|The story is a South African story.
mealies : corn / maize
stoep : verandah / porch
spruit : rivulet / brook
400meter: 440 yards
On a hot summer's afternoon, he was standing on the front stoep.
Looking to the north with a view onto the eucalyptus plantation, which was on the other side of the spruit, about four hundred meters away.
From the plantation to the house were a few single massive eucalyptus trees in a row.
As was their nature, the branches grew free into the air from a trunk that two men could hardly surround hand to hand.
These trees were planted for show, never to be harvested for the pole industry, as the plantation trees were, who grew true and lean.
Then he moved his vision to the left, the green mealies were showing off their seed plumes high up into the air with full-pipped cobs hanging onto long stalks … promises of a bumper crop.
Behind the mealies, a bank of clouds was peeking, moving higher and higher into view, a welcome, late-afternoon rain shower.
A normal sight here in this summer rainfall part of the country.
Watching the clouds rising up, it became clear, this was no normal shower.
This was a freak storm, something that may be seen but a few times in a lifetime.
The black, dark-blue and grey-white clouds that billowed over the horizon, filled with flashes of lightning on the inside of the body of clouds, with red-brown dust replacing the placid blue of the sky, a mass of angry weather driven by a storm-wind that that foretold of ill-tidings to come.
Moving ahead of this wind, storm, a flock of swallows were driven - diving down, flying up, in big loops, trying to fight off the effects of this monster wind.
Then they moved into the lee side offered by the giant of an eucalyptus tree and this gave them some respite from the main force of the wind.
There the loops were a bit smaller, still down, up, loop – on and on, fighting the wind, at least now assisted by this giant tree.
The day started turning to darkness, the clouds moved up higher, past the zenith, onto the east,
And then the sound became audible, first a soft shhhhh ... then louder and louder.
He looked away from the swallows, still battling the elements, to the west.
There was a dirty grey blanket hanging out from the clouds, standing under the corrugated roof, he heard the first pitter-patter of hail coming down.
Quickly the pitter-patter was drowned out by a solid roar of little white ice fiends, smashing ice against steel, slowly causing the green lawn to change to a snow white ice blanket.
The first visual effect of these little solid rain drops were to lower the mealies, it looked as if someone was taking an eraser to a picture of a field of mealies and started to rub them out, from the top, right down to the bottom, in unreal time and action.
The swallows started dropping from the sky; some falling with a spiraling action; others, like little down-coated rocks, fell down with folded wings and a little hop ... still; others, going into a dive and never rising again.
The little bodies, disappearing under a fleecy blanket of tiny ice pops, till there was not one swallow left in the sky.
He was standing on the stoep, watching, in Technicolor and Cinemascope, a flashing, rolling, billowing sky, throwing down hail by the buckets full, the mealies getting erased, and swallows dropping from the sky, accompanied by surround-sound as only a corrugated roof can supply.
Quite the show!
The complete show must have lasted half an hour, from the west to the east.
Almost as fast as the storm announced itself, it left, onto the east, to blow itself to its natural demise.
He walked into the icy blanket to go and see if there were any swallows that might still be alive.
Amazingly, there was only one swallow that showed any life.
This little swallow was taken into the house and very carefully dried off with a face cloth.
After a while, the swallow started to show signs of stretching its wings and looking quite happy with itself.
Now, a swallow cannot be kept as a pet, it should fly free.
It is a specialized feeder, eating mainly tiny insects, which it catches on the wing.
He took the swallow outside in one hand covered by the other hand.
Outside he took away the cover hand.
Stretched out his arm into the sky, to allow the swallow to fly.
The swallow started flapping its wings and it rose into the air, wobbly at first.
Each stroke of the wing, stronger, up and up it went.
He stood there, willing the swallow on, ‘up and up you go.’
Then … into this picture frame came a falcon, with folded wings, in the death-dive, talons extended.