Growing up in southern Wisconsin, we didn’t get many tornadoes, at least not compared to what we get in Oklahoma now. I do remember one particular storm that came through when I was about 10 or 11.

My family and I were at a beach that day, enjoying the sun and water. I always loved to swim to the edge of the roped off section. I can’t confirm nor deny whether I crossed that line or not – that would be reckless and unsafe.

I would also love to build castles in the sand. I was never an artist or sandcastle architect, but I could make something that would stay standing after using several buckets full. I would usually use the buckets to create towers for the four corners, and try to mold some walls to connect them. Of course, then I would have to dig around the castle to create a moat.

While I was running down to get water to fill the moat, I noticed a really dark cloud in the distance. It was huge! And I could tell that there was severe rain pouring from it. I thought it was pretty cool that I could be standing their enjoying the sun on the beach while seeing such a storm in the distance.

Then the alarm began to sound. The tornado siren was loud and caused everyone to rush back to their vehicles. We only lived a few minutes away, so we got back quickly and down into the basement in plenty of time. We were down there for about 6 hours in kid-time (it was probably less than an hour).

After the storm, we went outside to see what happened. Trees were down all over. There was a mess all over the place. It wasn’t an actual tornado (no circulation) – just really strong straight winds.

The weather seemed about as nice after the storm as it was before the storm, so my brother and I went down the street to the park. We were pleasantly surprised to find a huge limb of a tree hanging down from 20 feet or so in the air. On the ground, the limb was probably 20 feet wide as well. I mentioned last week that my brother and I loved to build snow forts, and our fort-building desires spanned the rest of the year as well.

So we began to climb the limb. We climbed all the way up to the point where it was barely connected to the tree. To be honest, we never should have been up there. But, we were boys and climbing and forts is what we did.

Over the next couple days, we would come back to this tree and began to work at turn it into a fort. We even had to try to defend it from invaders. We were so proud of the work we were doing.

Then we had a horrible experience. No, the limb didn’t break on us. No, we didn’t fall and get hurt. It was much worse than that. The city came and cut the branch down and put it through a chipper!

It was a very sad day. But we were resourceful and went to work on a make-shift tree fort in our yard.