I have become well aware of the “rabbit holes” one can discover and disappear into while cataloging donations. Recently I processed a collection of Basore family papers given to us by Patricia Konstam. The Basores lived in Berryville (Carroll County), where they operated a hardware store for many years. They also lived for a time in Harrison (Boone County).
During the late 1930s and early 1940s George W. Basore wrote a series of letters to his niece, Ruth Boydston, while she was recuperating in a sanitarium. In the letters Basore discussed politics, business doings, and the recovery from tornadoes that hit the Berryville area in 1939 and 1942. I was curious to see what additional information I could find on the tornadoes. Hoping to find at least a newspaper article, I was pleasantly surprised to find a newsreel about the tornado. It is only forty-eight seconds long, but it provides a glimpse into not only the destruction of the tornado but also what life was like in the area during 1942.
George Basore also wrote and published an essay (he called it an “allegory”), “The Mighty Storm King Speaks to Man,” dedicated to the survivors of the 1942 Berryville tornado.
Here is the introduction:
And here is Basore’s essay in its entirety:
The Mighty Storm King Speaks to Man
“This is I, the Mighty Storm King speaking:
“Speaking to thee, puny man, for ’tis thee, and thee only that hath dared to challenge my dominion here upon earth. Though semeth [sic] unmindful that for unknown ages, I stalked land and sea in quest of prey. Yea, for millions of years before thou wert more than a wriggling mass of unwrought clay, there was naught but creeping reptiles, and inanimate nature upon which to vent my fury.
“Finally thou didst appear, only to multiply and encumber the land over which I had held undisputed sway. And for places of abode thou hast built thyself cities, towns and hamlets. Piece by piece, and piece upon piece thou hast painstakingly established all these for thy comfort, pleasure and well-being. Even so, thou hast delved into the mysteries of nature herself, and by devious mechanisms thou has made her do thy bidding—yea, even be they slave. Furthermore, thou seemeth not content to abide solely on the land that giveth thee sustenance, for thou hast ventured upon the mighty deep, and, as if in defiance of me, even ascended into the heavens as if they, too, were thy domain.
“But after all, how unstable and transitory is thy handiwork. That on which thou labors months, years, and even thine whole span of life, in the twinkling of an eye, I destroy it. Much of that which thou exalteth, I annihilate as if it had not been. Even the mighty oaks of the forest, nature’s own handiwork, cannot stand before me.
“But, perchance one I do spare; there it stands like some lone sentinel of the night, its denuded branches pitifully and forlornly pointing the course of my fury. Yea, more, even thy aged, thy middle-aged, thy youths, and thy little ones, all these their lives I snuff out and they are no more of earth.
“What sayest thou? puny man—speak up.”
“I will speak, Mighty Storm King.
“I cannot but admit that much of which you boast is true—only too true. Your wrath has no bounds. You destroy not only material things pertaining to life, but life itself—life which is mortal. However, with all your violence, you cannot destroy the human spirit—for it is immortal. And, while you destroy many, many happy lives, only too often, of the lives you take; you rob the aged of but little; the middle-aged of but service to others; and the youths, perhaps of but disillusionment. As to the little ones; did not Jesus say ‘suffer them to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven!’
“And, as to your boasted destruction of the labor of my hands; with a determination born of Faith, Hope, and Love implanted in my being by an all-wise Creator; I rebuild it, perhaps more beautiful, even though a challenge to you, Oh Mighty One. When you destroy Nature’s handiwork; that she restores, and time closes the wounds in Mother Earth.
“Where you leave desolation and death, habitations of men again arise; there again trees grow, lovely grass mantles the earth, millions of tiny dewdrops with dazzeling [sic] mimicry of real diamonds greet the morning sun; and ‘midst beautiful flowers, shrubs and evergreens, there can be heard again the laughter of happy children at play.
“All these testify that after all, this is man’s domain—not yours—and that the Great God of Creation still reigns.”
Aaron Loehndorf is the Shiloh Museum’s collections and education specialist.