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Keep calm and mow on

by Phil Callaway


We live in the town of Three Hills, Alberta, population 3,500—if you count cats. Nothing happens here. Until this past June when my son Steve looked through the window and saw a tornado moving in the general direction of his house. So he did what any responsible male adult would do. Grabbed his smartphone, pressed record, threw open the back door and ran straight toward the monster, hoping for a better camera angle. 

The twister touched down a few football fields away, but Steve kept calm and filmed on. It tore a roof from a barn, hurled a grain bin half a mile, flipped and crumpled an RV, while half the town pointed their phones at the sky and gasped, “Woah, have you ever?” 

Our neighbors Theunis and Cecelia Wessels had front row seats. But Cecelia was napping, and as for Theunis, well, he had a lawn to mow. 

Their daughter woke Cecelia and pointed out the window. A massive funnel was ripping through the field behind their house, while her husband calmly mowed the lawn. Like my son, her first thought was, grab a camera. 

Cecelia put the picture on social media, and in no time, CNN, the BBC, and Time were among the hundreds that picked up the story. A German news outlet labeled Theunis, “The Chuck Norris of lawn mowing.” The Washington Times dubbed him “a breathtaking Internet legend.” 

“I had to get the lawn cut,” Theunis told reporters. “I knew it was there…I was keeping an eye on it.” “[The tornado] looks much closer if you look in the photo,” he said, “but it was really far away. Well, not really far, far away, but it was far away from us.” 

Some called Theunis crazier than a four dollar bill. Not me. I like this guy. Now, should you take cover if a tornado is coming? Yes. Please do. But the photo reminds me of a tiny bird perched in a nest while a thundering waterfall misses him by inches. 

I asked my neighbor Theunis about storms. “I’ve had my share of them,” he told me. “I was leading the pack climbing Russia’s highest peak. I slipped and fell 100 metres. They evacuated me 200 metres short of reaching the summit. That was a lifelong dream. Maybe that tornado prepared me for this one.” Then he smiled and told me his secret. “If your heart and soul belong to God,” he said, “storms still come. But you’re in His hands. Be cautious, but keep your faith. Trust God and be faithful.” 

Or as someone said on Twitter, “When the going gets tough the tough get mowing.”