There are several meteor showers that can be seen in mid-February: Alpha Hydrids, Alpha Carinids, Delta Velids, Alpha Centaurids, Omicron Centaurids, Theta Centaurids, February Leonids, and Deltlta Leonids. On the night of February 13, 1956, my friend Darryl and I witnessed a spectacular display of shooting stars in the skies over Northern Oklahoma. While a medium shower averages about one meteor every five minutes, we were seeing two or three a minute. I have not witnessed any meteor showers since that have come anywhere near to the spectacle of that frigid February night.
We were hitch-hiking from Wichita to Oklahoma City to visit my grandparents. It was the night of my 17th birthday. I came home from school that day to learn that my mother had taken my dog to the vet and had her put down because, according to my mother, the dog was a nuisance. She did this on my birthday!
Darryl and I got on the road just before dark, and, after several rides and a few hours, we were let out, as near as I can reconstruct it, somewhere between Tonkawa and Perry on US 77. It was cold. It was dark. The sky was alight with twinkling stars and streaking cosmic dust particles. But there were no cars in either direction. We waited for hours. Darryl claims that I laid down in the middle of the road to watch the meteor showers, but I don’t recall doing that.
The temperature was dropping by the minute, reaching the low teens. Without shelter, we would soon be in serious trouble. We saw some buildings about a quarter mile down the road, but Darryl thought that any farm houses would have dogs and they could be a problem. After discussing the pros and cons of approaching a farm with or without dogs, we realized that the yellow sign a short distance away was a warning for a school zone. That wasn’t a farm ahead: it was a country schoolhouse!
We eagerly stumped up the small incline to the school on frozen feet, only to find its door locked. We started trying the windows and discovered one of them unlocked, but all the windows were covered with wire gratings. We located a broom or a rake (I don’t remember exactly what) in a shed behind the school and used the handle to bend the grating on the unlocked window far enough that I could squeeze through to unlock the door for Darryl and our bags. The heat was on and very welcome, gradually returning feeling to our noses, fingers, and toes. We slept on the floor, woke up early, straightened the grating as best we could, and left a note on the blackboard thanking the school for giving us shelter.
Traffic returned to the highway and we made it the rest of the way to Oklahoma City without incident. We stayed with my grandparents for two days while I dealt with my anger, and hitched back to Wichita. It took a while, but, over time, I worked out some strategies for getting along with my mother.
I never got another dog while I lived in my mother’s house. Ironically, the year after I moved out, my mother got a dog of her own.