| Jason ran out the door glancing towards the East where his father and two older brothers were tending to the livestock and horses. The wind almost taking his new broadband straw hat off his head, he heard his oldest sister Gretchen hollering after him. He was determined, at the old age of seven and being the youngest of six, to help like a man for a change.
He noticed storm clouds forming to the Northwest, great billowing cumulous clouds turning, in spots, from white fluffy pallid cotton into ominous gloomy black thunderheads. Jason thought they appeared to be turning crooked somersaults. There wasn't a greenish tint to the skyline, as of yet, but with these imminent signs his father had taught him, they might get rain or possibly hail out of the impending storm.
Glancing up towards the trees surrounding their cabin, Jason looked for the signs his father had taught him. The green leaves were blowing with the brisk wind, but the foliage was turned bottom facing upward towards the sky. A sure sign, his father had said, for impending rain.
His mother and two of his other sisters were trying to chase the chickens into their coop for shelter. Jason's job was to help Gretchen, the oldest, fill the wood box in the house before the rains dampened the firewood, their only source of heat and fuel for cooking. The wind must have whisked Gretchen’s call away as his Mother hadn’t appeared to hear her. He ran in her direction just in time to corral the last chicken inside the fencing that surrounded the chicken coop.
Mother noticed his sudden appearance and responded curtly, "Thanks Ja..."
A bright streak of lightning fell from the sky immediately deafening their ears with an instantaneous blast of thunder. He saw his mother’s mouth open with a silent scream when the ground vibrated under his feet. A large pear tree to the North of the house cracked and split in half.
A gust of air pilfered his new straw hat right off his head. He turned to chase it noticing it had stopped wedged in a clump of tree stumps about ten feet away. He froze, seeing his father and brothers running towards the house gesturing towards the root cellar.
His mother started running towards the pear tree that fell, and his sisters headed towards the underground shelter. They were all screaming, but the wind was blowing too hard and their words floated away with the strong breeze. His oldest brother had the door to the root cellar open, but Jason ran towards his mother and the collapsed tree. He wanted desperately to be helpful.
Jason fought the wind, almost falling over sideways a few times. The rain suddenly appeared and started pelting his skin. Feeling the sting of each drop as a reminder of his recent encounter with mud wasps, panic almost set in, yet he continued running. His mother was trying to pick up a branch that had fallen on the family dog. His father had taught him a good farm dog was as important as the livestock and chickens for success on the prairie.
Luckily, when Jason arrived, he found the dog trapped only by the far end of a significantly large branch where there was a cluster of smaller limbs. He was able to help his mother lift the lightest portion of the bough freeing the grateful animal unharmed.
Father appeared just as Jason freed the loved canine. Suddenly, the vigorous wind stopped. Total silence descended upon them. There were no sounds from any of the farm animals, birds or the normal evening chattering from the wildlife.
Glancing up at the sky, Father grabbed his two sisters that had followed him from the safety of the cellar around their waists, Jason witnessed a greenish tint appear in the sky as Mother grabbed his forearm and they started running in silence, making it safely to the cellar door. Looking out from between his father’s legs, as the door closed, the sinister black funnel cloud shaped narrow at the ground that whirled spinning larger in circumference towards the sky.
Jason sensed, as he sat in the dark of the root cellar, that he was in trouble as the sounds of devastation surrounded the ground above. He knew he would soon hear about his abandonment of his allotted duties, knowing he had lost the new hat his father had bought for his birthday. This was naughty behavior, as there wasn't much money for frivolities. He also knew that he hadn't followed through with his tasks that the family survival might depend upon. He just knew he was tired of being the baby.
Jason barely heard the soft-spoken prayers of his Mother, with a word or two interjected from Gretchen. He thought this was odd. Father usually read from the Bible nightly, but there wasn't any light, and it sounded as if Mother and Gretchen were saying the same words from time-to-time.
Suddenly, Father spoke loudly, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; ...and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Amen."
"Amen." They all repeated as accustomed.
"It's time to see what the Lord left us."
It was Fathers way to let us know that it was safe to climb up and investigate what damage the tempest had done. They all carefully emerged from the doorway. Jason witnessed all of his father’s hard work, the house, barn, and other outbuildings were all thankfully still standing including the chicken coop that he’d built since leaving the wagon train nearly a decade earlier.
He started collecting small twigs; those that he could carry that still had leaves hanging from them. He carried as many as his short arms would allow, towards the South field.
A short time later, his father and brothers had the wagon with horses haltered, and Jason learned that he could just carry his limbs to the wagon bed.
Finally, he found his hat, it no longer looked new; yet, it had the same appearance of all his other hand-me down clothes. Realizing the family wouldn’t consider him the baby any longer; the chores would become harder. He hoped that his dad would expect more of him. Little did he really know.
Father's Bible lesson over, when all were snug in their beds, Gretchen knelt near his cot and whispered, "Hey, little man, Father purchased that hat for you so that you could join him in the fields. You have graduated from helping us in the garden."
Jason opened his eyes and said, "But he gave me my hat weeks ago."
"Yes, but today was what he was waiting for."
"Today, he knew you wanted to grow up." She kissed him on the cheek and continued, "But you still have to help me keep the wood box full. OK?
Jason nodded his answer sleepily and placed a big smile across his lips. He didn't quite understand, but his dreams were full of grown-up adventures that night.