Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

 

…so, naturally, I was afraid! It didn’t even need to be stormy. If it was dark, I was afraid. As you all know, I grew up on a farm in a little mountain valley where I could see every star in the universe once twilight ceased and darkness reigned. Every. Single. Star. I should have been in awe! And, if I was outside with someone else, I certainly could relax and appreciate the limitless view of the heavens.

But, if I was alone in the dark, for whatever reason, inside or outside, all I experienced was a heart-pounding irrational fear. One evening we drove to town to go see a movie. It could have been a Disney cartoon classic or something equally innocuous like “The Parent Trap” or some Doris Day film. It doesn’t matter because also shown was a Woody Woodpecker cartoon that involved a vampire vulture stalking Woody. Naturally, Woody was oblivious to the threat, and every time the vulture just missed getting Woody. But that vulture’s looming face, coming up behind cheerful little Woody Woodpecker really got to me! When we were home, I went to the bathroom to get ready for bed, and THERE WAS THE VAMPIRE VULTURE!! No, seriously, I swear I saw him in the darkness of the window panes over the bathtub. He WAS there. So, from then on, if I went to the bathroom after dark, I had to consciously NOT look at the windows, or I couldn’t even stay in there long enough to brush my teeth.

Sure, you say, a little kid, about 8 years old, would have a reaction like that. It’s understandable. However, when I was 12 or 13 and would babysit for our various neighbors, I wasn’t any more recovered from my nyctophobia. One neighbor (a young widow) lived across the highway, and one house down. Her home was across the road from our cow pasture, maybe 300 yards from our house. I would walk over to her house in the evening twilight to babysit her three little ones, and when she came back, I’d walk home. It took all my powers to force myself to WALK back along the highway. There were no cars at that time of night, so I would follow the yellow stripes that were the center of the road. I did that so that I could force myself to walk. If I’d get along the edge of the road, then the willows that grew along one side would unnerve me with their mysterious rustling and shadows. One night I surrendered to my (completely irrational) fears and I started to run. A person cannot run fast enough when motivated by terror, let me assure you.

This ridiculous state of mind would even kick in as an older teen if I was the last one to leave the milking barn to go into the house after our chores were finished. This only applied in the winter because it got dark by five or six o’clock then. I’d shut the lights off in the barn. I’d walk over to the other side of the barn, and reach in and shut off the floodlight that illuminated the barnyard, and then I’d have about sixty yards to walk over to the house. In the dark. Sure, there were lights in the house and a porch light. And, remember: you could see every single star in the northern hemisphere…and yet… Again, I had to force myself to maintain a calm pace across the crusty snow-covered ground to the yard gate, and walk through the lilac trees to the porch door, and not surrender to the little panic rising in my chest about… whatever!! It was so ridiculous!

Mind you: I broke my own horse! I survived getting bucked off several other horses. I helped my dad and sisters brand our cattle every spring. I’d fended off angry mother cows who didn’t want me to take the calf to the pen. I had a lot of courage when it came to Real Life Scary Stuff. But–The Dark?? No WAY!

It lasted at least until I had children because I also recall reading an anthology of Stephen King stories one night in bed after I was married. My husband had overnight duty at the Navy base where he was stationed, and so I was home alone in our little apartment. Don’t read Stephen King’s stories when you’re home alone in the dark. You cannot imagine how hard it was to put my feet down on the floor from the bed…hoping-hoping-hoping that nothing would grab them when I had to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night!

I don’t know when it finally ended. I’m not a scaredy-cat anymore about darkness. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in cities so long now where “darkness” isn’t really too dark. Maybe I just finally grew out of it. Maybe being a wife and mother helped me to learn what is really scary in life! But I’m really glad that I’m no longer freaking out just because it is A Dark and Stormy Night!

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Cow Girl: You cannot imagine how hard it was to put my feet down on the floor from the bed…hoping-hoping-hoping that nothing would grab them when I had to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night! 

    I was doing just fine until I read this part. I hope it doesn’t come back to me when I get up in the middle of the night!

    Great story, Cow Girl! I’m glad you outgrew it!

    • #1
    • October 15, 2020, at 11:14 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. PHCheese Member

    Growing up in Pittsburgh I didn’t think we had stars over us until I believe 1958 or 1959 when most of the steel mills shut down because of a major labor strike. We did get some light from the blast furnaces , the light bouncing off the smokey skies. Sometimes we even got black snow. I guess this is what a lot of China is experiencing. I also got nervous taking a short cut through the woods coming from my friends house at night. There were parallel rows of monkey ball ( Osage orange)trees about three hundred years long that I had to transverse. Occasionally a ball would fall and thump the ground. These things weighed several pounds and made quite the noise. Once I even turned around and took the long way home about a half mile further. Where I live now close to the ocean we have lots of stars because there is no light pollution to the East. I love it. Very little smoke as well. From my perspective the environment is about 99% better than the 40s, through the 80s.

    • #2
    • October 15, 2020, at 11:52 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You couldn’t control the barn light and the milk house light from the farmhouse? Gramma’s house was built in 1875. It wasn’t wired for electricity until my dad was very small*. The switches at the kitchen door were for the kitchen, the porch, the milk house, and the barn. All that plus the security light over the farmyard, and it was practically Broadway out there.


    * He remembers, barely, when the only lights in the house were kerosene lamps. A relative wired the house. I had a detailed look at the wiring once. Dad saw what I was doing and the look on my face and asked “What’s wrong … isn’t it to code?” I said “Yeah. Hammurabi’s.”

    • #3
    • October 15, 2020, at 12:57 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  4. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl

    Percival (View Comment):
    He remembers, barely, when the only lights in the house were kerosene lamps. A relative wired the house. I had a detailed look at the wiring once. Dad saw what I was doing and the look on my face and asked “What’s wrong … isn’t it to code?” I said “Yeah. Hammurabi’s.”

    Hammurabi’s!!! Hilarious! No, the lights in the barn were all controlled in the barn. The lights in the house were all controlled in the house. What a great idea however! That would have saved me lots of angst!

    • #4
    • October 15, 2020, at 1:25 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Randy Webster Member

    https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=UzVGSYyc&id=5D9B6DBC1F126CCC3C11AB2C21E2FDAC4532C37B&thid=OIP.UzVGSYyc-OazRWahfRUzHwHaCY&mediaurl=https%3a%2f%2fallcrnaschools.info%2fimg%2f524481.jpg&exph=258&expw=800&q=calvin+and+hobbes+monsters+under+the+bed&simid=608006883584511419&ck=A83029ACB602C51BEEC84E6490817A5E&selectedIndex=234&FORM=IRPRST&ajaxhist=0

    • #5
    • October 15, 2020, at 3:30 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Hang On Member
    Hang On Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    They had flashlights back then, didn’t they?

    I’m not trying to be flippant. I have a fear of heights under certain conditions. But can control it also under certain conditions and always look for ways to mitigate.

    • #6
    • October 15, 2020, at 4:24 PM PDT
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  7. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Hang On (View Comment):

    They had flashlights back then, didn’t they?

    I’m not trying to be flippant. I have a fear of heights under certain conditions. But can control it also under certain conditions and always look for ways to mitigate.

    Remember–she started the story when she was a kid.

    • #7
    • October 15, 2020, at 4:40 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Juliana Member

    I used to be terrified of thunderstorms until I was a mom and realized I had to stay calm for my children. There is something to be said for imparting a sense of calm to someone else, which releases the original fear. Can’t say the same about my fear of snakes, though. I don’t even like pictures of snakes.

    • #8
    • October 15, 2020, at 4:53 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Hang On Member
    Hang On Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    They had flashlights back then, didn’t they?

    I’m not trying to be flippant. I have a fear of heights under certain conditions. But can control it also under certain conditions and always look for ways to mitigate.

    Remember–she started the story when she was a kid.

    Understood. But when older when milking the cows or walking home? I would have a flashlight not because of a fear of some monster but because of snakes. Had a friend who was bitten by a copperhead under similar circumstances.

    Jordan Peterson had a video about his nephew when he was 4 years old or so. His nephew was afraid of dragons. He said most adults would simply tell the child there was no such thing as dragons and leave it at that. Peterson said that was the wrong approach. Instead he engaged his nephew in a fantasy game of what it would take to defeat the dragon. Let the child’s imagination take over and direct it towards solving the problem.

    • #9
    • October 15, 2020, at 11:42 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  10. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    Boo!

    • #10
    • October 16, 2020, at 9:37 AM PDT
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  11. Suspira Member

    Juliana (View Comment):

    I used to be terrified of thunderstorms until I was a mom and realized I had to stay calm for my children. There is something to be said for imparting a sense of calm to someone else, which releases the original fear. Can’t say the same about my fear of snakes, though. I don’t even like pictures of snakes.

    I cannot look at snake pictures and long about mid-September each year way too many of my FB friends post them, by way of warning to look out for the critters getting more active. Thanks for caring, but, please, no pictures!

    • #11
    • October 16, 2020, at 9:48 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Cow Girl: You cannot imagine how hard it was to put my feet down on the floor from the bed…hoping-hoping-hoping that nothing would grab them when I had to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night!

    When I was growing up, I shared a bedroom with my older brother. He would threaten to “turn on the Alligators” if I got out of bed. I was pretty sure he couldn’t do that, but didn’t really want to take a chance.

    • #12
    • October 16, 2020, at 10:23 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  13. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    It’s hard to remember the days before street lights. An old-timer recently reminded me that it wasn’t so long ago roads didn’t even have reflectors or clearly painted lines.

    Night really is different out in the country. I came close to driving into a cow while leaving a friend’s ranch. Even with headlights, it popped up out of nowhere.

    A farmer I knew said a deer once ran hard into the side of his truck while he was crossing his property. I can hardly imagine the fright that gave him.

    But the scariest tale a country boy ever told me related to a photograph he shared. They were hunting one evening and his buddy downed a nice buck. That night, the friend posed for a picture while kneeling beside it. It was only when they looked at the picture later that they saw the cougar sneaking up behind him. It must have been scared off by the flash.

    • #13
    • October 16, 2020, at 10:33 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  14. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under the October 2020 Group Writing Theme: “It was a dark and stormy night… .” Stop by soon, our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #14
    • October 16, 2020, at 6:40 PM PDT
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