It could be said that the weather in Phoenix is always hot, bright and dry. Even if it is cool, the sun is out most of the time and Jake Schroder and I, both of us being good Texas boys, remembered our State’s rain and clouds, and would joke around with each other and say “Ho hum, another beautiful day in paradise.” One day, for me, paradise turned real ugly!
In 1972, Bill Randall and I were both managers with a large computer company and both of us shared the same love for hunting. One afternoon during the middle of dove season we left work early, had to make sales calls you know, and I picked him up in my Bronco and we sped off to a spot that he had found north of Gilbert, Arizona.
It was a large grain field that had just been harvested. Arizona is strange. It is hot and dry, but if you can get water to a crop, it will grow and, along the east side of this field, a large irrigation ditch supplied the water. Thankfully, as we upped and downed through the canal, it was dry and we scrambled out of the truck and began our hunt paying no attention to a large thunderhead southeast of us.
Bill and I were the only hunters and were literally covered up with doves. We held off the mourners and concentrated on the bigger, white wings. Nearing our limits, we noticed that the thunderhead was moving toward us and was kicking up a small sand storm. No problem, when it gets closer, we’ll load up and go.
It got real close real quick and the next thing we knew there was a wall of sand coming closer and closer, until it engulfed us! Hurrying back to the truck, it started getting darker and darker and by the time we closed the truck doors, it was like night had fallen four hours early. As the wind picked up, large drops of rain we’re smacking into the truck and Bill said, “Jon, we’re in trouble. I bet this is a tornado and we got no place for a shelter.” Replying, “We could lie down in the canal and hope for the best.” Then he added, “Why don’t you just drive the truck into the canal?”
We pulled over one of the berms and turned left into the canal and stopped, lightning popping all around, the wind and rain buffeting us and then we heard it. A train bearing down on us, but no tracks around here and we looked at each other and exclaimed, “Tornado!”
The force of the wind shook the Bronco and tried to lift us up into the swirling vortex, but for some reason, the wind kept setting us back down into the canal! In the darkness, terrifying minutes passed until the big wind and roaring moved on. It remained cloudy but the sky brightened and the big drops of rain were replaced by a normal shower and soon, the big storm broke up before it reached a populated area.
No mention of the tornado on the 10:00 O’clock news so I guess Bill and I were the only witnesses. Also, the Chamber Of Commerce thinks it’s bad for business if there is talk of tornados in Arizona!