SOMEWHERE IN THE LOWER BIG BEND:
The storm was upon me almost before I knew it, and I had been watching the ominous dark line as carefully as a man could. Around me the desert was quiet and near deathly still, nothing stirred in the proverbial calm before the coming ‘la tormenta.’
I quickened my pace, the thirty-five extra some odd pounds in the ALICE pack slowing me down as I struck a dog trot across this bare, empty land. I was north of the lava vent that divides most of Onion Flat into two parts, which is not a place to be when seeking shelter. The piles of craggy boulders forming the vent were now better than a mile behind me.
Raised as a child of this desert, there are seldom times indeed when I do not welcome the chance for this arid soil to drink its fill. And still much like that same child, being soaked by a needed rain still made me want to dance with glee even after all these years.
Yet this was different, and that roiling, twisting mass with the telltale greenish tint promised nothing but trouble in my near future. Furthermore there was also the dying remnants of a large red racer behind me, who had tried for that same lava vent but was caught in the open by an earlier hailstorm.
Then, with the suddenness and ferocity of an attack by a big cat upon its prey, the clouds rushed in and erupted all around. Lighting flashed and thunder rolled like God’s own artillery, and the wind blew in shrieks as the unseen sirens of the desert sounded their fury.
Struggling against their might, my pace was now more of a run as my eyes darted and searched for some kind of cover amid the growing cannonade. The first piece of hail, about the size of a silver dollar, bounced off the protecting crown of my flat brim Stetson.
Ahead I could now see a rift in the bare, open ground; a natural ditch formed in the eroded dirt that was quickly turning into a sea of mud and hailstones.
Careening below from the lip above, I dropped my pack via the emergency release and plastered myself against the slight overhang. Turning the pack frame toward me, I used it as a Greek hoplite did his shield with my Stetson acting as the helmet.
Hailstones, much like the spears and arrows of the ancient Persians, plunged straight down from a lightning-laced sky or bounced upwards upon striking the ground. I pulled my body in even tighter and tried to put my mind in another place.
And then just suddenly as it came the storm passed over, the hard smack of the hailstone now replaced by the gentle caress of a soft, falling rain. Crawling out of my protective cove, I surveyed a cobblestone pattern of white rapidly melting away by the moment.
After checking any personal damage and cleaning myself up a bit, I waited a few minutes more before moving on.
I was, yet once again, that same child of the desert wanting to dance in the rain…
God bless to all,
Ben H. English
HS Teacher: 2008-2010
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’
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