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A serious suggestion

The hearts of all folks in the Heartland of America are with the unfortunate folks in Moore, Okla. We have empathy for them for the personal and property losses they suffered from the massive tornado that ripped through their community becuz we know it could have been us!

During the search, rescue and recovery efforts, attention was focused on the plight of elementary school children in two schools hard hit by the tornado. Critics and TV talking heads suggested strongly that the schools should have had emergency shelters for the children, especially since Moore has a history of tornado damage.

More reasoned folks correctly pointed out that the actuarial risk for repeated tornado hits in the identical area are very low. Others noted that the cost to build a government-approved storm shelter at a school would be around $1.4 million.

On this cost point I’d like to make a serious suggestion. First, I looked on the internet at E-bay and found I could buy used 40-foot ocean-going all-steel containers for around $2,500. So, that means I could buy four containers for $10,000, plus shipping. These containers have solid-locking steel doors — and they could be reinforced easily.

Now, the dimensions of those containers are roughly 40 x 8 which equals 320 square feet. If used as a storm shelter, each container could shelter about 50 children, giving each child a little more than six square feet of room.

Now, set those four containers in a square and weld them together. Dig four foot deep trench to half-bury them in, or at least push four feet of dirt up around them, leaving only the doors uncovered.

As the final safety measure, buy several hundred feet of one-inch steel cable. I found 150 feet for sale on E-bay for around $250. Buy enough cable to throw over the half-buried steel containers in four places and put the ends 10 feet in the ground and fill the holes with concrete. For extra safety, put at least four cubic yards of concrete around each buried cable end.

Then spend a few thousand dollars to paint the containers inside and out and do a little landscaping and you’ve got a school storm shelter for 200 kids and their teachers — on the cheap.

Now, I’m no expert, but I’ll bet four of those half-buried, cable-secured-in-the-ground, all-steel containers can’t be plucked from the ground or ripped apart by an E-5 rated tornado. And, I’ll bet the whole she-bang can be built for less than $100,000 ­— a sum that could be raised in about any community by donations of money and services.

I’ll also bet that there’s not a government entity of any sort that would approve of the Milo Yield School Storm Shelter.


It’s the season of the year for graduations of all sorts and I think the high school graduations in small rural towns are the best of all, because they’re more intimate and personal than graduations of large classes in urban high schools.

I was reminded of small-town graduations by a communication I received not long ago from a friend in Washington State. Here’s what she sent me.


Those who grew up in small towns (or on the farm) in the ’40s, ’50s or ’60s will laugh, and relate, when they read this. Those who didn’t, will be in disbelief and won’t understand how true it was that … You could name everyone you graduated with and most of their parents. You know what 4-H/ FFA meant. You went to parties at a pasture, barn, gravel pit, river bank or in the middle of a dirt road. You used to “drag/cruise” Main St. or the Highway. It was cool to date somebody from the neighboring town.

Also, the whole school went to the same party after graduation. You didn’t give directions by street names but rather by references — “Turn by Nelson’s house, go 2 blocks to Anderson’s, and it’s four houses left of the track and football field.” The golf course had only 9 holes with sand greens, if you had a golf course at all. You couldn’t help but date a friend’s ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. Your car stayed filthy because of the dirt roads, and you never owned a dark vehicle for that reason. The town next to you was considered “trashy or snooty,” but was actually just like your town. The people in the “big city” dressed funny, and then you picked up the trend 2 years later. Anyone you wanted could be found at the local gas station, the drug bar, or pool hall.

Also, you saw at least one friend a week driving a tractor through town or

one of your friends driving a grain truck to school occasionally. The football coach suggested you haul hay for the summer to get stronger. When you decided to walk somewhere, 5 people would pull over and ask if you wanted a ride. You could charge at any local store or write checks without any ID. Most people used reel type/push lawn mowers. You probably started driving a tractor to plow/disc/rake by the time you were 10 years old. Most people went by a nickname. The guys kept their guns in the car/truck so they could go hunting after school and they had been hunting with a gun since they were 7 years old. The car/truck you drove belonged to dad and was probably the only family vehicle besides the tractor and grain truck. Eight out of ten high school boys could tune a car’s engine; four out of ten could rebuild that engine. There was a huge crowd in town on Saturday night. Farmers would actually “trade” their eggs/milk/cream/chickens for groceries and other goods at some of the local stores.

On a personal note, I would not have wanted to have been raised any other way! It was the best kind of raisin’.


I’ll close with these words of wisdom about graduations from witty Robert Orben. He said, “A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells students dressed in identical caps and gowns that individuality is the key to success.” Have a good ‘un. ❖