Thursday, April 24, 2008

We're not in Montana any more

Here's the headline you don't want to see when you live where I do: "Much of Kansas at risk for tornadoes, large hail." I don't think they're kidding. This morning the sky was gray and the air was forbodingly still. I wouldn't have been surprised to see Miss Gulch peddling by on her bike with my dog's head protruding from the basket.

I've yet to see a real tornado during my 30 months in the heartland, but I do have some experience with large hail. A couple of years ago a series of storms swept through, one of them raining quarter-sized projectiles on my almost-new roof and breaching it in a dozen places. Then it rained and rained. That's how I became aware of the leaks: The next morning pregnant bubbles had formed in the ceiling and water was dripping on the family room carpet.

Much of Wichita had the same experience. An army of Mexican roofing crews seized the opportunity and spent months working from dawn to dusk. To this day, when I imagine a summer evening in this city it is punctuated by staccato bursts of staple-gun fire and mariachi music played at top volume from rooftop radios. My Spanish is unworkably rusty so I communicated with the crew primarily with amiable gestures. I don't know; maybe it's one reason the finished roof was not the color I had intended.

Such is my reverie today, as the sky lowers and the warnings echo about violent weather on the way. There are few things we take for granted more than the roof over our heads. But like everything else in life, composition shingles are tenuous, held in place mostly by the forbearance of an indifferent Mother Nature. Especially in Kansas in the spring. Ask the folks in Greensburg. These are the days I miss Montana.

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