely the sound of God bowling. It was humbling to think that the Almighty would choose to play a game of ten pins directly above our humble little farm.    

Other fanciful explanations for lightning and thunder include Thor swinging his mountain-smashing hammer. This must be so, because there certainly aren’t many mountains hereabouts.

These mythological interpretations for lightning may not be accurate. But they are much more truthful than what I believed through grade school, which was “a huge giant rubbing his feet on a cosmic carpet, then touching a brass doorknob.”

We all realize that lightning can be dangerous. But this knowledge only adds to the thrill of watching an energetic thunderstorm.

And with this danger comes a certain beauty. What is more awe-inspiring than a bolt of electricity that shoots from horizon to horizon, lighting up the entire night sky? Add to that a “Boom!” you can feel deep in your chest cavity, and you have the recipe for a cut-rate fireworks show.

Lightning has been historically used to portend future events. This has personally happened to me several times.

One June night when I was a kid, we had a boots-and-all thunderstorm. Awakened by the clamor, I went to my bedroom window to watch the celestial light show.

No sooner had I pressed my nose against the glass than I was blinded by a bright flash that was accompanied by an evil “ssst!” The thunder, which arrived instantly, threw me back from the window.    

A utility pole that sat 50 feet from the house had been hit. The electric transformer at the top of the pole was fountaining sparks and shooting flames. I took this as a sign that we wouldn’t have electricity again until we received a visit from a utility crew.

Another clear indicator from the heavens came when I was a teenager. I was planting corn on a hilltop field when storm clouds gathered and enormous sparks began to leap from cloud to cloud. When it got to the point where I could hear -- and feel -- the thunder over the racket of the tractor’s engine, I knew it was time to head home.

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