That time of year again

"Squalls out on the gulf stream

Big storm's comin' soon"

Jimmy Buffett, "Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season"

They start as tropical waves out of Africa, sometime.

Or they just spring out of a depression down in the Caribbean.

Then they grow and grow and grow until something makes them stop--usually land. This is their season. Here come the hurricanes.

Though you may be far from the coast, you need to keep in mind that those storms can have an enormous, tragic impact inland.

When they hit, I hope there is someone like "Doll Baby" to help them.

"Doll Baby."

Now don't let the name fool you. "Doll" (as friends call him) is much a man. Well over 6 feet tall, with bulk to go with it, he lives in South Alabama with his wife, Wanda, who was a high school classmate of mine--a cute little number, yes she was. Like so many folks down there, Doll has made his living in the woods, and as they say, "he ain't afraid of work."

Well, back in 1990 Doll and Wanda were driving through South Carolina's Francis Marion State Park a couple months after hurricane Hugo hit. Trees were still scattered every-which-a-way. Trucks couldn't get in to clean up without tearing up what was left. Seeing the mess, the Alabama couple stopped at the ranger station and told the attendant, in so many words, "what you need is mules." And since Doll had some, a deal was struck.

So he went back home, rounded up a crew, loaded up the mules--Linda and Lisa, Mutt and Jeff, Maude and Rock--and headed out to Carolina where they snaked logs until the weather got too hot for man and beast. In the process, Doll and his mules became celebrities. Newspapers wrote about them, students from a nearby college "studied" them, and a kindergarten class visited them. The local TV station sent out a cute young female reporter to interview Doll, who took time from his work to show her the ropes--a little too much time, Wanda said.

Personally, I figure he was just being nice.

Of course, folks down Doll's way know about hurricanes. Living some 80 miles above Mobile, they count on getting the backwash from storms nearly every fall. Usually there is a lot of rain, some strong gusts, a few trees down, and not much more. But in 1969, Category V Camille tore into the Mississippi Gulf Coast and its counterclockwise winds caused damage deep into Alabama.

Mr. Buster was at home when the wind began to pick up.

Now Mr. Buster and his wife, Miss Margaret, were among my family's closest friends. Their farm and our farm shared a fence. He and my daddy shared a bull. (It has to do with the ratio of cows to . . . . I'll explain when I have more time.)

Back in those days Mr. Buster was a regular at Daddy's Poutin' House and like most attendees he also imbibed on his own. So it was not anything out of the ordinary that Mr. Buster was slightly into his cups when the downbursts from Camille began to shake the house.

First Mr. Buster was concerned. Then, as the wind grew stronger, he got frightened. And finally, when a gust tore loose a corner from the tin roof and it began flapping loudly, he got scared.

So he went to Miss Margaret, who was sitting in the living room, and announced that he believed it was time to pray.

Although Miss Margaret was not a woman often surprised, this was not what she expected. Though Mr. Buster was as good and decent a man as ever walked on this earth, he was not known for spontaneous religious ceremonies. So she followed him to the bedroom where he knelt, clasped his hands, looked up at the vibrating ceiling, and began:

"Oh Lord, this is Buster."

"It's over now," Miss Margaret sighed. "You done told him who you are."

Undeterred, Mr. Buster continued, and after asking the Almighty to get them through, he and Miss Margaret went back to the living room, where they weathered the storm together.

And in this hurricane season, so too may we all.

And if you need help when it is over, don't forget Doll.

Harvey H. ("Hardy") Jackson, Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at

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