Lightning rods

A couple of Friday nights ago, my friend Toni and I strolled down the new stretch of sidewalk on Johnson Avenue to Wayne Jamison Field.

Weather forecasters had reduced the chance of rain to next to nothing.  So brilliant were the sun’s rays, I opted to wear sunglasses.

It was a perfect evening to sit back on the bleachers and take in my first high school football game of the season—what turned out to be the pregame and half of one quarter.

Thirty minutes before kickoff, a few droplets of rain fell from what remained a sunlit sky.  We shrugged our shoulders and perched our Indian seat cushions atop our heads.

That is how I discovered—after all these years—my head, unlike the world, is flat.  The cushion balanced effortlessly without any help from my hands.

The sprinkles evaporated by kickoff, but dark clouds blew in behind a soft breeze. Every now and again, flashes of light flickered about.

Now, Toni and I are not WSBs (Wimpy, Sissy Babies).  We’ve sat through plenty of bad-weather football games.  Coaches do that.   So do parents—particularly when their kids are players or band members or cheerleaders.

A few years back, my daughter Kristen cheered through a lighting and thunder suspended game.  That night, five weather delays sent us tromping to our cars and back to the field through pouring rain.

We jumped to claps of thunder and bolts of lightning like participants in a deadly game of dodgeball.  But the contest finally resumed to completion.  We arrived home around 1 AM.

I drove a carload of cheerleaders to yet another away game.  Weather forecasters had predicted showers and high winds and we prepared accordingly or so we thought.

Relentless sheets of rain assaulted us like unfriendly fire.  The teams didn’t compete against each other, but fought to withstand torrents of water that ripped across the field in continuous waves.

Not one umbrella survived the blistering remnants Hurricane Katrina delivered to West Virginia that night.  The minute one went up, it flew backward and out of the owner’s hands.

Fans struggled to keep their rain gear closed with one hand and held fast to their seats with the other.  Cheerleaders blew back and forth on the track below like paper dolls scattering in the wind.

It had been a hot and humid September day, yet I have never—as in ever—been as cold or as wet as I was after that game.   Toni will concur.  She was there.

That Friday night–a couple of weeks ago–the clouds grew angrier by the second.  The lighting flashes turned to bolts.

I don’t care about getting wet, but I’m not a big fan of lightning.  Call me a WSB, but I’m just not into sitting on metal bleachers and substituting myself for a lightning rod.

“I’m not ready to leave, but if we don’t make our way to the steps and watch from there, we’re going to get stuck behind a stampede of people when they call this game,” I said.

At that, Toni stood and grabbed her seat cushion.  Toni’s a team player.

The second we reached the exit ramp, officials called the game—a game that did not resume. Not that we waited around to find out.

We hoofed it up the vertical incline called Johnson Avenue, increasing our pace with each bolt of lightning.  Toni and I are not WSBs or fair weather fans.  But, when confronted by Mother Nature’s brand of electricity, we choose life—every time.



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