Hurricane season

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By Hardy Jackson

“Squalls out on the gulf stream  Big storm’s comin’ soon” 

Jimmy Buffett

“Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season”

Here they come again.

Hurricanes.

Tis the season.

Though many of you are far from the coast, you need to keep in mind that those storms can have an enormous, tragic impact inland.

Well, if you get one, I hope you have someone to call, someone like “Doll Baby.”

Let me explain. First, don’t let the name fool you. In his prime “Doll” (as friends call him) was much a man. Well over 6 feet tall, with bulk to go with it, he lived in South Alabama and like so many folks down there, Doll has made his living in the woods.  Well, back in 1990 Doll and his wife Wanda were driving through South Carolina’s Frances Marion State Park, a couple months after Hurricane Hugo. Trees were still scattered every-which-a-way. Trucks couldn’t get in to clean up without tearing up what was left. Seeing the mess, the Alabama couple stopped at the Ranger Station and told the attendant, in so many words, “what you need is mules.” And since Doll had some, a deal was struck.

So he went back home, rounded up a crew, loaded up the mules — Linda and Lisa, Mutt and Jeff, Maude and Rock — and headed out to Carolina where they snaked logs until the weather got too hot for man and beast. In the process, Doll and his mules became celebrities — newspapers wrote about them, students from a nearby college “studied” them and a kindergarten class visited them. The local TV station sent out a young female reporter young female reporter to interview Doll, who took time from his work to show her the ropes — a little too much time, Wanda said.

Personally, I figure he was just being nice.

Of course folks down Doll’s way know about hurricanes. Living some 80 miles above Mobile, they count on getting the backwash from storms nearly every fall. Usually there is a lot of rain, some strong gusts, a few trees down and not much more. But in 1969, Category V Camille tore into the Mississippi Gulf Coast and its counterclockwise winds caused damage deep into Alabama.

Mr. Buster was at home when the wind began to pick up.

Now Mr. Buster and his wife Mrs. Margaret were among my family’s closest friends. Their farm and our farm shared a fence.

They lived in a log house that had once been a stagecoach stop between Grove Hill and Coffeeville.  The logs were long since boarded over and metal covered the shingle roof.  It was solid.

Yet, as the wind increased, the downbursts from Camille began to shake it.

Mr. Buster was concerned.

 Then the wind grew stronger and he got frightened.  Finally, when a gust tore loose a corner from the roof and it began flapping loud, he got scared.

So, he went to Miss Margaret who was sitting in the living room and announced that he believed it was time to pray.

Although Miss Margaret was not a woman often surprised, this was not what she expected. Though Mr. Buster was as good and decent a man as ever walked on this earth, he was not known for spontaneous religious ceremonies. So, she followed him to the bedroom where he knelt, clasped his hands, looked up at the vibrating ceiling, and began:

“Oh Lord, this is Buster.”

“It’s over now,” Miss Margaret sighed. “You done told him who you are.”

Undeterred, Mr. Buster continued, and after asking the Almighty to get them through, he and Miss Margaret went back to the living room, where they weathered the storm together.        

And in this hurricane season, if storms do come, may we weather them together as well. And when they have passed, if you need help I hope you can find someone like Doll, and his mules.

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a monthly columnist for Alabama Living. He can be reached at hjackson43@gmail.com.

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