It was a dark and stormy night. No, seriously, it really was. And, it was made worse by the fact that the lightning had struck a line or pole somewhere and Tick Ridge had been plunged into pre-Rural Electrification darkness. The talented Jack (of all trades) and his wife (The Cat Lady) sat in the light of their kerosene lamp and watched for the occasional set of cars lights to go ambling by on the gravel road just twenty-five feet from their front door. Otherwise, the pouring rain kept visibility to zero, except during sporadic flashes of lightning.
At one point in the storm, they heard a slight noise on their front porch, followed by a rap on the front door. Even before opening it, the two upright glass panels in the upper half of the door showed them it was a stranger who stood on their porch in the dim lamp light. The stranger explained that his truck was having transmission problems, and that he was going to park it in the yard of the sawmill across the road and walk to get his uncle, who was a good mechanic. He said that he was afraid to leave the truck unguarded and asked if they’d keep an eye on it while he was gone. They agreed, at which time the fellow left and backed the two-ton truck way back into the mill-yard, nearly out of sight.
For the next couple hours, the storm raged, with wind, pouring rain and lightning. Knowing that no-one with a lick a’ sense would be out in such weather, they didn’t watch the man’s truck too closely. Finally, a flash of lightning showed two men climbing into the truck. Soon after, it came growling out of the mill-yard, sounding as if it was all it could do to pull itself. No lightning flashed as the truck turned onto the gravel road and headed away, so Jack didn’t get a look at the truck through the pouring rain.
The next morning, the sun shone brightly as my dad, the mill owner, pulled into the mill-yard to look for damage to the sawmill shed from the storm. The shed was fine, but he noticed that something looked different in the yard. It took a couple minutes before he realized that a pile of lumber that he’d spent that week sawing was missing. When he went to the Jack’s house to ask if they’d seen anything, he learned the story. Dad reported the theft to the sheriff, knowing it would probably be a waste of time. A deputy stopped by and asked Jack and his wife a few questions, but you can’t describe a truck you haven’t seen. In fact, it’s hard enough to describe a man of average build, of average looks, in average clothes who was standing in the near darkness of lamp-light.
Nothing ever came of the report. The pouring rain had washed away any clues that might have been left in the dirt of the mill-yard, and Jack could add no helpful details. It was a hard lesson for a poor hill farmer to lose a week’s work, but we survived. Dad DID put a dusk-to-dawn light on the phone pole along the road. He figured that it might help keep down some of the ongoing mischief at the yard, as long as the lightning didn’t knock out the power.
This all happened in the early 1960’s. The mill is long gone, but a light still shines from the pole, only now, it shines into my front lawn. Despite what my title infers, nothing that happens here on Tick Ridge could ever be described as “great.” However, the event was boldly executed, it left the neighbors talking for weeks and the theft was a sizable loss to my father. I guess it was great enough by country bumpkin standards. © 2015