from Century Magazine
My Cyclone-proof House
by Ellis Parker Butler
Two or three months ago, when I was just deciding to build a house, I saw in our local paper a description of a cyclone-proof dwelling. Now, if there is anything I dislike, it is to have a full-blooded, centripetal twister come cavorting through the air and wipe my dwelling off the earth. It annoyed me to go down cellar for bottle of raspberry jam, only to find that while I was below my house was flipped into Dugan's potato-patch, and deposited there tails up, heads down, and not a thing left on my lot except my neighbor's hencoop and the wind-proof, fire-proof, water-proof eight-per-cent mortgage that I put on the lot myself four years ago next August, and which could not be blown off with four tons of dynamite.
Having such a deep-rooted hatred of the cyclone, I was naturally much taken with the account of the cyclone-proof house, and I had one built on my lot. The house was as simple as it was perfect. The principal feature was a sort of circular track or rail on which the house could revolve, a fin or rudder being placed over the kitchen in such a manner that it must necessarily catch the wind and swing the house around on the circular track. In this way the front of the house was always in the teeth of any strong breeze. And here came in the practical part of the scheme: for in the front room over the hall was a port-hole from which protruded a small cannon. This cannon discharged loaded bombs at any approaching cyclone-cloud. The explosion of the bomb in the bosom of the cloud was said to rip the airy devastation into flinders.
When my house was completed it was a source of pride to me, and a source of wondering curiosity to the townsfolk. On the first breezy day I operated the revolving device, and found it worked perfectly. The house is supposed to front north, and the breeze came strongly from the south, and my pulses thrilled with pleasure as the house swung slowly and grandly around in the wind.
But, unfortunately, the wind stayed from the south until nightfall, when it died, leaving my house in a most peculiar position, with the front porch adjacent to the hog-pen, and the kitchen within three feet of the front gate. I prayed earnestly for wind for a week, but none arose, and during that time my house was the joke of the village. At the end of the week I rented Silas Bogg's ox-team, and pulled the house into its normal position; and it was indeed a great comfort to be able to empty the dish-water without having to carry it from the kitchen through the dining-room and parlor, and out at the front door into the back yard.
However, the real test of the house did not occur until about a month thereafter. To tell the truth, I am a little timid in a storm since our house was blown into Dugan's field; and as for my wife, she would rather break her neck falling down the cellar stairs than risk it in a May zephyr. This timidity accounts for our loss of presence of mind the night it stormed. We were in bed and asleep, and I was dreaming I was at sea on a very dizzy vessel, when my wife shook me and said a fearful storm was coming; and, in fact, the house was spinning round like a top, now making six or eight revolutions to the right, and then suddenly whirling to the left, like a half-witted kitten with a fit. The wind seemed to have no stability, and veered constantly, and I could not see a yard from the window where I stood ready to fire the cyclone-bomb at first sight of the monster. My wife stood at my side, and gazed with me out of the window into the blackness. Suddenly she gave a cry of alarm. "There! there!" she shrieked; and I too saw the cyclone-cloud rising dark and ominous before us. In a thought I had fired the cannon; the bomb sped on its way, and I heard it explode with a terrific crash. For a moment we waited in breathless anxiety, and then she fell into my arms, sobbing, "Oh, Henry, Henry! we are saved!"
And we were.
The cyclone didn't catch us that night. It couldn't. In fact, there was no cyclone. It was just a plain, everyday blow -- a little one-horse, two-for-a-nickel wind.
But I had tried the cyclone-bomb gun. The next morning I went out to see what I had been gunning at. It was my barn! In the dark I dare say it resembled a cyclone, but by day it resembled a pile of kindling-wood. I had simply shot a first-class red barn into atoms, and had slaughtered a good, steady, five-year-old family horse, and a nice spotted Jersey cow with two toes on each foot and burs in her tail.
Cyclone-proof houses? No! No, sir! Not for Uncle Harry! I have had my experience. I am only glad the wind was from the south instead of from the west when I fired the fatal bomb. Had it been from the west, I should have knocked the internal effects clean out of my neighbor Murphy's home, to say nothing of neighbor Murphy himself.
And, by the way, if you hear of any one who would like to purchase a cyclone-proof house, he can get one from me at reduced rates, and I will throw in a sixty-foot lot with a hearty mortgage on it, and a brand-new red barn on which softly rests a brand-new mechanic's lien.
Thanks to the Making of America Project for the text of this page.
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Saturday, October 07 at 3:12:18am USA Central