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Ramblings Eye Of The Storm
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Yes, I know I wrote a column about the weather last time and that was only a month and a half ago. But you must agree the weather has been unusual this winter and is probably worth another column. What else is there to talk about? The weather affects everybody. It sometimes seems everyone is cowering indoors for shelter from the rain, cold and wind and nothing is going on outdoors. Everything is on hold awaiting the long delayed spring, one that lasts more than a day.

I've just heard the Riverbank Youth Baseball & Softball Association has cancelled Saturday's (March 26) parade and opening games of the Little League season. That is serious. They've held that parade in March forever. I presume Castleberg Park diamond is under water as this column is being written.

Dry, warm and cozy, I was lying in bed the other day, drifting off to sleep and listening to the rain drumming on the roof. It's a pleasant sound provided the roof does not leak. The noise was considerable, as my house has no attic or even ceiling insulation. There is only and inch or so of wood, tar and gravel between you and the rain. It's like living inside a drum.

I was reminded of the year or so I spent living on a sailboat, an old wooden vessel, slow and clumsy but well built and seaworthy. That too was like living in a drum. At sea, you can hear the water rushing down the side within inches of your ear or the rain falling on deck.

One time lying in a Florida harbor in fair weather, I was pottering - British for the English 'puttering' - around below deck, when I heard and felt a mighty crash with the whole boat thrown over sideways and a vibration running the length of the vessel. Certain I'd been rammed by another boat and was probably sinking, I jumped on deck to find no other vessel anywhere near and the day as calm and fair as ever.

But my wire rigging was still vibrating and just a few feet away from the boat was a pelican floating askew in the water with a stunned, stupid expression on his face. I didn't see it happen but I can only conclude this bird - there are many pelicans around Florida harbors and they fly low and fast - had not been looking where he was going and had flown straight into my rigging.

The rain can be beneficial. Young women of the British Isles envy the tanned skin of girls in sunnier climates like California or Florida. They are always trying to get vacations on the Mediterranean where they overdo exposure to the sun and their pale skin turns a blistered red.

They should be proud of their smooth, unblemished complexion that is mainly due to the plentiful rain of their homeland that cleanses their pores and the brisk winds which puts "roses in their cheeks."

This spring has been cold and wet in the Central Valley and snowy in the foothills. As I write, my socks are soggy from braving Thursday's rain to try and get pictures of the wild, wet, windy storm. Back in the office the lights are flickering. The call goes around "save your stories." Hit the computer's save button before the power fails suddenly. A thunder and lightning storm is moving this way. Later we gather inside the front door to watch a hailstorm whiten the streets.

The hailstones are not the blocks of ice that fell from the sky and brained people in that disaster movie "The Day After Tomorrow." But they're big enough to hint at what could happen.

It's stimulating weather! Hope it changes soon and we're stuck with a real spring.

John Branch is editor of The Riverbank News and a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or 847-3021.