The hurricane-initiated wind tugged strongly at the flapping tarp. Grasping tightly to my corner of the tarp as my dad and brothers held on to the other ends, I marveled at the intensity of the wind as the tarp billowed and snapped. Still, as a young teen, I remained unconvinced of the plausibility of my dad’s idea of catching the wind in the tarp so we would be lifted off the ground, the reason we were standing in the backyard in the steadily-growing wind hanging on to a huge tarp. After trying a few different angles and approaches, we finally gave up and got under shelter to avoid flying debris. Plenty of leaves were flying that day, but not us.
The form of “shelter” a couple of my brothers decided on was the donkey shed out in the pasture on the hill. A three-sided shelter with a sloped roof, the shed had a hayloft that was just tall enough to sit in and provided the occupant with a spectacular view of the surrounding field. My dad had built it from scratch for my first pony when we first moved to the property. While the lack of traditional bracing and construction was clearly evident, the shed had served its purpose faithfully for many years and the tall, ungainly red building on the hill seemed like a permanent part of the landscape, probably to the deep dismay of our neighbors who had a better view of the shed from their living room window than we did.
One year, we even celebrated Christmas in the donkey shed. My brothers and I had a blast stringing it up with lights and spreading a few straw bales on the ground inside, but picking up all the little pieces of wrapping paper before the donkeys ate them was a bit challenging. Our first baby goats were born in that shed, which eventually housed so many different animals at once that the sides became even more asymmetrical from the crooked patches placed where the more dominant animals kicked a hoof through the wall. However, the accumulating history of the old “Donkey Shed” was about to reach an abrupt end.
As the hurricane winds whistled through the cracks, my brothers up in the hayloft began to second-guess their choice of a shelter. All that anchored the shed to the ground were the four corner posts, which had been set into hand-dug holes about two feet deep and surrounded with a bag of Quikrete. Over the years, much of the dirt around the posts had eroded away, leaving very little to secure the building, and the full force of the current storm happened to blow directly into the front of the shed, which captured the wind just like the tarp we had been trying to fly with. Things started feeling a little wobbly for my brothers in the hayloft, so they scurried down the ladder in a hurry. It was none too soon. Moments later, the front corner posts lifted completely out of the ground and the entire shed crashed onto its side.
One of my astonished brothers who witnessed the event accused the other brother of purposely pushing on the shed when the big gust of wind hit. However, I remain convinced that it attributes way too much strength to the accused to suggest that the shed would not have blown over if he had not pushed it (which the suspect adamantly denied doing). Regardless of the possible contribution to the disaster, the event remained a memorable one, and I am sure our neighbors must have viewed it quite positively. After the storm, we cleaned up the pile of splintered lumber from the old shed along with all the tree fragments blown down by the hurricane. The replacement shed, which was built in Amish country and dropped off on an oversized flatbed, eventually accrued its own share of memorable stories, and to my best knowledge it is still there today.