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One Way To Outrun A Tornado

Updated on July 21, 2015

I suppose there is only one way to outrun a tornado…put the pedal to the metal! At least, that’s how I remember my grandfather doing it back in 1957.

Grandpa always was a speed demon according to those who knew him. That being the case, he always had a good car. He swapped them as often as he changed socks.

You have to remember, back in my grandparents youthful days the main mode of transportation was still the horse and buggy. Anything exceeding 20 mph was truly considered breakneck speed. When Grandpa got his first automobile he was the “thrill seeker” that threw caution to the wind and dared to actually drive an unheard of 55 mph.

A Typical1955 Ford Fairlane

A Hair Raising 40 Mph

Grandma, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. You’ve probably driven behind her. She’s the one you saw with the fluff of grey hair, nestled between two white knuckled hands gripping the steering wheel and barreling along at a brisk 40 mph.

My grandparents lived in Alma, Arkansas a part of the Ozark Mountain foothills. That made it part of “Tornado Alley”. And they got their fair share of them there.

However, this story deals with one we encountered on a trip to Parsons, Kansas to visit our step grandfathers’ sister. The journey was being made in Grandpa’s newest acquisition, a 1955 tan Ford Fairlane.

We four grandchildren had been “farmed out” to my grandmother while our mother recovered from an illness, so we were along for the ride.

Grandpa was traveling down a long, straight, flat and barren highway with the only thing in sight being the distant horizon…the only kind they have in Kansas I think. My siblings and I were playing in the back seat while Grandma kept nagging Grandpa to keep the speed down. The nerve of the man, driving a death defying 60 mph with her precious human cargo in the car!

This account is true and was witnessed by us grandchildren; at least I witnessed most of it. What I missed was later told to me. You see, I fell asleep seconds before the event happened. That happens to a bored four year old on a long trip sometimes.

What I do remember, was Grandma repeatedly reminding Grandpa to slow down. The car’s speed continued to get faster. He was fidgeting in the driver’s seat and kept nervously glancing into the rearview mirror.

“What’s wrong with you Leland”? Grandma hollered. She always called him that when she was angry. He remained silent but kept increasing the cars speed. Finally, Grandma had had enough and insisted he pull over so she could drive. “Can’t do that right now woman”, he scowled. He always called her that when she annoyed him. “And just why can’t you?” she fumed. Grandpa calmly insisted she turn around and look at what was swiftly approaching from the rear. Her face turned white as she saw a tornado chasing our car and quickly overtaking us.

Apparently at this juncture, Grandma lost all fear of speed. “Hit it James!” she frantically screamed. And from that point on it was, “Faster, faster, James”! The last thing I remember was the speedometer hovering around 90 mph and Grandma demanding more speed. I’ve never figured out how anyone could fall asleep in the middle of a tornado and the calamity occurring inside that automobile…but I did. And the odd thing was I woke back up minutes later to the excited comments about never seeing anything like it before.

It seems moments after falling asleep the tornado caught up with the car, picked it up, turned it around and put us gently back down on the highway, traveling the opposite direction! I knew it to be true because Grandpa had to turn the auto back around. This wasn’t one of his pranks.

I guess one good thing to come out of the incident was Grandma lost her fear of driving fast.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Do I look like a dictionary? :-) Thanks for all of your kind comments bayoulady. Now, I'll look at your profile and poke fun at ya too.

    • bayoulady profile image

      bayoulady 7 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      I agree with your brother.You do have talent. You are a great humorist.(Did I spell that right?) Howdy from Louisiana!

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina


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      SuperDave 7 years ago

      Jim, you write well and your recollections are detailed. Your writings are public friendly and you could probably make a living documenting your observations.