Getting struck by lightning

Jack wrote this in November, 2005:

Morning blogsters:

Someone told me about some poor guy in Waco, Texas, who got himself electrocuted.  Guy was a minister standing in a baptismal about to baptize someone in front of a congregation of 800.  Reached for a microphone and got struck dead.

I commented that it was a bit like being struck by lightning, to which the reply was, “No it wasn’t!  You don’t get struck by lightning from carelessness and stupidity.”

Fact is, that’s precisely why people tend to get struck by lightning, along with a bit of lousy luck.  Lightning behavior is a lot more easily predictable than lottery numbers.

I went on to tell the story of something that happened to me along those lines once.

I was working a canyon I’d dubbed “No Name Canyon”.  I was finding something completely absorbing and confusing.  Heavy precious metals sink to the bottom of a pan, get covered by the next heaviest, which is magnetite or hematite, black sand.

I was in a heavily mineralized area and the bottom of the pan should have been filled with black sand, but I wasn’t getting any.  About an inch or more in the bottom of the pan was filled with a grainy material of a reddish brown color that was pervasive and frustrating.  (Sometimes you get to expecting what not to see and find yourself not seeing what’s in front of you)

Anyway, I’d worked there alone half the afternoon in that V-bottomed canyon when I heard thunder and saw clouds moving across the sliver of sky visible to me.  I didn’t care to get caught in that canyon in a cloudburst, so I hoisted my daypack, shovel, pan and headed up the mountain.

About halfway back up there’s a relatively steep, bald face just with a scattering of large pines.  That’s where I realized I was a damned fool.

Suddenly lightning was striking all around me.  I gave it some quick thought and decided my best shot was to sort of lie down on the slope, though lying down doesn’t precisely describe what I was doing because of the grade.

So, it began sprinkling some, lighting hitting everywhere, me wondering if I make less of a target this way, when I observed that every tree within my range of seeing had a lightning strike burn on it.  That place has been a magnet for lightning for a long time.

I reached to push the shovel further away from myself in case the metal might make a better target.  As I gazed at the sprinkles hitting the blade of the shovel, where there was still a lot of residue of what I’d been digging below, I suddenly found myself looking at black sand washing out of the small clods glued to the surface.

Hmmm, thinks I.  That is really weird.  I couldn’t get any black sand down below, but here it is on the shovel.  Lots of it.

Then it came to me.  The stuff on the bottom of the pan was heavier than the black sand and was floating it.  I’d been looking for the black sand below below the brown grainy material on the assumption that what I was looking at was worthless.

Instead I was looking at something the likes of which I’d never seen before, thanks to being on a mountainside with lightning striking all around me like the fool I have a tendency to be.

Anyway, the storm ended, left me unstruck, but a lot wiser.  I’d never have understood what was happening mineral-wise in that canyon if I hadn’t been stupid and careless.  But on that day I managed to also have mama-luck on my side.


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