AN: Twilight isn't mine.

This is dedicated to the survivors of the 1947 Woodward, OK tornado as well as the recent Joplin, MO tornado. Both places I have spent inordinate amounts of time in.

The story is based on real people and real places.





Spring is one of my favorite times of year. I love that winter is finally over. I love that the few flowers that grow around the yard can bloom. I love the fresh smell of sagebrush. I love the beautiful fields of winter wheat ripening, waiting for June to be harvested.

I also love thunderstorms.

Living out here in the southern plains, we have beautiful thunderstorms. Frightening. Stunning. Beautiful. Lightening that you can actually see miles away. (Well hell, you can see anything miles away because the land is flat as a pancake and there are no buildings, people or trees in the way).

I have lived my entire life out on a farm smack dab in the middle of "tornado alley". Every spring brings at least one tornado through the county. The norm is several throughout the area. People get together at church or the gas station or the bank and tell each other stories of the most recent storm.

"Yeah, twister last night blew down two trees in the back forty."

"Last Wednesday's storm blew down the fence by Jack's corner and I saw McCarty's cattle out. We spent until 9 pm trying to get them back and repair the fence."

"Huge tornado in Platt's south field, had to have been on the ground for 10 minutes."

"The hail that fell from that last storm was baseball sized. Broke the west-facing windows in the house."

Because the area is so unpopulated, tornadoes really don't do much damage for as frequent as they are. Our nearest neighbor is nine miles away as the crow flies. It takes us twenty minutes to get to a town of 300. Everyone here has a storm cellar, you'd be stupid not too (besides where would you store your canned tomatoes and jellies?). I don't know of anyone that doesn't. For those of us that live on a farm, you can just spot 'em. The sky turns kind of greenish, they sound like a train. You just know. Just like Canadians say they can smell snow. Residents of the southern plains can spot tornado weather.

Folks that live in town have tornado sirens. Cityfolk might practice those terrorist drills in schools, we countryfolk have had tornado drills since kindergarten. Everyone knows what to do in a tornado. Get to the basement or storm cellar. If no basement, get to an interior room with no windows. Stay the hell away from trailers. Pray.

The last tornado that hit this part of the country was one of the worst tornados to hit the US. Last I heard, it was the 5th worst. Ever. It doesn't make all the lists because the National Weather Service only began counting in 1950. But here, my grandparents still talk about it. The 1947 tornado started in White Deer, Texas and stayed on the ground through a wide swatch of Oklahoma then moved into Kansas. It leveled the towns of Higgins, TX and Woodward, OK. It killed hundreds. My grandmother's best friend only has one arm, the other was lost to flying debris. My grandfather's cousin was two years old, found battered and bloody in a field, her mother was found dead miles away. The tornado ripped her right out of her mother's arms. One man was only identified by the pocketknife he carried in his pocket.

These are small towns. Everyone knows everyone. Friends, family – everyone was affected. People came from miles away to help clean up. We are a tough people.

I still love thunderstorms. I even love to watch tornados.

Even after this May storm, I still love wild plains weather. It shapes who I am. Who we are.



I talked to Edward on the phone early in the morning. Cell phones don't work out here so neither of us has bothered to get one. Hell, I was thrilled when we got direct dial when I was fifteen. I hated having to tell old Mrs. Hale who I wanted to call. Gossipy old bat. Don't even get me started on the party line we had until I was ten.

Edward and I planned to meet up for supper at the diner in town at 6:30. People in these parts eat supper early so we knew we would have the place to ourselves. Who am I kidding? A busy day at the diner is four tables! We would have gone over to the next town, but it was a thirty minute drive one-way and I was needed at home to help Dad with the overhaul of the combine.

After I got up and helped Mom with breakfast, I headed out to help Dad feed the cattle in the old McKissen field. We had just gotten a new herd in and they were mighty skittish. It took longer than it should have to count them. The rest of the morning involved us repairing a few fences before heading in for dinner.

I wanted to call Edward after dinner, but I knew that he was probably out with his father. Edward had gotten a new horse that I knew he wanted to ride. I also know his father wanted his help with the branding of the new cattle they received. I decided to just wait until I could see him in town.

After dinner, we headed back outside. It was pretty hot, even for 1pm. Looking to the west, both Dad and I could see that a storm was building.

"Looks like that could be a good one" Dad grunted before heading into the shop.

I took one last look at the building clouds before following him.

By 3:00, we finally finished with the combine. When we step back outside, we could tell that the thunderstorm had graduated to a "real" storm. Dad turned back to the shop to close it up and I went into the house to make sure Mom had the windows closed. We kept an eye on the weather as we drank some iced tea on the front porch.

The clouds were swirling and greenish. Lightening flashed. The funnel dropped to the ground. We just watched. The tornado was miles away, looked like it was probably over by the old Stout place. Luckily, no one lived there anymore.

After about ten minutes, it became obvious that the storm was headed our direction. The wind was just a kitein'. We weren't really worried, storms can veer off path unpredictably. You just have to watch them.

At five minutes, Dad quietly told us to move toward the storm cellar. The hail that had been falling as pea-sized had increased to golf-ball size by the time we descended the old crumbling concrete steps into the dirt-floored cellar. The cellar itself is almost 100 years old, dusty and dark. There is no light except for what seeps in through the door. After Dad barred the door, we moved toward the back of the cellar.

No one said a word as the tornado barreled our way. We couldn't have been heard anyway. The cellar doors rattled and the storm howled. It grew very dark even though it wasn't even 5pm. We could hear debris hitting the doors. Was it the house? The barn? The shop?

After a while, the storm moved on. Was it scary? Yes. In a way. You don't want your friends hurt or your property damaged. But this is where we live. This is our reality.

Dad led us up the concrete steps and opened the doors. It was still raining, but not hard. The yard was riddled with hail of all sizes. Looking southwest, I saw that the shop appeared to be unharmed. The house had several shingles missing and a window broken. The yard light was missing but it appeared we still had power. Hearing my father's quiet intake a breath, I followed his gaze to see that the roof was missing from the barn. My horse Sparky was standing by the windmill but Dad's horse ol' Blue was nowhere to be seen. Hopefully he was in the back pasture.

The next thing I realize is that Mom is running away from us due East. Before I can get my wits about me, Dad is off and running too. My sluggish brain follows their trajectory and my heart stops. There on the dirt road leading toward our house is Edward's old blue Chevy truck. It is upside down in the bar ditch.

Oh my God.

I take off running after my parents.

We all reach the truck at the same time but there is no one inside. I can hear someone yelling Edward's name. I think it is me.

My mother is crying, I am crying. Where is Edward?

The storm was nowhere near his land. Was he on his way to meet me?

Oh God.

I vomit onto the ground. Edward. Where are you?

Mom runs to the house to try and use the phone. Of course, we have no phone due to the storm. I'm sure a pole is knocked down somewhere. We won't have phone service for days.

I stand in the middle of the road. Where is Dad?

I hear the honk of the truck and turn to find Dad behind the wheel. When I move to his window, he tells me he is going to run down to the Cullen's and see if Edward is in fact missing. I make no move to join him because I know Edward was in that truck. That is something he would do for me. He would surprise me with a visit. He was in that truck.

I stumble down the road following the path of the storm. The red Oklahoma clay is sticking to my boots and making my feet heavy. Mindlessly, I cross the cattle guard and continue down the road.

I am silent. I don't call to Edward, I just keep walking. All I can hear is the wind, the occasional cattle bawl and the rhythmic noise of the oil well pumpers.

Finally, I arrive at a fork in the road. Right heads off toward's Jones's, left points to the old Dan Iron's place.

I go left. The first time we kissed was at the river, just pass Iron's old land.

The sun comes out.

I keep walking.

As I reach the slight rise in the land that leads up then down to the river, I hear movement in the field to my right. Is it cattle? Ol' Blue? Edward?

The field has a stand of mature trees. In this part of the country, a grouping of mature trees usually means that it is the site of an old homestead. Homesteaders generally planted trees which lived on even when the people left due to Depression or Dust and the home crumbled from neglect.

I stand perfectly still in the middle of the road for a moment.

My breath catches in my chest as I see Edward's riotous bronze hair suddenly appear among the ripening wheat as he sits up.

I am off and running through the field before I can register the movement. Edward is facing away from me, but turns as he hears my stumbling approach. I can see the wince of pain on his face as he stands and starts to walk toward me.

Edward. He is here. He is safe. He is in my arms.

AN: I had to give them a HEA since so many people who live through tornados don't get one. I have lived through my share. Like this Bella, I still love thunderstorms.


Direct dial: until recently, out in the country you had to call an operator to connect your call. You would tell them your number then the number you wanted to dial. Pain in the arse.

Party line: Line shared by several neighbors so you could be on the phone and your gossipy neighbor could pick up the phone and listen in.

Yard light: Exactly what it sounds like. Homes way out by themselves have their own utility pole and "street light". In the plains, these lights can be seen from miles away and let you know there is an inhabited homestead there.

"as the crow flies": Means shortest distance from point to point, distance would be longer if traveling via road.

Cattle guard: Rows of metal pipes placed perpendicular to the road spaced a few inches apart. Cattle won't step on it, so it keeps them in the field. They are easily driven over by vehicles (think farm-version of a rumble strip).

Bar ditch: in the country, most roads are dirt. The ditch on either side of the road is just called a "bar ditch". I have no idea why.

Oklahoma history: Most people know that in the 1930s the US was in a horrible depression. Those that lived in SW Kansas, western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle also had to contend with the Dust bowl. Over-farming and a drought lead to a years long inability to produce any crops. Many, many families lost everything and packed up and moved away. My grandfather's family lost their land and moved, my grandmother's family stuck it out and survived. Many of these homesteads are still around today… the only thing left is trees, a foundation or a falling down house.