SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - "Hard To Get Excited About It Now"

By Bob Weaver

Last week I wandered from the car on the Joker Ridge to witness and experience a lightning strike a short distance away, enough to raise the hair and create some odorous ozone, the positive nature of lightning cleaning the atmosphere.

I was not overly excited.

I owe that to my grandfather.

Grandpa John Ira McCoy spent hours swinging in his swing on the back porch of his house at Hur, staring over the large garden patch toward the barn and meadow, his hundred acre holdings which he bought in 1895 from the Hardman's, and where he raised his nine children.

John Ira McCoy was a peaceful man despite his Irish descent, unlike his wife Grandma Jennie, whose fiery temper kept her kids in line and others who crossed her path.

He had been orphaned in 1880 at age six with his four siblings, his mother dying of pneumonia down in the holler on the Hardman farm. His father was killed in a sawmill accident in 1873.

John Ira had the good fortune of being raised by the George Washington Hardman family on Barnes Run, Diana Hardman being a sister to his late mother.

The Hardman's were large landowners in Calhoun, livestock growers and politicians, and among the wealthiest families.

He was a heavy man, his suspenders holding his gray gabardine pants up to his gray work shirt, worn every day except on special occasions when he put on his striped woolly suit, white shirt and tie. Rarely did he take his felt hat from his head, sweated through and faded around the brim. There was a second hat for dress-up.

Not long before his death in 1950, as a 10-year-old I sat on the porch swing with him on a hot muggy summer evening, telling me story after story.

Dark clouds rolled in and within minutes the storm crossed the Village of Hur, bolts of lightning striking out the Husk, down on Rowels and out the Buck Ridge.

Grandpa continued his story, swinging away, unconcerned.

In the split of a second, lightning struck the rods on the McCoy house, traveling down the grounding rods, with clods of mud flying everywhere. He was covered and so was I.

It was a "mortality moment" for me, even at ten, but grandpa continued his tale without missing a beat, his low-key voice unchanged.

"Boy, that bolt of lightning sure got close," he said.

There we sat on the swing, covered with mud, rain pouring and blowing under the small back porch, the storm's momentum increasing.

I asked if he was afraid. "Lightning will kill you, like it did those men under that tree down on the Hardman place."

"Yes, it can. But I always think my chances are pretty good. I've been out in hundreds of storms, Robert. It's pretty hard to get excited about it now."

We swung a while longer, quietly finishing his tale, before we went inside.

A few months later he died just before the great snow of 1950.

Family members huddled close to the old man. Life leaving his body as he sunk deep into his feather-tick mattress.

Uncomplaining, he had little to say about his demise.

If he did say a few words, they would likely have been, "It's pretty hard to get excited about it now."

On hot summer nights, not unlike my grandfather, I'll sit on the porch and watch the storms roll in, sometimes lightning splitting the air, nearby, with a normal anxiety.