POE T R Y times while growing up. When he was a boy, his family had been in Smoky Mountains National Park one summer. During one hike off of the main roadway with his father, mother and brothers, a lady that they had just spoken to a few moments before was hit and killed by lightning right in front of them by a fast-moving storm. There was no help, no redemption and no way to save her life. By the way he had told the story, I now realize that the suddenness and randomness of that lady’s life being taken before him was omething that he would never forget. Now, he faced that prospect again with us under his wing, and he was trying to get us to safety. Just as I was pondering this, one of the members of our group toward the rear of our column screamed “Help!” at the top of his lungs. Fearing the worst, we all simulta- neously froze and turned back to see one of the younger boys standing there completely transfixed, still in the whip-
ping rain. He seemed unhurt, but we had all heard him
just scream for help. Just as my Dad was starting to chastise
him for scaring the crap out of all of us, he yelled again.
Stunned, he raised his arm and pointed to the valley below
us. Only by looking at the direction of his extended finger
did we then realize that he had not said “help,” but “elk,”
as he was pointing at a huge heard of elk moving below us,
Going up the second ridge-face was not easy. The rain
now was pelting us on an almost vertical angle, the trail was
slippery, the storms were booming, and we could not see
thirty feet in front of us. Like before, there was absolute-
ly no cover up here to protect us in any way. Luckily, this
second ridge was not as long as the one that we had just
The elevation and thin air that had previously sapped
our strength and our ability to breathe over the last three
days for some reason no longer seemed a factor. Everybody
was moving at a swift pace.
After all of us crossed over the top of the second ridge,
we could intermittently see through breaks in the storm
that the lower saddle that we had been expecting for some
time was below us. Stands of tall spruce and fir trees were
about 200 feet below us, and we could not wait to get to
their sanctuary. Suddenly, I realized with the constant flashes of light and booming around us that there was an ultimate irony of being hit by lightning with safety in sight.
I suspect that I was not the only one thinking this same
thought as we all made a mad dash down the remaining
open terrain in record time to the safety
of the trees below.
Next to what seemed to be an eternity, we all made it down to the tall grove
of trees and sat apart for the next forty
minutes while the storm unmercifully
pounded the area around us. Although
we thought that the storms with their
lightning displays had dissipated, there
was still enough booming and flashing going on above us that we are were
grateful to be in these protecting giants
while these storms played out.
As the thunderstorm subsided, hail
about the size of marbles fell, pelting our
bodies. Occasionally, however, a simultaneous lighting flash and boom above our
heads would remind us that we were not
out of danger yet.
Finally, the brunt of the storm passed.
As the lightning and thunder stopped,
the hail and rain continue to pour down
upon us. For the next twenty minutes,
we still stayed under the trees’ cover as
the afternoon’s storms started to calm
into a gentle mist.
While sitting there—still twenty feet
apart—I glanced over at my Dad who
was still at the front of our formation.
There, sitting in the rain under the protective canopy of tall trees, was my Dad.
He was looking upwards and smiling.
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Caught in the Open Bruce D. Brown
www.azbar.org/AZAttorney 66 ARIZONA ATTORNEY MAY 2016