As I am awakened this morning by the drumming of rain pounding on my rooftop I'm reminded of a story I have heard throughout my life many times on this day-Columbus Day.
We left the warmth of our tiny camp trailer nestled beneath the tall trees, it's size minute in comparison to the old growth pines which towered hundreds of feet above us. The wind howled as Daddy drove down the narrow dirt road heading out on our daily hunt. Mom looked through the window watching for deer as the tops of the giant ponderosa trees whipped and swayed overhead. My sister Karen and I sat between them on the bench seat of the old Chevy pickup truck completely unaware of our parents growing concern.
We spotted deer huddled together moving quickly out towards the open desert country in large herds. Excitement grew with their sighting. Tall clusters of antlers jutted up into the storm darkened skyline like naked tree branches amongst the sage as massive bucks surrounded themselves with harems of doe, making it impossible to harvest a buck.
The winds gained strength as gusts broke tree branches with the ease of snapping green beans freshly picked from Momma's garden. Momma voiced her opinion to Daddy and he quickly agreed as a small pine tree toppled to the ground beside them; they needed to get out the forest and head for safety of the open desert, fast. Dad picked up speed until they finally reached the treeless desert and the shelter of the tall rock formation near Fort Rock.
According to Wikipedia, "the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (otherwise known as the Big Blow,) was an extratropical cyclone that ranked among the most intense to strike the United States Pacific Northwest since at least 1948, likely since the January 9, 1880 "Great Gale" and snowstorm. On a larger scale, the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 is a contender for the title of most powerful extratropical cyclone recorded in the U.S. in the 20th century; with respect to wind velocity, it is unmatched by the March 1993 "Storm of the Century" and the "1991 Halloween Nor’easter" (aka "The Perfect Storm"). MetLife named the Columbus Day Storm the nation's worst natural disaster of 1962. Wind gusts measured throughout Oregon from 58 to 170 miles per hour; in less than 12 hours, over 11 billion board feet of timber was blown down in northern California, Oregon and Washington combined. This exceeded the annual timber harvest for Oregon and Washington at the time."
Hours later when the winds had subsided, we headed back toward camp. Momma worried if our little 14 ft. camp-trailer survived the storms wrath. Dad tediously worked his way through the brush around large branches and trees that had blown down blocking the narrow roads. Huge pine trees that once reached hundreds of feet into the sky now lay defeated and broken with their large webbed footballs exposed, awaiting a slow death, looking like the aftermath of war. After hours of travel, we finally reached camp to the surprise that our little sanctuary of deer-camp had survived. All of the tall trees that surrounded our camp still stood tall, sentinels, protecting from Nature's fury.
Even though I was just a baby on that day, I heard the story repeated over the years many times. I am still reminded today when I walk through those woods climbing over some of the very same trees, now logs, victims to the storm. Many nothing more then rotting bark with those eerie twisted arms of roots with fingers that reach out in distress in all directions, nothing more then grey weathered skeletons left behind to remind us of Natures power and strength.
The Columbus Day storm was actually on October 12th, 1962. I'm not sure why today, Oct. 10th is Columbus Day. Go figure?
Sherrie Gant is a writer, photographer, and