Rain Rain Go Away
by bj max
In the early morning dawn I sit on an idling motorcycle under an overcast sky waiting for my wife who has ducked back inside the house for a last look-see to make sure the steam iron or the stove or something or other is turned off. The Happy Bottom Riding, Yachting and Snipe Hunting Club is scheduled to ride today and we are to rendezvous with them at the Longtown truck stop in thirty minutes. While I wait I am entertained by the graphics on my GPS as it seeks out the navigation satellites orbiting 22,000 miles above, courtesy of the United States Air Force. I shake my head in amazement at this fascinating little gadget and look towards the heavens in wonder.
High over my head in the towering clouds, water vapor condenses and a cloud droplet is formed. As the warm air rises the droplet is carried higher and higher and eventually reaches an altitude where it freezes into an ice crystal. The ice crystal eventually grows heavy and falls. When it meets the warm summer air it melts and plummets toward the earth at twenty miles per hour until SPLAT! It hits me right between the eyes. I cuss and go into a child like fit of frustration. I hate rain.
Rain has ruined many a road trip for my wife and I. A few years ago we had just finished running Deal’s Gap and were taking a break. From our two thousand-foot vantagepoint we could see thunderstorms in the distance and naturally they were parked over the Foothills Parkway, our route back to home base in Gatlinburg. So Sugar Booger and I, along with our fellow road warriors, Hillbilly and Brenda, suited up for a wet ride. That’s an understatement really. Only Noah could have appreciated what we rode through on that short twenty-mile hop. At one point we were riding at no more than ten MPH and for the first time since buying our fancy brand name rain suits, water found its way under my collar and trickled down my back causing me to shiver. But it rained so hard that day I don’t think anything short of a Coast Guard Gumby would have kept us dry. Godfrey Daniels! I cussed’ our miserable situation and I cussed’ the manufacturer of our suits, but most of all I cussed’ the rain.
For someone who hates rain as bad as I do, this is not a good year to be living in Memphis. It’s been unusually wet and rainy. Reminds me of Florida where you can set your watch by the three o’clock thunderstorms. Normally, on the first day of summer, like turning off a faucet, the rain ends and you wonder if it will ever rain again. But not in 2004. This year we wonder if it will ever stop. I plan all of our club rides and I go to a lot of trouble designing flyers, working out time schedules and mileage, planning, typing and distributing the itinerary, e-mailing updates and so on but so far this year, all that hard work has gone out the window because of rain. The problem, as I understand it, is the jet stream. It usually meanders further north by now and consequently the storms meander further north leaving the south high and dry. But Mother Nature is in a foul mood and the storms have lingered into the summer.
My wife finally returns from inside the house and, as usual, none of the appliances had been left on. Never are. But it makes her happy to double-check everything and if it makes her happy then what do I care? We finally roll out of the drive and right on cue the rain intensifies and by the time we merge onto I-40 we were running in heavy showers. I complained and griped and cussed’ as my poor wife rode in silence, waiting patiently for my tirade to end. She’s a good gal and puts up with my temper tantrum, God bless her, and patiently waits until I settle down then softly points out that things could be worse. “Worse?” I grouse. “I don’t know why you think that. It’s pouring down rain. We’re idiots. That’s what we are. Only an idiot would leave a perfectly good automobile sittin’ in the garage and ride off in the pouring rain on a motorcycle. Not only are we idiots, but we are soon to be soaking wet idiots.” Her patience never faltered and she softly recited an old childhood rhyme. Rain rain go away. Come back again another day. Yeah right.
The rain beat down harder and I rode in grim silence, cussing’ under my breath. Then, for some reason that I can’t explain, probably my wife’s quiet composure and that silly rhyme, I got to thinking about what she said, you know, about things being worse and all that and I was reminded of a story I had recently read about a courageous and heroic bomber crew back in WWII. The “Lady Be Good” was a B-24 Liberator and in the spring of 1942 she took off on her first and last bombing mission. Her target was Naples, Italy but thirty minutes from the target she turned around with engine trouble. On her way back to her home base in Libya she got lost and wandered 485 miles out into the desert, ran out of gas and was lost. Her crew was listed as MIA, missing in action.
Nothing was heard from the “Lady Be Good” or her crew until sixteen years later when an oil exploration team stumbled across the crumpled bomber. The crew was missing and several more years passed before they were found. A crude and poignant diary kept by one of the crew members was discovered with the remains of its author and it told a remarkable story of courage and superhuman efforts to survive. These kids walked eighty-five miles across the Sahara desert, one of the hottest places on Earth, (Mid-day temps of 130 degrees are not uncommon). Somehow they managed to survive for eight days on a half canteen of water. That’s roughly a pint of water divided among the eight surviving crew members. According to experts, they suffered an agonizingly slow and painful death.
What a tragic tale. A half canteen of water! I couldn’t get that out of my mind. And here I was riding along in a drenching downpour griping and complaining. I wiped my face shield and thought about those poor boys on the “Lady Be Good” and the hell that made up the last days of their short lives. It sobered me and I’m sure my wife wondered why I had suddenly quit grumbling. Fact was, I felt ashamed of myself and had quickly come to the realization of just how fortunate I am to live in a part of the world that has such an abundance of rain. And with that thought in mind I looked up into the dark, rain swollen clouds, remembered the suffering of that heroic bomber crew and whispered a silent and humble prayer. Thank you Lord. Thank you for the rain.