I could tell Cathy wasn’t pleased by the way she said, “Is this the only one they had?” Well, no, it wasn’t. But it was the least expensive. It required minimum assembly. And I figured a mailbox is a mailbox.
George Bush the first was in the White House at the time. And I figured any correspondence he needed to get to me would be just as safe in a “reasonably priced” letter holder. The small wooden slats that gave this cheap mailbox a country look began to fall off the week after I got it set up. Hurricane Opal gave it a slight list to the northeast. Dick Lamberson backed over it in 1999. A city truck accidently nudged it almost back to vertical in 2011.
Of course, that run down mailbox was the last thing on our minds Wednesday morning, October 10, as we watched Hurricane Michael roar up the Gulf…..RIGHT AT US! Cathy and I sat glued to the Weather Channel. Jim Cantore in Panama City was frightening enough. But when they actually placed a correspondent in Port St. Joe we realized this wasn’t going to end well.
We were anxious, but not scared. We worried about our children….worrying about us. And we marveled, and took great comfort, in the unbelievable number of family, friends and acquaintances that had reached out to us over the last twenty-four hours.
Jane Hill got in touch; as did Pam, Lana and Bobby King. All childhood friends….from two eons and a light year ago! The entire 1968 Sewanee baseball team checked in…..wanting to know what they could do to help. Friends, who had moved away from St. Joe, “reunited” to say they were thinking about us. We could hear the fear, and concern, and love, in every single voice, through every text, in every email.
Kinfolks, near and far, let us know that we were in their hearts. I was afraid Cathy’s siblings were going to move down here! Josh and Jesse called with the exact same message, “Daddy, don’t sit there another second, get to my house as fast as you can!”
It was a little hard to explain. First of all, this now category 4 (bordering on a 5) hurricane had been barely a 1 just a short day and a half ago. We were caught off guard for sure. And we probably would have left if we’d known the real extent of this thing from the outset. But maybe not! We are both older now. No children depending on us……and this is our home.
Cathy and I huddled on the couch and thanked God for all the wonderful people he had placed in our path over the years. And we prayed for our friends and neighbors that lived closer to the Gulf than we did.
The electricity went out at 10:18. We lost track of the storm. But I’m telling you the wind was already whistling….and this thing hadn’t even gotten here yet! We didn’t need Cantore to tell us the eye was going to be uncomfortably close.
The wind was incessant. Maybe not as loud as the proverbial freight train people talk about at times like this, but it was a long, steady howl. And it did not quit, slow down or pause for a second! A portion of the backyard fence was the first to go. And some shingles and then the tin on our old shed began to whip up.
That outbuilding wasn’t worth nothing, but it came with the house when we bought it in 1975. I leaped up, fumbled into a raincoat and raced out back. It was raining sideways and the wind picked me off the ground! I grabbed a couple of concrete blocks to anchor me down until I could throw them up on the tin roof. If I could get the bottom secured I might be able to save it……
It’s hard to describe the helpless feeling of such a storm. It was as if time suspended itself…..while nature had its say. You realize right quick that mere mortals aren’t quite as immortal as we think ourselves. And there are powers out there way above our comprehension….or control.
We eased out of the house cautiously around 3 p.m. The wind was down to a dull roar. God had never been nearer as we thanked Him repeatedly. In the middle of our prayer meeting, Cathy pointed to our inexpensive, run down, worn out, old mailbox. It had come through the 140 mph winds unscathed. Kind of a miracle in our own front yard…..
My wife turned to me, “We are going to keep that mailbox forever!”
Safe and Sound,