Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"An April Day"

By Jo Carolyn Anderson Beebe

I was four years old when the 1942 tornado hit Baldwyn. We lived in Miss Jessie Archer's house where the library is today. Lorene Grisham and her children, Betty Lane and Bobby, lived in the house too, as did Mother's cousin, Aileen Ricks Hoover. Mrs. Haddon (Ruth) Palmer had stopped by for a visit. Mother happened to look out the window and saw the tornado, and said, "Oh, Lord. There's a tornado." I remember seeing that black tail coming toward our house. We tried to get to the basement at the Christian Church, but it was too late. We all got under the bed in Aileen's room. No room for her. She lay on the bed and described what was happening outside.

After the storm passed, I was standing on the front steps and saw my daddy running home from the Carnation Milk Plant where he worked. My Great-uncle Joe who had a blacksmith shop behind Mr. Charlie Pierce's store came to the house and took me to the family farm at Frankstown in his Model A. We had to drive on the sidewalk because the street was filled with bricks from the Christian Church. We spent the night in the storm house.

When I wrote "An April Day," I didn't remember that the tornado struck in March. I also took a liberty in placing Bob and Jack's house next door to ours.

The poetic form for "An April Day" is called a sestina. See if you can figure out the pattern.


There had been an uneasiness that day.

Mother played Old Maid with us and kept us near the house.

Distant rumblings came from the southwest of our town.

Intervals of sunlight burst through scattered clouds.

But mostly there had been showers which created

a muggy, sticky, close feeling.

In the late afternoon the overcast sky--like someone feeling

sick from riding a roller coaster all day--

became a shade of yellow-green that created

an illusion of chartreuse chiffon over each house.

On the horizon the green changed to blue-black as the clouds

churned and roiled, and a hush fell upon our town.

No leaves stirred. No birds sang. Our town

lay waiting; waiting, feeling

anxious about the strange clouds.

Had it been an ordinary day,

Bob and Jack, who lived in the house

next door, would have been in our yard. They created

more noise than all the other boys put together created;

but like other mothers in our town

that afternoon, their mother kept them inside their house.

With a common worried feeling,

we watched the sky that day.

Suddenly, gone were the clouds

of fluffy chiffon. Now the dark clouds

were stirred by a whirling wind until it created

a funnel-shaped mass which turned the quiet green day

into a roaring black nightmare, and our town

was blasted by the noise of a hundred locomotives. A feeling

of turmoil filled our house.

The beast's tail dipped and twisted as it approached the house.

We screamed and ran to escape the clouds,

but there was no place to hide. With a frantic feeling,

Mother shoved us under a bed and created

as good a shelter as could be found in our town

on that April day.

We lay there listening and feeling the wind that had created

the twisting clouds. Bob and Jack's mother died in their house;

Death was all across our town; we would always be afraid of a quiet green day.


We welcome Jo Carolyn to the Bearcat friends. She is a Baldwynian but moved away at age 14. I'll bet some of you remember her (study the photo). Thanks, Jo, for your great contribution. We look forward to more. She has an article of an old wedding that we will have a good chuckle reading (if she can find it).


  1. Wonderful detail and recall of the occasion. I cheated and googled the sestina. Look forward to more of your work.

    Does anybody know any of the football players or model of the vehicle?

  2. Jo Carolyn,

    Thanks for the poem. It brought back vivid memories of that fateful day in the spring of 1942. I was at my grandmother Boren's home when the tornado hit. I still remember looking out the window and seeing debris flying through the air. Our barn was blown away and our good milk cow was killed. The mule in the next stall was spared. Tornados do strange things. I was a late teenager befor I lost my fear of storms.

    I look forward to seeing more of your work.


  3. I was about 5 when that storm occurred. I still remember it. Were you writing about Jack and Bob Christian?
    Nice work.
    Deborah Hill
    Altitude, MS

  4. Yes, Jack and Bob Christian were playmates.

  5. I moved from Baldwyn in early teens. Knew Bob well and Jack some. Knew they were motherless, but didn't know why, just never asked. Thanks. Enjoyed the poem.

  6. Sue K. HoneycuttJune 4, 2008 at 8:51 PM

    Jo Carolyn, I always enjoy reading what you write. You are so talented. Hope ya'll are o.k. Tell Blanche I said hello.