Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tornadoes and Home Canning

In central Kansas where my mother grew up, tornadoes were a fact of life.  My grandfather believed in a state of readiness. The basement of the two-story farmhouse had a room within a room, built of cement blocks.  It was the "storm cellar,"  and it contained an ax and a kerosene lantern as well as a couple flashlights.

This was also the room where my grandma kept her home-canned goodies.  Now we think of summer as a  time to relax and enjoy life.  Consider making your own ketchup (she spelled it catsup) piccalilli, and jams of every flavor.  She also put up  peaches, pears,  and apricots.    And tomatoes from the big garden.  Quarts and quarts of tomatoes.  Grandma did all of this on an electric stove that we would sneer at, in a  galley style un-airconditioned kitchen. 

Whenever a thunderstorm blew up, my grandpa went outside to assess the situation.  If he didn't like the look of the clouds, we were be trundled out of bed and sent traipsing down to the storm cellar.  The storms always seemed to come at 2;00 a.m. when one was snug in bed.  Didn't matter.  There were benches to sit on, and we sat.  And waited.  When the wind died down, grandpa would go upstairs and take another look at the sky.  Either we went back to bed or we  stayed put.  His word was law. 

Years later, when I was grown up and living in Massachusetts a tornado did hit the town.  In an old box of black and white photos there's a picture of a twister.  Scary to the max.  I feel so sorry for the folks whose homes and lives were ripped up by the funnel clouds.  Makes me thankful for grandpa and his cellar.  The memory of grandma's homemade strawberry jam makes be salivate for a spoonful.  What's priceless are the memories.

The house looks much smaller than I remembered, and there were tricycles and toys outside last time I drove by.  The storm cellar is undoubtedly still there.  I doubt if it's full of home-canned pints and quarts.  I hope the  people living there now use it when the sky blackens and the winds howl.

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