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The wind arrived with a freight train sound, advanced by a wall of hot, pudding-thick air. I was off for town to retrieve the young one from play rehearsal, and paused at the base of the hill to check my phone for storm warnings. Tornado watch, it said, and just then the rain hit with a thousand fat smacks, like the van roof was being machine-gunned with spitwads. A mile down the road I was traveling 10 mph and the van was rocking in the wind.

Another mile and the winds lifted and the rain thinned. By the time I pulled up in front of the theater, the precipitation had settled to a soft wash.

Around here, “town” is creeping ever closer. It’s disorienting to be in the chicken coop or woodshed and then 10 minutes later cruise past the Starbucks. On the upside, if you’ve got a kid who likes to do plays, you can work the logistics while still providing her precious counterbalancing opportunities to stack firewood, run a pitchfork, and clean out nesting boxes. I am a far-end of the dead-end road sort of fellow by raising and inclination but have been treated very well by city people over the years, so I am taking a wait-and-see attitude on the encroaching development. I prefer the back forty but should I wind up living the downtown life, there are worse things than waking within walking distance of groceries and cappuccinos. And I wouldn’t miss the yearly Attaching of the Snowplow, otherwise known as the Ceremony of Irrational Anger Directed Toward Inanimate Objects.

I enjoy the trips to and from rehearsal as they mean the child is trapped in the car with me for 15 to 20 minutes depending on the stoplights, and based on my accumulated parenting experience thus far there is nothing like a moving vehicle to corral a child into talking to you. When my elder daughter was a teen but still too young to drive, she always knew when she climbed into the front seat for a ride home from volleyball practice, there was a 50/50 shot the old man would be in sermon mode at some point, all the while maintaining a speed that made it impractical to bail out and still be able to play volleyball.

Indeed, on the trip home post-storm, I did bring the younger child up to speed on some evolving “expectations,” but for most of the ride we sang along to silly old songs on the radio and remarked on the evidence of the storm strewn across the roadway. As we made the final turn I had to brake and then squeeze through the space between a large fallen tree and the guardrail. It wasn’t until later, when I was in bed and drifting off to sleep, that I realized that based on the timing of the initial downburst that tree would have fallen within 30 seconds of my driving through that very space. Storms are always coming, and so much is up to chance; all the more reason to raise our voices in song, silly or sacred.

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An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio”( Read more from Michael Perry at