Weeks of obsessive tending and gentle turning ensured a blue ribbon next weekend for his biggest pumpkin. His chest puffed with impending pride as he fantasized about the envious stares of the other town folk, including that attractive, stuck-up woman next door, who always looked through him, not at him.
An easterly wind was starting as he watched the sky darken. The wind felt cool against his skin compared to the moist warm weather earlier that soaked him in sweat as he hoed around his pumpkin. As bright, painted leaves rained on his crop, he heard an infant's cry and turned his head toward the top of the hill. Under the old maple, his stuck-up neighbor was shielding a bundle from the wind, fumbling with her blouse. Probably trying to breast-feed the baby, he thought. He felt a little sorry for her; a single mother with an infant. He tried to be a good neighbor, but her stuck up attitude kept him at a distance. Maybe she did not trust men any more. He paid her no mind. He was single too and had his own problems.
He wondered what she was doing at the top of the hill but then recalled seeing her walking the narrow path to her girlfriend’s house about half a mile beyond his own house. His hat was torn from his head as the wind grew stronger. He looked at the distant clouds moving at a great speed toward him. The horizon was a solid wall of clouds that gave a greenish tint to the sky. He had seen enough to recognize the signs–tornado!
Looking back at the maple tree, he could see the mother had knelt down by the base to shelter her baby. Realizing that a tornado could tear the old tree apart in seconds, he shouted to warn her but his voice was drowned out in the strong wind. He ran to the top of the hill as fast as he could. When he reached her he shouted, “You can’t stay here. Too dangerous!” Half pulling, half jerking, he got her up with the baby.
“Where?” she yelled. The noise was as loud as the 7:20 freight train that passed through town every night without stopping.
He looked back at his house; too far! He looked at her house; even farther! He yelled back at her, “Come with me.” He cradled the baby in one arm and then led her by the other. If they could make to his pumpkin patch, and lie down behind his prize pumpkin, they just might have enough protection. Placing the baby as close to the pumpkin as possible, he had the mother shield it with her body as he covered her body with his.
The wind grew stronger and louder then it grew quiet again. Peering over the top of the pumpkin, he saw the tornado rise up into the clouds and pass overhead without doing any damage. They had been spared along with their houses. He looked over at his crop fields to see how much damage was done to the corn and saw a wall of hail the size of golf balls cutting through the corn as clean as a sickle, destroying everything in its path.