The Stampede

Within moments they surrounded me, rushing past on all sides

It was a bright winter’s day and the thermometer spoke of unusual warmth for the time of year. The clear sky was really a lie of course, and the warm, well, that was part of the deception, something to coax you into relaxation before wham! the blizzard struck.

We called it “the warm before the storm.”

The winds were what gave it away. Gusts of 50 miles per hour in the great valley had slowed from their 100 mph over the mountain peaks, but they were still strong enough to pick up leaves, dust, and patio furniture. Fence repair would be in high demand in the days afterwards.

I was driving that morning, glad to be secure in my truck and out of the wind. I felt the gusts push at me but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.

I looked in the mirror and my mouth dropped as I saw them coming up behind me.

The pack was huge, over 100 at least. I had never seen so many together at once. Sure, I had seen one or two, saw them all the time in the winter when they came out. They were usually harmless if you gave them a wide berth.

This time I had nowhere to go. The pack covered the entire width of the road and beyond. There were a lot of the harmless ones, the kind you could easily touch if you wanted to. But there were many of the bad ones — ones that would hurt you if you got too close.

Within moments they surrounded me, rushing past on all sides. My truck was moving, but they moved faster. The sound of them as they brushed by was 10 times spookier than the wind.

And then it was over. The pack moved ahead on, the stragglers rolling next to me for a few moments and then leaping forward to join the others.

I pulled over to assess the damage and as I stood in the wind at the back of my truck I looked again at the receding pack.

There had been a car a ways in front of me. As I watched, I saw the brake lights come on as the driver looked into the rear-view mirror and realized the pack was bearing down on them.

The car come to a stop as it was surrounded by the pack of 100 tumbleweeds driven by the wind. I yanked out the tumbleweed that had gotten lodged in my tailgate, very glad it wasn’t one of the thorny ones.

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Image: “posed tumbleweed” by GoneApey — CC licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0