Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What sound takes you back in time?

I am a big country music fan, but in my growing up years I listened to a lot of pop music.  Two of my favorite groups to this day are Journey and Foreigner.  If I hear one of their songs now, I immediately drift back to a place as a kid that I vividly remember -- like a high school dance, a school bus ride home from elementary school, a drive to the livestock market with my dad, a stroll through the grocery aisle with mom, or when I would just chill out in my bedroom. 

But there is one sound that still is my favorite.  The fan.  There is something about its cool soothing nature that takes me back to several places, like my Grandma Hines' kitchen.  In the summer, I would often walk into her kitchen on a Saturday afternoon right when the west side of the house was getting its strongest rays from the sun.  There'd be grandma peeling an apple at the sink and standing right in the path of the breeze.  The powerful fan would be humming its tune in the front hall doorway, which led into the kitchen.  And this wasn't just any fan.  It was one of those high-powered machines that could blow you over!  I'd sit on the chair next to the fan to cool off.  It was almost hypnotizing.  Our family enjoyed grandma's fan so much, we soon started sporting the same model in our farm house living room.  And like in grandma's kitchen, I began enjoying the soothing sounds while watching t.v., which pretty much always led to a quick summer time nap before the next round of farm chores.

Photo from Dover Projects.
Then there was the metal box fan that was in the hallway window upstairs in our farm house.  This fan scared me.  While it definitely served a purpose to cool down the upstairs bedrooms, little did my parents know that this particular fan brought fears to me when I was nine years old.  For one thing, I hated storms.  After all, we lived in the eastern-most section of Tornado Alley (see map below at red arrow).  Whenever the fan would start pulling hard in the opposite direction due to an incoming weather front,  I knew we'd be in for a bad one.  I started to believe that because I was getting so good at figuring out the fan's reactions, I had physic powers!  The hall fan was never wrong.

Early one night while in my bedroom, I noticed the hall fan started pulling direction.  I rushed to turn it off, took it out of the window, shut the window and then headed downstairs to be with the rest of my family in the living room to watch t.v.  Sure enough, the fan was telling me something.  A tornado warning had just come across the t.v. screen for the county located just west of us.  We were in the path of the storm. I can remember going outside with my family to watch the pea-soup colored sky just over the line of trees opposite from our house -- a definite sign that bad weather was coming.  The calm before the storm was eery.  No animals or birds could be heard.  It was if they knew the fan was telling them "to take cover now," too!  Everything was so still UNTIL the front arrived.

I remember my family rushing to their places when the storm got closer.  Dad starting yelling to my brother to go with him to shut the barn doors.  I ran inside our house to shut every window to keep the wind and rain out, and then I went back outside with mom on the front porch to anxiously wait for my dad and brother to return.  Just about this time, a state highway patrolman whizzed by our house to take post on the overpass bridge located up the hill so he could watch for funnel clouds.  As the winds started to howl and huge rain drops began beating down, pea-sized hail began to fall and trees limbs started breaking off.  Deep in the background, we could hear the faint sound of the tornado siren from the nearby town, along with an emergency alert on the local country music radio station (WNCO) to let us know we needed to take cover. 

All night long we listened and watched as storms hammered our area.  As for me, I shook in panic.  Luckily, we received little damage from this particular storm.  But it was during this same summer that we had to dodge several tornado-potential storms.  I believe the thing that helped prepare me for them was that ol' 20-inch box fan in the hallway window.  Would you believe I now own two of them and have used them in the upstairs bedroom windows even though we have central heating and air?  Of course, I only use them when the temperatures aren't too hot and I long to hear the humming sound again that takes me back to my childhood on the farm.  However, I do keep a small fan by my desk in my office at work that helps me cool off in the heat of the South and to get that special "sound fix" I enjoy from time to time.   

So, what is the one sound above all others that takes you back in time?  

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