Summer weather in Western New York is hot and muggy. There are a few summer storms, but it is pretty mild. For two naive young men out for an adventure, weather was not on the top of their list of worries. It was summer, afterall, what was there to worry about?
Midwestern summers are an entirely different ball game. (I have lived in MO and OH, so I know first hand!) Storms sweep across the plains bringing fantastic shows of lightning, powerful rains and tornadoes.
At first, I think that the twins thought nothing of a little rain. Maybe after the first drenching, they might have even looked at each other and laughed a little. However, they soon learned that storms were dangerous.
The boys sought shelter wherever they could find it. A few times, they found bridges to stand or sit under, but if there was a creek under the bridge, they had to be careful. The waters rose fast and moved quickly. One time, a man in a car picked them up on a road, knowing a storm was coming. He took them back to his house, fed them and let them wait out the storm in his home. That kind act was never forgotten.
Often, a nearby barn was the only shelter available. The animals in the barn were the only heaters for the sodden travellers to use for warmth. Bumpa and Alton would stand as close to the animals as they could without causing any alarm. They had only one change of shirt and underwear, so they would quickly change into dry clothes and then watch for the storm to end. One night, they had to sleep in a barn. After getting dry, they climbed up to the hayloft to sleep. Nervous that the farmer would catch them and chase them off, they woke before dawn and were on their way.
After a while, they got sick and tired of getting wet. I imagine it was miserable. Soaking wet to the skin, sloggy shoes, cold, the boys were afraid. They didn’t want to get sick in the middle of nowhere!
Forever after this trip across the country, Bumpa held a healthy respect for thunderstorms. Alton, however, developed a completely irrational fear of them. If a lightning storm started, no matter what time of day or night, he would make his wife, Marion come with him outside to the car. They would sit in the car until the weather cleared. The rubber tires grounding the car allowed the only safety in his mind.
I am sure when they started out, the twins had no idea how this trip would shape their lives. How seemingly simple things would teach them lessons or fears that would stay with them the rest of their days.