Saturday, June 18, 2016

Singleton tells of watching beautiful thunderstorm from hilltop north of Monroeville

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “There’s beauty to be found in thunderstorms” was originally published in the June 9, 1994 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

Late Saturday afternoon, I managed to slip away from the list of chores that my dear wife had presented me. After a man works hard all day in the “honey-do” labor camp, he needs a few moments of relaxation before darkness settles over the homestead.

So, I slipped out the back, and quick as a flash, I was on my way northward toward the hill country.

As I sped up Highway 41, I began to notice the thunderclouds gathered on the horizon and thin slivers of lightning dancing to and fro across the thickening cloud layers before me. I knew the time was at hand for me to make the decision to return home or run the risk of getting soaked to the bone.

As I was about to turn around and head for home, I thought of a high hill to the northeast where I knew that a show of the greatest magnitude awaited me. Thinking to myself that I had been wet and rained on many times, I wasn’t about to miss this display of God’s greatness that was just up the road.

Favorite spot

As I raced eastward toward one of my favorite spots, it seemed that the sound of bagpipes, playing the most beautiful hymn, “Amazing Grace,” somehow filtered into my riding helmet.

Expecting at every turn in the road to see heavy sheets of falling rain, I sped onward. But the rain seemed to keep its distance. None came.

Stopping my motorcycle atop the high hill, I hurried up to its highest point. There across the horizon to the northwest was a view that few are ever fortunate enough to witness. The purplish-blue thunderclouds hung low and heavy across the row of hills in the distance. Sharp, keen, beautiful streaks of lightning raced across the dark horizon as each seemed to try to be quicker and brighter than the previous one in a contest of a sorts underway.

As the bright sharp streaks raced across the heavens, the low rumble of thunder seemed to shake the purplish clouds that caused the lightning flashes to quiver and dance there in the distance.

Standing there atop the high hill, I watched the magnitude of the display in total amazement. I had seen many thunderstorms in my lifetime, but for some reason, this one was one of the greatest. As I gazed in awe toward the heavens around me, I realized how fragile man is when compared to the vastness of the universe.

Bolt of lightning

I knew that one small bolt of lightning that danced across the horizon before me could easily have wiped me and the high hill where I stood out and into the depths of oblivion in a second’s passing. But here I was, being allowed to witness a very small part of the greatness of the God that created the entire universe and many worlds beyond.

As it has many times in the past, my mind raced back to a time when perhaps an Indian medicine man, or Windwalker, as they sometimes were referred to, might have stood right here in the same place where I was standing. He would have stood with his eyes on the storm with his arms raised to the heavens and talked with the Great Spirit. He would have asked for guidance for his people; he would have asked for good health and happy campfires. He would have asked for the simple things, things that we today give no thought to. He would have prayed a simple prayer, such as the one that passed through my mind:

Oh Great Spirit that holds the thunder in one hand and the warm sun in the other, reach down and touch my soul and give me strength that I may walk with the swiftness of the deer and I may have the strength of the giant oak tree that grows beside the rippling waters.
Give me wisdom that I might seek food and shelter from the cold winter winds that howl down from the north. Guide my hands that I may use only that which I need and that I may walk straight and true toward the purple sunset.
As I grow old from the passing of many winters, let me look into the dawn of that great day when I will rest forever by the waters that give eternal life – in that place where the air is pure and the skies are forever blue.

The high hill beneath me seem to shake as the heavy rolls of thunder came closer and closer across the horizon. The many streaks of lightning shot upward into the heavens as if a giant display of fireworks had been triggered.

As the evening shadows seem to creep across the treetops, soft blankets of heavy mists began to cover the deep bottoms that lay to the northwest. Something told me that the time was fast approaching when the heavy rain seen in the distance would soon cover the hill where I was now standing. But the magnitude of the display before me caused me to linger for another moment, and another, and then another.

Time to depart

The soft patter of rain drops on the leaves of the giant mimosa tree over to my left told me that the time of departure was now at hand. As I made my way out toward the paved road, the beam of my headlight on the tall grass and underbrush caused me to realize that darkness was just minutes away.

I needed to hurry; I had a lot of explaining to do as to why I hadn’t finished that “honey-do” list my better half had supplied me. The thought came to me that perhaps if I slowed down and let the rain catch up with me, she would feel sorry for me if I came in all wet and soggy. Then again, she might make me stay outside and not let me in the house until I dried off; that could take hours or perhaps all night.

As I pulled up under the safety of the carport, the rain began to fall in a heavy downpour. My wife met me at the door and seemed concerned about my safety. Things might not be as bad as I expected; then again, one never knows. Only time will tell.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 1961) and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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