I first recall seeing jars of canned food in the light of a kerosene lamp in the dank and dark storm cellar. I was just a kid, and it was where we went during bad storms.
My grannies would be huddled down in the cellar with me to wait out those storms. Oftentimes the neighbor ladies came over as well because they didn’t have their own storm cellar to go to.
Storms can be serious business in Oklahoma.
August is often a month for powerful thunderstorms. And for many places, thunder and lightning reach their crescendo for the whole year.
It is one of the clearest memories I have of those long ago years. Being in that storm cellar while thunderstorms swept into town, and then raged for hours.
I will never forget the way the light danced across the canning jars as whoever held the kerosene lantern tried to hold it still.
During the winter, those jars of food were taken down from the shelves for meals.
During The Thunder Storm:
The other thing I recall inside the cellar was what we called daddy longlegs.
Also called harvestmen, they are an order of arachnids. They are known for their extremely long and thin legs and compact bodies.
They would raise those long thin legs and plant them down solidly in the next spot. Their bodies were minuscule compared to those long, long legs.
I would watch them as they crawled, unhurried, across the ceiling and walls in the cellar. They were unperturbed by the loud storm outside the cellar walls.
It was always a kind of fierce reckoning when the storm’s winds calmed down and the thunder stopped.
Then the cellar door was pushed open from the inside, and we would walk up the cement steps back into the light. Sometimes I’d see a colorful rainbow in the cleared sky.
When You Were Allowed In The Cellar:
That cellar reminded me of a humpback whale.
There were two reasons you were allowed in that cellar. One was during bad storms. And in Oklahoma, we often had bad storms and high winds.
The other was when one of my grannies went inside to fetch canned jars of food.
They’d carefully lift the heavy cellar door and lay it against the grassy hump in the dirt. Then they’d go inside to retrieve jars of food for meals.
Looking at it from the outside, the storm cellar was a hulking presence; a little menacing in my eyes.
On the inside, it was just a dark and damp place, used as an underground pantry as well as a place of refuge.
The Canning Jars:
In my mind’s eye, I can still see the canning jars gleaming in the light.
We didn’t have a car to go into town to the grocery store. So summertime was when the canning of food from our garden commenced.
Then the filled jars were taken outside and down into the cellar and lined up on the shelves.
The food that came from those jars is what people buy in cans today. But you can’t replicate the taste of food in cans to what we ate from those jars.
My childhood memories of the storm cellar come back to me during bad storms.