Appalachia Folklore Granny

Drawing Lightning

What will draw lightning
Photo Chitter snapped while standing on our front porch of a lightning strike

We’ve had afternoon thunderstorms for the last several days. I have been so very grateful for the rain and our garden has been too. Thursday afternoon a storm with heavy heavy rain hit at exactly 5:00-you know the time I get to walk across the parking lot and go home. As I waited around for the rain, lightning, and thunder to at least let up a little before I ventured outside I thought about Granny.

When Steve, Paul, and I were growing up, Granny had all kinds of admonitions about storms, specifically about lightning.

According to Granny you can’t take a shower, talk on the phone, or run water when it is lightning. You also can’t flush the potty or stand by a window.

And, at all costs, Granny said you should have shoes on even if your inside the house when its storming, and she means real shoes not some sort of flimsy house shoe.

Granny had so many warnings about lightning that Paul and I started making up our own.

Like:

  • don’t stand on one foot and open the frig or it will draw lightning.
  • don’t cross your right arm over your left arm while crossing your left leg over your right leg because it will draw lightning (obnoxious I know)

Silly or not Granny lives by her “lightning rules” and if you happen to be with her in a storm she’ll make sure you do too.

Tipper

 

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Shelia
    July 25, 2016 at 10:36 am

    My Mamaw always told her grandchildren not to pet the dog in a storm. She said animals ‘drew lightenin’.

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    July 25, 2016 at 8:44 am

    If you happen to be fishing when a thunderstorm pops up, you’ll know lightening is about to strike if you make a cast and your line never hits the water but just keeps floating up into the sky. Yep, it’s a good time to throw down your fishing pole and dive for the bottom of the boat.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    July 24, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    I apologize for this long one, but it’s all true.
    Except for the ones you and Paul made up and the one about wearing shoes in the house, I remember every other one of those lightning rules, and I can say, I still believe and abide by them firmly.
    We grew up in a very very old house that lightning seemed to strike all around. Once when we were sitting eating dinner, lightning must’ve hit the phone lines outside the house. The receiver literally jumped off of the wall phone and fell to the floor smoking. Another time, lightning came in through my screened bedroom window, across the room above the bed and struck a table radio sitting on a desk on the wall opposite the window melting the plastic casing of the radio while not damaging the screen the lightning traveled through. Lightning hit our brother’s little beagle dog Scout while it was running through the front yard toward its dog house. We were watching the storm out the window, saw it happen and thought the dog was dead, but after about 10-15 minutes, he got up and continued running towards his dog house and was fine after that. And another time lightning hit something, and it blew up the light bulbs in the brass lamps on the end tables and caused the lamps to fall over. At some point, Dad installed additional lightning rods near the corners outside the house. I don’t know if that stopped it or not.
    Now, I wouldn’t say we individually, as people, drew lightning, but I do believe to this day, we do something that sends rain away whether we want the rain to go or not. As children, we could see it raining in the road (dirt then), yet not in the yard. One day our Grandma called and asked what we kids were doing. Mom said we were outside playing. Grandma said, “It’s raining.” Mom said, “It is in the front yard, but not in the backyard.” It would also rain on one side of the house and not the other, and it did things like this often. Just the other day, our sister said it had rained at her house, but only on one side, that one of the cars in her driveway was wet but the other parked right next to it was bone dry. And here where I live in Harnett County, NC, we often see storms coming on radar from the west that hit the west Harnett County line, dissipate, and then reform right directly on the other side in Johnston County after dropping not a single drop in Harnett. We still also see it rain on one side of the house but not the other, or in the road (dirt), but not on our property. And I don’t know what to think about all that except that I KNOW it’s true.
    Prayers everyone has a safe and happy week ahead.
    Pray for others if you’re inspired to, because this old world needs it now as bad as it ever has.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    ncmountainwoman
    July 24, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Many, many years ago, my grandfather gave my youngest uncle some land on the old home place. When my uncle decided to build his house on a little knoll, my daddy told him it wouldn’t be safe. That he had seen that field set on fire by lightning in that very spot at least three times in his life. My uncle laughed it off and built there anyhow. Within two years his house was hit by lightning and set on fire. Despite everyone’s advice, my uncle rebuilt in the exact same place. And sure enough, within another three years it was hit and set afire by lightning again. My daddy said there were certain places that draw lightning because of the mineral deposits below the ground. I never knew if that is true or not, but my uncle became a believer and built his house in another area.

  • Reply
    Louise
    July 24, 2016 at 9:30 am

    My mother used to put my siblings and I in the closet when a storm came. I am still claustophobic to this day because of that. She always put her shoes on, a jacket and grabbed her purse. Don’t know where she was going to go if lightning did strike but she was ready!

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    July 23, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Those two kids of yours….Ain’t they something? Thinking only of not being separated from each other, even though one was fainty, white and ashy and needed dedicated care. It’s not the same setting but their closeness reminds me of a couple of pubescent brothers we once knew. One got into enough trouble once that a spanking was in order. As he was being spanked and the other one witnessed the moment, the other writhed and screamed and let on such that you’d have thought he was the one getting spanked.
    Now, regarding lightening, I believe in all of the admonishments called out by Granny. I also know to hit the ground and roll if lightning seems to be playing around. Once I was playing ball with the kids out in the back yard and of a sudden it commenced to get dark and threatening and stormy and the clouds that moved in began to swirl and lightening rolled in … thunder … trees’ leaves blowing off and around. I sent the kids indoors and I collected the play things. All at once’t the hair on my arms and head stood up like static disturbed and I knew what was about to happen. I dived at the ground and rolled all the way to the back porch and just as I did, a bolt of lightening hit the next door neighbor’s tree and split it and I know to this day that if I hadn’t hit the ground and rolled that I would be in my grave as we now speak (or what ever the correct abstract is).

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    July 23, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Another story of lighting coming through a window.An old man told me this years ago.He said it came up a bad thunderstorm.He went in the house and the lighting came through the window,went through the floor and killed a chicken under the house.
    I’ve seen ball lighting once in my life and would like to see it again,but probably wont.it’s rare here.

  • Reply
    TimMc
    July 23, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Man I have been so close to being struck trying to get the power back on it ain’t funny,, have been so close it might near blinded me, it hit a tree real close to where we were working.. Don’t have to go out as much as I use to, letting the Young Bucks, have there turn.. But all seriousness a Young Man near here in a little community called Hatton was struck and kill this past week, ironic he was going to school to be a meteorologist..

  • Reply
    Charline
    July 23, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    My Grandmother was absolutely certain that you couldn’t be struck by lightning if you were on a feather bed, and would pile all the young-uns on them during an ‘electric storm.’
    These comments and Granny’s instructions are fun to read, and some are important to heed.

  • Reply
    Ken
    July 23, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Tipper,
    My mama taught me those words of caution about Lightning almost word for word as Louzine described. One of the things mama said is: “don’t be petting the dogs during a Lightning Storm, they draw Lightning!” But my little dog Whisky just trembles when he hears Thunder a coming. He gets up in the recliner with me and I hold and talk to him softly. That works, cause he just soaks it up. I’ve always been a Dog Nut anyway. Even when I was a kid, my dog was My Best Friend…Ken

  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    July 23, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Tipper,
    My husband says when you her thunder there’s lightning! So we come in when it begins two huge storms have missed us this week & everything is dry! So send a storm this way. When it storms I don’t get in kitchen they say your safer in a car but a tree could go through your car. So if I’m not home. We try to get in a building.
    We just need rain! Our yard has been dug up to out in a new septic line & tank. If we hadn’t had it done it’d be pouring still needing a septic tank!
    God has a plan!
    Carol R.

  • Reply
    Tom
    July 23, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    We were all taught the same things about lightning by our Granny Mandy and we follow all these rules to this day!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 23, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Also, you are safer outside in a storm if you can get in an automobile. The metal in the cars frame dissipates the charge somewhat if your are hit. The rubber tires will not conduct electricity so the car will not be negatively charged, therefore not as attractive to lightening.
    There is some debate over whether to get under a tree if you are caught out in a storm. Some say the tree might attract lightning while others say that if hit the tree will conduct the charge into the ground. My theory is, if you are caught out, get under a tree but not if it is out by itself. Choose a big tree amongst other big trees if you want to have a better chance of survival. The reason I call it a theory is because I am not about to try to prove it. If you see on the news where an old man was found fried beside a big oak tree, you’ll know my theory was wrong.
    To read more about my experience with lightning go here http://www.needmorenc.com/fire-in-the-woods

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 23, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Granny is right about everything with the exception of the shoes and she may be right about that too. Lightning wants to go to a ground source. Anything connected to the ground is a ground source. The wiring in your house and the water pipes are grounded. If you are barefooted, you are in direct contact with the ground. If you have shoes with soles you might not conduct a negative charge which would you less attractive to lightning.
    We never would let dogs in the house when I was growing up except one old dog that cried to come in when it came a thunderstorm. It had long hair and could feel the electricity in the air. Sometimes you could see static electricity in his hair. When he got in, he was just fine. He would lay down and wait out the storm then go to the door. We knew it was safe to go out then.
    One of the main reasons I put a metal roof on my house is because of lightning. I live on a little hill and my house has been hit more than once. One strike blew nails out of a wall. Another blew a hole in the vinyl siding. The metal roof don’t stop lightning from striking but it absorbs the energy and it is less likely to do damage to the house. At least that’s what I am hoping.
    All in all I would say “listen to Granny”!
    PS: Lightning bolts don’t always come down from the sky. Sometimes they go up into the clouds. Lightning likes to choose the path of less resistance. If you are outside in a thunderstorm you might just be that path. The charge might want too jump to you or from you. In either case you are in deep doo-doo.
    PPS: Cordless phones are safe in a storm because they are not connected to wires. If you have PVC plumbing throughout your house, you might be a little safer but any metal plumbing along the way gives the electricity a way to get into the water. Pure water itself doesn’t conduct electricity but any minerals (which most of us have) in it makes it a conductor.
    PPPS: There will be a test at the end of class so pay attention!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    July 23, 2016 at 11:41 am

    I remember my Grandmother telling us, “Git that dog off the porch! Dogs draw lightning!” She had other rules. Turn off the lights, electric wires draw lightning and it will run into the house and set it afire. She could name people and houses that it had happened to.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 23, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Tipper,
    One more comment and I’ll hush. Chitter is braver than I would be and I believe the blurred picture shows it shook her a bit. ha
    Our insurance company said, “If this makes sense, that lightning strikes seem to concentrate in certain areas and cycles thru the years”! I guess they have ways to graft the cycles.
    At any rate we have a high mineral deposit here on our little ridge, this is another possibility for lightning to be drawn to our area during severe electrical storms.
    I say it is the Lords way of saying, “Wake up, pay attention, I’m still in charge”!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 23, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Tipper,
    Lightning and myownself do not have a happy relationship! I definitely respect thunderheads, storms and even a distant sighted storm. Maybe it is because our well pump has been burned up 3 times from lighting running in, jumping and burning up the installed lightning arrestor. The last time all the old pipe was replaced with plastic to help reduce the problem. Well then, what happens last year just as I was about to mash the off button on my computer (due to my hearing close thunder) lightning struck the cable line down the road from us, traveled the line, burnt up all our devices, the computer, the router box, our six month old new television. All the cable lines running to adjacent area homes had to be replaced. The cable people said they have never seen lines burn up like that!
    Lightning hit a large Oak in our yard a few years ago. We found evidence of tree hits on our ridge, and a large Oak on our driveway. The one in the yard immediately started dying. The one on the driveway slowly passed into oblivion, it must have been a secondary hit maybe bouncing off the neighbors many strung bobbed wire old fence and poles.
    I saw my son run out to a car to catch a ride just as a storm was starting it’s furious light show. He grabbed the car handle and the car and his body had a glowing halo a around it. He said he thought he was a goner barely able to get in the car and shut the door from the numbing tingling sensation that lasted for several hours.
    My kids always called and said, “Mom a bad storm is coming you might as well go and get in bed now until it is over!”
    I know the Lord protects us all, but He also gives us a brain and expects common sense to be used.
    Reminds me of the joke about a man whose house was about to be enveloped by a flood. The emergency workers came house to house telling folks to move to higher ground. He said, “Well the Lord will protect me!” The water begin to rise and a boat was sent to take him to safety. Again he said, “I’m not leaving the Lord will protect me”, so he stayed. Soon he had to climb on top of his house and a rescue helicopter arrived to air lift him to safety. He said, “No, it has quit raining and the water is going down. Thru the bullhorns they pleaded it would take days to recede, He answered, No, I’m find the Lord will protect me! Well, that evening he made a false step and slid off the roof into the water and drowned! When he got to heaven he ask Saint Peter, I always trusted in the Lord, why did I drown. St. Peter said, Well sir, we sent you emergency workers, a boat and a helicopter, we figured by the third time you refused that you wanted to come to Heaven early!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS All grannies ideas about storms, drawing lightning and more are ingrained in a lot of mountain
    women. My grandmother that lived on the high hills above Marshall, NC was in her living room and watched as a “ball of lightning” hit in the yard, bounce once, come thru the window and roll thru her living room before vanishing in thin air. I have heard stories about “ball lightning” all my life that occurs during severe electric storms in the mountains. All this passed to my Mother as a child and of course down to me! ha

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    July 23, 2016 at 10:28 am

    My Mom had many of those ideas except for shoes inside. Living atop a mountain seemed to make the storms louder and much more dramatic. We had a neighbor growing up that liked to show a lamp near her landline which had been burned during lightening. For the life of me I cannot recall the phone being knocked out. My Mom had to have hospital bed later in life to raise and assist her out of bed. It was metal and near a window, so she would grab her walker and go sit in the living room. Dad had the opposite idea, and always proclaimed lightening to be fairly random. Always calm, he had a firm belief whatever will be was meant to be.
    I love a good storm, but I don’t push my luck. I sometimes do this silly thing where I wait for the lightening, and then run like blazes (walk faster now) from the car to get inside the house before the next lightening. I guess I made that one up.
    After all that rain drowning my state, I am now having to water the tomatoes to keep the vines from withering. We sure could use a gullywasher right now.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    July 23, 2016 at 10:14 am

    I have heard most and I won’t get in the shower if it is storming. I was also told, if I was outside when a storm came up never get under a tree. I’m pretty sure those are good warnings to go by. It is HOT here in south central PA and we need some rain.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 23, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Somehow or other we had the expression of “getting thunderstruck”. We even had a place on the river called ‘Thunderstruck Shoals’. I have a vague memory of talk about ‘drawing lightening’ but I don’t remember particulars.
    I have been in the near vicinity of strikes three times that I remember. They are very disorienting. They must be the inspiration for flash-bang grenades.
    Chitter’s picture is unusual in that it is leaf-off. I have been on at least one fire though that was started by lightening in November.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    July 23, 2016 at 9:14 am

    My mother was the same way and had pretty much the same rules as granny.
    I know there is some validity to some if not all of those situations but as far as probability I think you are pretty safe inside. Now if you’re out running around in the rain and lighting or seeking shelter under a tree then I think your chances greatly increase.
    Good ol common sense goes a long way in those situations. As an old boss told a
    young man who had done something not very smart, “use your head for something besides a hat rack son!”
    I like the ones you and your brother made up.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    July 23, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Our local weather station just added lightning alerts to those of us who downloaded their app. The alert tells us how many miles lightning is detected from our location while the weatherman screams, “Stay away from doors and windows!” I refuse to talk on the phone or take a shower during a lightning storm. Wearing rubber or leather shoes during a storm makes sense. They say the rubber tires on your vehicle makes it a safe place to be when its lightning -kinda like having shoes on. Granny is so smart!

  • Reply
    Sallie R Swor
    July 23, 2016 at 9:09 am

    I’m with Granny on this one! One late summer afternoon on the farm in the 1970’s I heard thunder (no radar warnings were available in those days) and ran to get a quick shampoo & shower. With long hair I had to allow time to roll it on those large rollers (with brushes removed) and sit under a dryer for almost an hour. The tiny bathroom had just enough room to turn around with an open window over the tub/shower. The storm had arrived as I quickly dried off but before I could leave the room a bolt of lightning came through the window and hit the exposed metal pipe under the sink sounding like I had hit it as hard as I could with a hammer. A ball of fire about the size of a softball popped up near my legs. With my towel and clothes in my hands I quickly joined the “streaking” phenomenon as far as my grandmother’s room across the hall. We watched as the ball of fire and loud noises of those pipes continued 3 or 4 times. I “respect” thunder and lightning since then and stay away from plumbing, windows, etc. and advise others to do that, too. Now we are told that if we hear thunder there is danger of being struck by lightning.

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    July 23, 2016 at 8:43 am

    That Granny is a gooden! That is the BEST compliment one person can bestow on another person!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 23, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Mama used to say that cats draw lightening. I’ve heard a lot of people say don’t take a bath or talk on the phone during a storm and I do get a little nervous on the land line if it’s lightening. I guess it’s the idea that the lightening might run in on the wiring.
    We’ve had a thunderstorm nearly every afternoon here in Middle Tn. Everywhere anything in the garden touches the ground it’s rotting–I’ve never had cucumbers rot so much.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 23, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I don’t know about wearing shoes inside, but there is validity to Granny’s concerns about talking on the phone, taking showers, or flushing toilets.
    Especially when phones were all hard wired and plumbing was metal, it was always possible for lightning to run into the house on phone wires or plumbing. Since water is also electrically conductive, it might even be a concern with plastic plumbing lines.
    Standing near windows might also be a bad idea because electrical fields around lightning strikes can affect things for some distance.
    A cordless phone would not be a problem, sine the handset is not directly connected to circuits.
    Granny knew what she was talking about!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 23, 2016 at 7:19 am

    I’ve heard most of those at sometime or another but I don’t follow any of them. Well, there is one I follow and that’s stay inside, but that’s more about the wet than the lightening.
    We have had some pretty dramatic flash rains with thunder and lightening lately. Natures drama can get your attention when she wants to!

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