So the summer is tornado season, and this is the first time I’ll be in the Midwest for it. I’ve experienced tornado watches and warnings growing up in Georgia, and have even seen the damage from a couple nearby tornadoes over the years, so I wasn’t too worried about tornadoes here in Nebraska. What I didn’t expect was the intensity of the storms here. The winds in Beatrice reached at least 80 mph, and there were possible tornado sightings. I just saw constant flashes of lightning, got really soaked, and spent my Saturday cleaning up the damage. I had been watching the storm get worse all evening, but wasn’t particularly concerned until I heard the tornado sirens go off. I spent the next couple hours hiding out in the basement garage, and assessing the damage. I’m not really sure what happened to the time, but I know I was looking at the clock at 9:44 p.m. and wondering if under the car or under the desk would be the best place to go in case the garage doors were ripped open (the wind was really loud, not like any wind I’d heard before). Then it was late, past 11 p.m., and the storm had passed except for the occasional distant lightning. Saturday morning I was thinking of driving to Lincoln to see the city, but the park asked everyone to come in to help clean up the damage, and with all the trees down I probably wouldn’t have been able to get all the way to Lincoln easily anyway. I ended up spending my Saturday working outside, learning to use the industrial chipper, dragging around tree limbs, and feeding them into the machine. I enjoyed learning to use the chipper; it was like one of those ticket-eating machines I used to count my tickets at Chuck E. Cheese as a kid, but instead it’s eating branches and spitting out wood chips, rather than a receipt. And it’s a lot louder (we all wore earplugs, in addition to safety glasses and hardhats). So that was a pretty exciting weekend.
The rest of this week I worked on finishing my Federal Information System Security Awareness training for using government computers and handling digital information, spent a spider-free afternoon at the schoolhouse, and continued my project organizing the digital photo collection. I had a much better time at the schoolhouse this week, helped by the lack of spiders, but also by the conversation I had with one particular group that came in. It was four older people, two of them a brother and sister, and they came in and sat down and told stories about their experiences in one-room schoolhouses (which two had attended), and just school in general. I’m amazed by how many people who come in have personal connections to one-room schools. Ours was closed in 1967, around the time most one-room schools were closing in Nebraska and the rest of the Midwest.
Friday was the first day of Homestead Days, a big weekend festival with music, presentations, and craft demonstrations. Friday is the slowest day, with less demonstrators and less visitors. We were plenty busy, though, with trying to get all the last minute things ready. We started setting up Thursday afternoon. I helped a woman set up her late 19th century dresses. They were beautiful – she had children’s dresses, a maternity gown, and probably close to ten others, with bustles, high collars, tiny buttons, and delicate trim. She even had a couple swimsuits! On Friday, set up was less exciting, as I spent all morning setting up tables, typing up invoices, and printing and folding the Homestead Days schedule. In the afternoon, though, I sat in on a presentation on agriculture in Nebraska, and one on Shakespeare on the prairie. All in all, it was a pretty exciting week!