The air is heavily perfumed with the white blossoms of the exotic Japanese Honeysuckle, Chinese Privet and native Roughleaf dogwoods. The torrents of rain have changed docile rivers and creeks into wild forces of nature. Huge amounts of water are being released from Keystone Dam, allowing the Arkansas River to throw off its shackles and turn into a raging bull.

The air is heavily perfumed with the white blossoms of the exotic Japanese Honeysuckle, Chinese Privet and native Roughleaf dogwoods. The torrents of rain have changed docile rivers and creeks into wild forces of nature. Huge amounts of water are being released from Keystone Dam, allowing the Arkansas River to throw off its shackles and turn into a raging bull.

In the Kentucky Derby my horse ‘Bodexpress’ had trouble negotiating the flying mud and soggy conditions and finished 14th. Last Saturday he decided to run the Maryland Preakness solo after bucking off his little jockey. As a matter of fact, Bodexpress ran an additional lap after the race despite an attempt to get him off the track. Bodexpress will not run in the New York Belmont Stakes. Shucks. War of Will (WoW) outran 12 other horses with jockeys, won the Preakness and will race in NY. The artist who paints the Pimlico cupola arrived beforehand with 35 cans of paint. This year, the WoW winning colors: pink and black.

We had been warned about severe weather. The cellar was cleared of most spiders, scorpions, roly-polies and aired out. The Palmer’s Sand Springs Criterium last Saturday was an anniversary of sorts. The day was lovely as we watched competitive racing. Exactly six years ago the clouds raced across the sky and the air was muggy and thick. Races ended and we grabbed a quick bite at Braum’s. Radar showed red blobs in central OK. We took off. From Turner Turnpike I saw the Carney tornado before it became wrapped in clouds. Got home just in time to open house windows and fly into the cellar before Tornado Bob (EF 4/5) with escorts ripped through our neighborhood. Gary England, on our weather radio, issued dire warnings. The roar was deafening and the smell of pulverized woodlands permeated the air inside the cellar. Took over 2 years to get somewhat back to normal in our area.

Last Monday the atmosphere was oppressive. The house windows had fogged and surfaces were sweating. The afternoon brought tornadoes in western Oklahoma which resembled elephant trunks, snakes and funnels with much rain.

Early Tuesday morning, about 4:30 am, the sound of distant sirens woke me up. Shawnee was blowing their whistles at full blast. The sky was aglow with constant flashes of lightning as hail hit the roof. Jumping out of bed, I trotted down the hall to the front room and turned on the TV. Pottawatomie County was in a tornado warning, specifically the Grand Casino area.

Wait. When we went to bed, the line of storms west of OKC was slowly trudging eastward with heavy rain but little chance of hail or tornadoes. Now Dale was in the bull’s eye of a tornado. A previous tornado had followed a similar path through our neighborhood. We pulled on shoes, grabbed raincoats, the lantern and cell phone, opened windows and told the cats it was not time for breakfast. I hastily assembled my tornado bag: purse, pair of shoes, clean socks, family pictures, flashlight and laptop. The trail to the cellar was surrounded by wet dripping plants. Once the door was opened, we gingerly climbed down the metal ladder, lit the candle and fired up the old weather radio. Once again, Channel 9 was there, this time tracking the tornado toward Meeker. Three brown recluses were tightly tucked into themselves on the ceiling. The longer we sat there, the more active they became. Time to leave.

Turns out there were two circulations (EF 0/1) in the rotating mesocyclone. We gladly returned to bed, but I just could not get back to sleep. Thunder in the distance and the pitter patter of raindrops kept me occupied.

Damage happened and, at Dale, trailers were tossed. Heed this phrase: “Turn Around Don’t Drown.” Helicopters hovered overhead videoing trucks and cars driving into fast-moving water flowing over roads and bridges. They either made it, backed out, went sideways or stalled out. One white truck got to the other side. The driver rolled down his window and gave a thumbs up. The newscaster said loudly “Hey, do you not know what ‘Turn around Don’t Drown’ means? The driver yelled his truck was a Dodge. Irritated meteorologist Emily Sutton (Channel 4) responded “Dodge doesn’t mean dodge flooding!’

It’s been raining cats and dogs lately. Right, this is a figure of speech, but my relatives were pet people. My dad’s mom kept outdoor stray cats (highest count18) for rodent control. She put out just enough food to keep them around. Consequently, my dad did not like cats. My parents preferred dogs, but the occasional cat did find its way into our family (and chickens, horses, ponies, quail, rabbits, fish… )

My husband and I have had cats (with a few dogs thrown in): Gerald the orange tabby, 3 gray tabbies (Dasher, Abend and Sammy), 3 Siamese (Tommy, Coco and Simon), Wesley the Maine Coon mix, Cleo the tailless, Morgan the Calico, Yogi the chow/elkhound, Phoenix the Border collie, and Grizzle the lab-chow. Most were rescues and all were sterilized.

One son is owned by a black Labrador he brought home after the puppy lost its mom twelve years ago. Rocco now has cataracts, but still likes a good walk and ribs. The other son adopted two cats through the local animal rescue group at Pet Smart. Both animals were two to three years of age.

Fuzzy has long white and gray hair and a loving disposition; very similar to our long gone long-haired Wesley who never met an enemy. Well….. there was Ruth, the German lady across the street who often came over to hold him, caress him, pet him and whisper sweet nothings into his ears while his eyes pleaded with me to tell her to put him down and go home. Wesley was so cool.

The long lean tabby had dark stipes on a deep gray background. His mischievous brilliant green eyes betrayed little as he retreated into himself. This animal was aloof and untrusting. He ripped apart and shredded couches, carpets, shoes, and earned the name of Little Stinker. Six years it took for him to gradually warm to his human family. Nevertheless, the distinctive tabby was a ghost throughout much of his life whenever company visited. No one ever saw him.

For an animal that weighed 8 pounds, Stinker could shake the house with his thumping as he walked or ran across the floor or up and down the stairs. His purr was deep and lusty. Scratch him between his shoulder blades or at the base of his tail and he was all yours, if you were among his chosen few. His favorite food was salmon. Catnip elicited a wild response. He tore apart more than a few Christmas boxes with catnip toys, unwrapping the kid’s gifts in the process.

Both cats spent hours at the patio glass doors watching squirrels and birds. Last October, a thin Stinker seemed very uneasy, ravenous and thirsty. The veterinarian checked him, took blood tests and determined Stinker’s thyroid gland was way over doing it. Before the medication could become effective, his lungs and the sac around his heart began to fill with fluid. The poor kitty would lay around panting as his heart trilled. Treatments to drain fluid could not undo the damage done.

Wednesday May 13th 2009, a loving family welcomed Stinker into their lives. Wednesday May 15th 2019, Stinker said goodbye.

The animals that come into our lives are there for a reason. Perhaps it is only for love.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.