News Columns & Blogs

Hope it never strikes once...

I’m guessing most of you missed a heck of a light show at 5:30  a.m. this morning.

Heading west on Highway 50 I had storm systems on three sides. Some of the lightening was amazing.

To the north came broad flashes that covered huge patches of clouds. From the south and west came well-defined bolts and no two were alike.

A few were single strands that shot from the clouds to the ground as they danced from side to side. Many started as a single bolt before splitting into four or five fingers that ate up huge horizontal stretches of sky before dipping earthward.

The show was so intense I’m pretty sure I could have driven with my headlights off…but I didn’t try. Had the lightening continued two hours later I wouldn’t have tried a quick teal hunt, either.

Most of the folks I share the outdoors with are a pretty hardy lot. We routinely waterfowl hunt on days when the wind is slinging sleet like BBs against our frigid skin. I’ve fished in torrential rains and waded through crotch-deep snow drifts to get to a favored pheasant hunting spot.

But nobody in their right mind goes out, no matter how good the hunting, fishing or birding, when lightening is even a remote threat…especially when caring a 12 gauge or seven-foot ultra-light lightening rod in their hands.

Death by lightening strike is far more a realistic threat than being fatally shot by another hunter or maimed by a wild animal. The destructive possibilities of what appears so pretty from the distance is almost mind-boggling.

A dozen years after the fact my mind still goes back to a summer afternoon in Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains. I was already limping along on a bad ankle after a skittish horse sent me flying from the saddle just minutes before.

We were moving into a building rain, headed for camp, when a bolt of lightening that started above our heads snaked to our left and dead-centered a huge hillside pine tree several hundred yards away.

It was like slow motion, seeing the  lightening go into the tree and the pine absolutely exploding into a shower of sparks and kindling. The yard-thick trunk was shattered about eight feet off the ground. In an utter downpour it was burning like a blow torch.

A  person can hustle pretty fast on a bum ankle when properly motivated.

Fortunately this morning’s system slid to the east before it was time to scatter decoys on a Reno County wetland. Still, we kept an eye on the clouds through-out the early morning hunt. One distant flash is all that would have been needed to send us to the truck.

I like watching lightening. But never when I’m standing outside.