As you know, the anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens is May 18. It's for that reason that I am taking the opportunity to submit my poem, "The Day Saint Helens Mountain Blew Her Head," which I composed even as the mountain was exploding on that day of May 18 of 1980.
We were warned that the mountain might soon explode.
I have resided in Granger since 1969, and in 1980, as I was checking for holes in my pig pen sty fence in anticipation of a piglet about to be delivered, I heard the mountain begin to rumble. I quickly ran to the house, grabbed my pen and notepad, and began to write cursive and verse on a picnic table in our back yard. I took special precaution to note the precise clock times of the developing occurrences.
On that same day, while the ash was falling, three significant things occurred. The sunny day turned into black night, the black night then turned back into sunny day and a dusty, powdery ash had completely painted our previously green, luscious Valley into a dismal, smoky gray.
Then, within the hour after sunlight, I quickly hand-scraped as much ash as I possibly could from my 1962 Volvo into a 3-pound coffee can and filled it full.
I then weighed the heavy can, calculated the area of the Volvo and made a crude "pound-per-square-foot" calculation.
I estimated that 2.5 pounds per square foot of ash had fallen from Mt. Saint Helens. Thus, from this data, on can clearly see that "great tons of ash" had indeed silently fallen into our green, luscious Valley.
I collected ash samples from Wenatchee and Moses Lake and found that the father away the ash fell from our Yakima region, the lighter in weight and the whiter in color the ash became.
The Day Saint Helens Mountain Blew Her Head - May 18, 1980
A Sunday morning, nine a.m.,
As I was checking on my pen
For holes or places soft to dig
(Escape routes for a wiener pig)
I heard a constant, rumble roar,
A sound I've never heard before.
My friend, you see, I'll call him Ray,
Had promised me a swine that day,
So that's why I was checking up
With eye and tug and coffee cup.
How odd, I thought, there is no end
To that big roar...no lightening friend.
My mind now suddenly changed tracks
From dreaming hams to getting back
To real life thoughts of wondering
What acts to Earth that sound would bring.
How strange that roar! I wonder why
So rapidly a darkening sky?
As I approached the kitchen door
I told my wife about the roar.
"I know," she winced. "I heard it, too."
And I replied, "I think She blew!"
Eight-thirty-nine, the radio said,
Saint Helens Mountain blew her head!
"My pad," I bade, elatedly,
To scribble down this history!
My observations to inform
My descendents (those not yet born).
"Our forefather," they'll proudly show,
"Survived the greatest volcano!"
"Nineteen-eighty," I had begun,
"On May eighteen in Washington,
In Yakima, my county place,
My people one and every race."
Forty past ten, my wristwatch had,
Whence came a scratch noise from my pad.
Ingenious words, I thought, with rhyme,
Important writings, and with chime.
How dare, then, scratching interfere
With my great work of this great Year?
"Get off my page, impertinent sand;
I'll soon remove you with my hand!"
The granules flew but many more
Returned to even up the score.
"Why do you haunt me? To abash?"
And then a vision: it was ash!
For we were warned that if She yelled
Great tons of ash would be expelled.
"Inside the house!" I quickly cried.
My family, six, was soon inside.
We closed the doors, the windows, too;
We knew not then, what else to do.
Oh, I have sailed on many a sea
But eruptions were new to me.
The silent pepper ashes came
Like grayish mist and powder rain.
It smothered all and everything,
This strange material, bizarre thing!
Then, as I wrote and had my fun
It brashly blotted out the Sun!
So darkened was that night at day,
It made the Total Eclipse, play.
It made in me a fright begin,
This morning-night, eleven-ten.
What great disasters follow next?
Is this "The End?" And, are we hexed?
My worries and my mild distress,
My sudden state of helplessness
Began to dwindle, tooth-by-tusk
As blind Fate transformed dark-to-dusk.
Sweet light appeared now, gradually.
"Hooray! Thank God! Normality!"
Such jubilation, soon beguiled,
(Like stealing candy from a child)
For what I saw, I sadly say,
My favorite season turned to gray!
My Valley, hours before so green,
Now gray and dusty, so obscene!
An hour of mid-night, at mid-day
Begat a world of smoky-gray,
A Death-like scene, so crude, unjust,
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust!
I curse those sounds of constant roar.
I scorn the Ash-to-Earth they bore.
Week in, week out, officials say,
Or months to clear the ash away,
Or years before the experts know
The dollar-damage of the blow.
A measure of St. Helen's wrath;
A yard stick of her deadly path.
My tale is o'er now, I must go
To ponder on this grayish snow.
But ere I leave I offer thee
This plain, my simple history.
Oh yes! My pig I'll get, it seems,
And so continue in my dreams.