New Website Alert!

May 23, 2009

My new website is . It’s up and running, so come and visit! And my first book will see the light of day as “Spooky North Dakota” (I argued for “Haunted” but lost) in 2010, although I’ll submit the manuscript in 2009. Also “Spooky South Dakota.”  Unless that becomes “Spooky Creepy South Dakota.” (Scooby Doo, where are you?!)


In one  particularly stormy month,  our hard-working crew was camped on Bureau of Reclamation land, pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  As usual, we had two tents: One belonged to our fearless leader, Arlen. It was modern, fairly easy to set up, and could hold three people if they were washed and good friends. The other, well, that’s almost a story in itself.

The University of North Dakota, for whom we were working, had been bequeathed the tents used by the all-too-brief archaeological survey of the area that would be flooded by Garrison Dam. In the early 1950s. After seeing these tents, we didn’t believe that story. No, we were quite sure they’d been left behind by the Seventh Cavalry when Custer took his last trip to Montana Territory. They were moldy, mildewy, gargantuan canvas tents, floorless and cheerless. And leaky. They were for the crew. Of course.

The skies were clouding up, but we had some beer, and three of us gals decided to leave the menfolk to their silly tales of conquests, past and future, and take a 6-pack to Arlen’s tent. We were sitting inside talking about archaeology, and archaeologists we’d like to work with, when we heard the first rumbles of thunder and the first raindrops on the tent.

Arlen looked out the flap, and said, “It looks nasty. Let’s head to the other tent!”

She and Jeani managed to get out and run for the Custer tent, but my legs were tangled in a sleeping bag, and by the time I got to the tent’s exit, it was pouring rain and starting to hail. I decided I’d ride it out in where I was. I’d just finished my beer, after all, and there were three left in the six pack.

It continued to rain and hail, and I continued to sip on a beer. Or beers. Suddenly I heard a noise like a freight train. Having grown up at the north end of Tornado Alley, I knew what that meant, but I had to look out the flap anyway.  Sure enough, about a quarter mile away a funnel cloud had dropped from the ceiling (cloud ceiling — I wasn’t that drunk) and was headed straight for us.

I zipped up the flaps and thought. Let’s see. Take shelter in the basement. No basement. Take shelter in a sturdy interior room. No buildings, no rooms. Don’t get into your vehicle. OK, I could manage that. Hide in a culvert. Well, unpaved two-track road: no culverts. No shelter at all. I decided that where I was wasn’t any worse than anywhere I could get to, so I cracked open another beer.

The noise got louder, the tent began to rock, and I heard a “ping” as a tent stake pulled loose from the ground. I took a long drink. The tent continued rocking, and the pingings continued, from time to time.  I continued drinking, and tried to remember songs from “The Wizard of Oz.” 

Finally the roar and the thunder stopped, and the rain slowed to a scatter, then stopped as well. A few minutes later, Arlen unzipped the tent flap. Jeani was looking over her shoulder.

“She looks OK,” Arlen said.

“She looks drunk,” Jeani said.

“Are we in Kansas?” I asked.

Arlen shook her head. “You look like some kind of strange bird that lines its nest with bottles. A giant magpie, maybe.”

“A Kill-Beer,” Jeani corrected.

This struck me as incredibly clever and hysterically funny. As I was rolling in the sleeping bag, laughing, it occurred to me that I’d had more than twice my usual amount of beer. They could be right. Hmm.

“Why didn’t  you come over to the big tent with us?” Arlen asked.

“Well, I got tangled up, and by the time I got untangled, it was hailing. And I did have the beer…”

It turned out that I had chosen the best shelter, even if it was only secured by  two stakes at that point. The ancient canvas of the Custer tent (which, honestly, should have been on exhibit in a museum) couldn’t withstand the hail, or even the hard rain. It was now full of holes, as well as soaking wet inside and out. I was the only dry one in the group — on the outside, at least.

There was another 6-pack in the cooler in the Custer tent, but I’d had my share, and sat on the cooler while the others drank a bit. That was the closest to a tornado that any of us has ever come — or ever want to. But we’d been lucky. Aside from the holes in the tent, and wet clothes, we’d received no damage at all.

There was a great gouge running across the road and through the open area between the tents.  Mother Nature can be violent, but apparently she shows mercy to beery archaeologists.  And I don’t drink anymore.

I’ve already published this at Associated Content, just for fun. You can read it here:

Cannibal families? Zombies? Werewolves? They’re out there! So be prepared!