Tim Chambers’ Tomahawk Talk Column
Since Friday evening I’ve asked myself, why me Lord? These were the words made famous in a song by Kris Kristofferson back in 1972.
I’ve sung this song many times and I know the lyrics by heart. But I’ve never bellowed out the word like I did near midnight on Friday.
Friday morning started out like any other.
I woke up and thanked God for allowing me to live another day, I showered, shaved, brushed my teeth, you get the picture. I did nothing out of the ordinary.
I skipped breakfast and decided on an early lunch. It’s funny how some good Chinese food can motivate you to get a little work done.
An afternoon nap can feel good too at age 57 after working on the paper and some church visitation.
I woke up with a thought to do some outdoor camping at Roan Mountain State Park after my beauty rest that afternoon. One hour later that beauty faded into something that was downright ugly and frightening.
I asked my wife to take a drive with me and assured her that my 2000 Honda Civic was full of gas. We would open up the sunroof, turn on the air and enjoy a ride up to the campground in Roan Mountain.
My plan was to stop off at the Water Wheel Restaurant and eat a bite and then proceed. Isn’t it funny how sometimes things can change?
Only this time it wasn’t a laughing matter.
The radio was playing as we passed Hampton High School and continued playing until we got about a mile up the road. What followed was a like a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”
That’s because the wind started whipping up out of nowhere. Suddenly I saw a bike go blowing across a yard and it only got worse and more intense.
My wife was holding onto the dashboard and later admitted to praying over the next 15 minutes. Large limbs and tops from trees were littering the 4-lane and at times were nearly impossible to dodge.
I looked in my rearview only to see a large tree fall that covered one side of the highway. Then another fell and limbs were blowing over the car.
My wife asked if we should stop, but all I did was keep driving. There wasn’t anywhere on the highway at the time that was safe to pull off. And the Water Wheel was only five minutes away.
I had seen storms before, but it was my first time of being in the heart of one. I hope that it’s my last.
We finally got to the Water Wheel only to find it closed. They had lost power during the storm.
The owner stepped outside and offered us a sandwich and drink, but our appetites had faded. All we could think about was how are we going to get back home?
The winds began to die down after about 15 minutes as my wife and I sat there in disbelief. “Did we…”? and before she could finish, I shook my head yes. It was not your typical storm.
The winds continued to blow, only not as fierce as we started back. They road was blocked like I knew it would be.
I proceeded down a side road, not knowing what I would find. Some 10 trees were down and the road was nearly impassable unless you owned a 2000 Honda Civic.
My car was small enough to maneuver through some small openings. I had to ride the edge of a steep bank to get past the last fallen tree before making it back onto the 4-Lane.
The loss of power had closed almost every restaurant in Elizabethton so we decided to stop and get some hamburger in case we had to grill.
Food City in Elizabethton was open so we made a quick trip there.
Our power was on when we got home but no television cable or internet. My wife and I whipped up a quick burger and fries, then proceeded to pull up the internet with our cell phones.
That’s when I got some horrifying news. A former teammate of mine at Hampton High School and his wife had been killed while camping in a cove near Fish Springs.
John Paul Mathis was an All-Conference basketball and baseball player for the Bulldogs. His 1974 squad went 36-2 with their only losses coming to Dobyns-Bennett and Happy Valley.
The Warriors went on to win the state tournament. Hampton had beaten them soundly three times that season before being upset by them in the regional.
John Paul once told me that losing that game was one of the worst things that had ever happened to him. But sometimes life’s storms can be much worse than those we encounter in the sports world.
Basketball is only a game. Life and death are reality.
My heart breaks for Mr. Mathis, his wife, their families and friends.
My thoughts go back to Friday night when trees and debris were falling all around us. Then I ask.
“Why me, Lord, what have I ever done, to deserve being spared from the storm?”
Can you sing along?
Tim Chambers is the sports editor for The Tomahawk. He can be reached by email at [email protected]