Yard Is Raked

My dad and my brothers were fishing in Wisconsin, at a mens' group camp No-Pi-Ming and received the following telegram from my mother at home in Elgin: "All is well, the yard is raked".  They all thought the telegram was rather strange, but at the time they had no idea why it was sent to them.

It turns out that a tornado had gone through my hometown of Elgin, Illinois and the telgram was from my mother.  The tornado tore off one side of the children's home on the west side of town and took down many trees.

In those days we didn't have the sophisticated warning systems we have now.  The storm came up in the middle of the night and as the storm got worse my mother wanted us to go down the basement.  Living with us at the time were my Great Aunt Christina, Aunt Ida, Aunt Sigrid and Uncle Les.  Mother called to them, and everyone gathered downstairs except Aunt Ida.  So my mother sent me upstairs during the storm to get Aunt Ida.  Apparently she listened to me, and she came down and joined us.

I remember going down the basement and that the stairway, which was attached stone basement wall, was moving or shaking from the storm.    The storm roared overhead with a horrible noise like a train and we heard trees breaking in the wind.  The lightning was constant.  I sat on the bench of the "mangle", ice cold and shaking like a leaf.  A note about the mangle - this was a laundry device of the time that used heavy heated rollers to press laundry.

With a burst of hail, the storm finally passed, and as it was in the middle of the night, we all went back to bed.  The next morning, we arose to find the house intact and wreckage in the yard.  For me, the most tragic loss was an incredibly soft ball of fluff flying squirrel my brothers had caught in the vacated house of the Hutines at Lac de Flambeau.  Hopefully the squirrel was OK and found another home.  The yard was a shambles.  Mother had been active in the garden club, and the yard was an important part of that social activity.  But we had lost virtually all of our trees, including the one that held my swing.

As it turns out, my mother thought the group at the lake would have heard about the storm, and she meant to send a reassuring telegram "All is well, yard is wrecked".  Later in the day at the camp they heard about the storm, and the confused telegram made somewhat more sense.