BARNSTORM BARNSTORM”People can be taken in small doses but the best is not having to take them at all,” is the credo written in ink on old man Hannibal’s soul. A hard life of farming brings the reward of strong character but had no effect in softening the edges of Hannibal’s soul so that coming into contact would have blunted the sharpness so as to not cause injury. Hannibal didn’t care if his sharp edges caused injury or not. If you didn’t want to get stabbed by the barbs in his character, just keep out of his way. His farm horse Toby learned this from his earliest years. If Old Man Hannibal was headed your direction, run to the pasture where it would take more than a few steps to reach you.”Toby you dang nag, get your horse’s ass back here” meaning a beating was nigh. Hannibal could get quite exercised at times over seemingly inconsequential matters and Toby would feel the brunt of it on his back with a whip or other handy tool that could deliver blows of equitable weight. Meister, the dog, was Toby’s shadow. Where Toby went, Meister followed, resulting usually in a dose of Hannibal’s unwelcome attention when Toby got his. This day Meister must have looked like a football because he got punted five yards down line for his companionship efforts. He could not immediately regain his senses after such an assault so Toby felt the need to investigate whereupon a rock crashed into his skull. “Gol danged incubus from Hell, there’s a storm blowing up, can’t you hear the wind? I got to see to that roof before it blows that barn clear to Okey City. Hold still so I can get your ass hitched to the cart, you gol danged son of Abbadon!”As Hannibal busied himself hitching Toby to the wagon to fetch supplies from the lean-to 50 yards from what was now a journey through God’s mistake, the lightening commenced something fierce, scaring old Toby, freezing him in his tracks, unmovable as a marble statue.Most people in Hannibal’s general vicinity were aware of his irascible temperament and would not have seen anything unusual but this day the rake handle appeared, taking the beating up a notch, the blows landing on Toby’s back. Meister, who had regained breath, then joined the fray, jumping and biting Hannibal’s dancing hand, and then he realized a crack on the head guaranteed to disjoint a head from the neck. As Meister fell, Toby jerked loose, the rain began pouring from God’s buckets, with Toby, at a fast trot, clacking an empty cart behind, a dazed Meister bringing up the rear. The sky had turned a sickly green, as Hannibal, also confused by the strange turn of events, tried to collect his thoughts. “No barn repairs now,” he conceded. Where was he going to get money to do the repair work after this apocalyptic storm? The wind had stilled and it turned silent as a tomb, a very bad sign Hannibal knew. Get undercover, was the overriding thought. “I’m going to be blown to Oz by this bedamned prairie breeze.”Toby was disposed in his stall, Meister beside him when the calamity tornado hit. Toby could see old man Hannibal, like a scarecrow at the barn door, not exactly raised off his feet but definitely moving like a puppet on strings. The roof he had been worked up about peeled off and a 4×6 joist dropped and found a home in the back of Hannibal’s neck, severing all connections. “Well Hannibal, as it turned out, you needn’t have wasted the last of your energy worrying about it, wouldn’t you say?” were the words of Thor, the god of storms, heard booming above the cacophony!Toby and Meister found a respite of comfort befitting their advanced years, a pasture for fair weather and a barn for rest and relaxation. The two old friends, never more to be parted.Every dog shall have his day but a horse will have the last neigh! Hannibal crossed the Rubicon, but no one came there to mourn.