The Great Yellowstone Earthquake of 1959

From “World Without Love ~ A Collection of Short Stories that Together Tell a Story (page 11):


The Great Yellowstone Earthquake of 1959

On August 17th, 1959, The Yellowstone Earthquake killed 28 people and registered 7.5 on the Richter scale. 

Without warning, the beet field behind my grandpa’s house rose up, rolled around, and waved like it was liquid.

I didn’t expect that.

Our half-loaded moving van started rocking, shaking, and bouncing. 

Boxes and baskets came popping out like popcorn.   

The ground fell from beneath me.  I reached out for something.  Anything. 

I wondered how long the shaking would continue.  I was afraid the truck might bounce into me, or onto me, so I decided to try to run. 

I got out to the paved road and turned toward Grandpa’s giant grain silos, and couldn’t believe my eyes.  Four massive concrete cylinders were wildly swinging back-and-forth like monstrous reeds in the wind.  I was sure they were about to come crashing down.

And then it stopped. 

The usually-calm water in the irrigation canal continued splashing up onto the road.

But that wasn’t the weird part!

The weird part was watching the road rising and falling as it rolled away from me, like a gigantic wave in a massive river of asphalt. 

I didn’t know a road could do that!

What a strange feeling.  Solid became fluid.  Then solid again.  The planet disordered, then reordered itself, right before my eyes. 

It occurred to me that maybe the world isn’t what we think it is – at all. 

Every day after that was different from every day before, not just because the earthquake undercut my sense of solid, but also because it was our last day in Idaho. 

The next morning, we moved from the land of my ancestral heritage to an exotic place called Portland, Oregon.  The earthquake wasn’t the reason we moved, of course; we were in the process of packing up and getting ready when it hit.   But it may have contributed to the unsettling feeling that I just couldn’t shake during our journey to the strange, new world. 

Something was wrong.  Something was different.  I was worried about my bike.  “Are you sure it’s on the truck?” I asked Mom every few minutes.


“But I didn’t see it on the truck.”  I had my doubts.

“Don’t think about it.  It’ll only make you unhappy.  Think about something else,” she suggested.

It bothered me that she didn’t seem to share my concern. 

And just as I feared, when we pulled up at 9847 S.E. 48th Avenue, my bike was not there. 

“I don’t see my bike.”

“Help or get out of the way, Kid.”  Uncle Don and his helper Clyde were busy pulling boxes down from the back of the truck.

“But my bike?  Where’s my bike?  It’s not here!”

“I believe it’s on the other truck – the one your dad’s driving,” Uncle Don testified, “he’s still a few hours down the road, don’t worry.”

I wanted to believe him.  “Do you know, for sure, that my dad has my bike?”

“Well, I don’t see it here, so it must be with him.”  Uncle Don thought that would make me feel better.

“But did you actually see it on the other truck?”  I needed something far more concrete.  “Did you actually see it?”

“It’s not here, so that means it must be on the other truck.” 

That logic satisfied Uncle Don completely. 

But It seemed pretty shaky to me. 

I suspected there might, in fact, be a much more terrifying explanation.

“What if you’re wrong?” I reached out again for something.  Anything. 

“Don’t even think about it, Kid.  It’ll only make you unhappy.” 

Nobody seemed to share my concern that the world would never be the same again.  What a predicament!  I looked around and didn’t recognize anything at all.  I had no idea what was going to become of my bike, or of me, or of any of us. It felt like the world was dis-ordering itself all over again.  

I couldn’t help it.  I pestered Uncle Don one more time: “But how do you know?”  I just wanted to cement the pieces back together.  “How do you know you’re not wrong?”

“I never worry about that,” Uncle Don laughed.  “Now either help or get out of the way.”

There was no point in arguing.  Either my bike was on the way, or it wasn’t.

“Don’t think about it, Kid.  It’ll only make you unhappy.” 

Why was I the only one who needed something solid to go on? 

I wondered how long the shaking would continue…



You can learn more about “World Without Love ~ A Collection of Stories that Together Tell a Story” HERE!

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