or get carried away by a twister

This afternoon I saw my first tornado. I'd always expected to spy a tornado swirling down from the angry clouds and tearing along the land at some safe distance, but this one started as a travelling puff of dust and sand that kicked up about twenty feet from where I was walking and started to rotate as it passed by. At its closest to me it was about four feet high and shaped like a fast-moving, sandy shrub, but then the whole thing suddenly whipped into a counterclockwise spin, contracted and climbed up into a twelve-foot column of whirling dirt.



Right now I wish that I'd run over and stuck my foot into it while it was still small, just to say that I'd survived a tornado. As soon as it became a visible funnel, though, I realized that I was absolutely alone on a wide-open plain with no trees, no shelter, and my only friend was a growing gravel-pelting dust devil. I'd spoken to enough meterologists and survivors to know that tornados do bizarre things, gathering in strength or collapsing in a heap of dirt, zigzagging and reversing. I could see why certain cultures would attribute the presence of some spirit in a tornado; the dust gave it a weird shimmering form. I could see a line of trees and a billboard behind the column. Just as I was considering my options, though, it took off in the opposite direction and disappeared into the train yards. If you live in my area and see engineers flying through the air, you'll know why.