Mother Nature wreaks havoc on the world from time to time with hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes, just to name a few.

When I heard about the earthquake that hit Japan recently, I worried that my son-in-law might be caught in such a disaster while visiting that country on business.

It's silly to worry about things that may not happen, but when it comes to earthquakes, I do. They hit in an instant and they are over in a matter of seconds, but it can feel like hours.

Reading about the earthquake took me back to the days when we lived in Southern California, where earthquakes happen all winter long in varying degrees.

There were quakes from 2. 1 to 5. 9.

Sometimes you felt like you were on a roller coaster and other times, they would shake the dishes off the shelves. While we were there, we didn't have a really bad one, like the one in San Francisco or Alaska, but they were scary anyway.

One earthquake hit in the desert near El Centro, Calif. , where the ground opened up and formed an artesian well in the middle of the desert. That was amazing.

We were with a construction crew building steel towers for electric lines across the desert near Yuma, Ariz. It was a fun-loving bunch and one of the crew decided to have a little fun at my expense. Hank Inman, a good friend of my husband's, thought it would be fun to see just how jumpy I was about earthquakes.

We had a pretty bad one the day before he decided to scare the dickens out of me. We felt the earth moving and opened the trailer door to see the ground rolling like waves on the ocean. It was an awesome sight, even though it scared me half to death.

The next day, Wayne and Hank were discussing earthquakes and what to do if we were caught in a really bad one. Hank said to head for the nearest door and stand under the door frame and hang on, which only made me more nervous.

Then the fun began.

Hank and Wayne would waited until I was by myself and they would begin rocking the trailer back and forth as hard as they could. Of course, I panicked and headed for the door frame with my daughter. I was petrified.

After a few minutes, they would come in and talk about the earthquake and how much damage was done, and then ask me if we were all right.

This happened over and over until one day a real earthquake hit, and it was a doozy - it's the one that formed the artesian well.

That's when they told me they had been shaking the trailer, not an earthquake.

The boys were having fun at my expense. The whole crew was splitting their sides laughing at me, as Hank told them the story of how I was hanging on to the door jam for dear life as he shook the trailer.

I was so angry I wanted to wring his neck. I finally got over my anger and saw the humor in it all. I still laugh at myself and how frightened I was for no reason, but it wasn't funny at the time.

It did do one thing for me that winter in the Imperial Valley; I ignored the earthquakes that happened after that, not knowing whether they were real or another prank.

Thank goodness we don't have earthquakes here.

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Betty Kuhn lives in Boardman. She is available via e-mail at bkuhn_1@msn. com.

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