Frau and A-E were sleeping when a thunderclap of approximately the same decibel level as the combined noise of the Nazi bombardment of London and the allied bombing of Dresden during World War II rent the night about 3:15 a.m. Cats and dogs continued soft snoring but the couple were wide awake as the thunderclap echoed throughout the Canisteo hills like rifle shots at every compass point.

A-E stumbled to survey the village from every second-story window. He thought about how American ground pounders described B-52 bomb salvos during the Vietnam War: “They sounded like the end of the world.”

Frau turned on the bedroom light. A-E reported their village neighbors were asleep or at least weren’t padding around their homes.

The village fire alarm maybe five minutes later and half a block away screeched its three alerts to call volunteers. Half a dozen cars and trucks assembled at the brick station and, with apparent concern for sleeping neighbors, drove four blocks with fire truck and ambulance emergency lights arcing their red beams but without sirens along the quiet streets.

The only noise A-E heard was the quiet thumping of his heart and the imagined Scottish folk song “Annie Laurie,” that A-E hadn’t’ thought of since fourth grade:

“Maxwelton's braes are bonnie, “Where early fa's the dew, “Twas there that Annie Laurie “Gi'ed me her promise true. “Gi'ed me her promise true - “Which ne'er forgot will be, “And for bonnie Annie Laurie “I'd lay me down and dee.”

A freight train whistled a warning as it approached Deport Avenue: “Scrrrrrrrrrreach Scrrrrrrrrrreach Screach Scrrrrrrrrrreach” and it was gone with only a silent reminder intruding on tuneful Annie Laurie.

“Her brow is like the snaw-drift, “Her neck is like the swan, “Her face it is the fairest, “That 'er the sun shone on. “That 'er the sun shone on - “And dark blue is her e'e, “And for bonnie Annie Laurie “I'd lay me down and dee.”

Within minutes, the throaty growl of the fire engine returned, turned onto Main Street and, except for the obligatory soft warning beeps that she was backing into her berth, silently ended her mission as quiet “goodnights” from the more than half dozen volunteers to each other.

Wellsville Regional News later reported: “Some heavy thunderstorms rolled across the southern-most parts of Allegany and Steuben counties shortly before four o’clock this morning. Some trees blocked roads near Whitesville. Lightning is believed to have struck a home at 28 3rd Street in the village of Canisteo. The home occupants called 911 and said their home was filling with smoke. Canisteo fire and ambulance responded. After an evaluation, no injuries were reported. Firefighters returned to service within an hour. South Hornell was placed on standby during the incident.”

Frau, A-E and their emerging zoo padded downstairs a few hours later. The couple quickly became immersed in the details of the day and forgot the explosive thunderclap that awakened them and sent fire department members into the night.

 

When he’s not listening to thunderclaps echoing off the Canisteo Hills, A-E writes a weakly Spectator column.