Nine Kinds of Naked: An Excerpt
In 1936, during the depths of the Great Depression, forty young women arrived at the Cooper Pants Factory near Gainesville, Florida, sat down at their sewing machines, and set about stitching hems and seams, another dreary day in the land of opportunity. Shortly after they began their busywork, and as if this debasement of their imagination were not tragic enough, a tornado came along and bumped into the factory. Thirty-nine of the forty women ran panicked and screaming to the stairwell; a Mrs. Boyd Shaw remained at her station. She had inadvertently sewn her own dress into the seam she was stitching, and was unable to beat the hasty retreat. As she struggled to free herself, the tornado ripped the roof from the building, ultimately causing it to collapse, but not before it tore Mrs. Boyd Shaw clean out of her clothes and tossed her a block away, stark naked and bruised, but otherwise fine. All thirty-nine of her coworkers died in the ensuing inferno that consumed the factory.
There are hundreds of substantiated oddities such as this surrounding tornadoes. A tornado once opened a barn door, pulled a wagon out, turned it around, wheeled it back inside, and closed the door. A phonograph recording of the song Stormy Weather was once found wedged into a utility pole after a tornado had swept through the area. A butter churn once dropped out of the sky and landed on a cow’s head, half an hour after a tornado had hit twenty miles away. Chickens are routinely stripped of their feathers, and the feathers are sometimes found speared into planks of wood. In 1974, a farmer reclaimed a mirror, a carton of eggs, and a box of Christmas ornaments – all undamaged – from the otherwise total wreckage of his house. A tornado in 1996 even had the audacity to hit a drive-in movie theatre in Canada while it was screening the movie Twister.
Then there are those who claim that tornadoes can blow a jug inside out, or a cellar upside down, or a rooster into a bottle, or even that a tornado can change the day of the week and knock the wind out of a politician. Although these assertions are ludicrous, the essential point should not be lost. Tornadoes introduce chaos, and chaos makes anything – short of changing the day of the week – possible. To describe the situation in terms of probability theory: Tornadoes provide a high probability that several of millions of low probability events will occur. Of course, which of these millions of low probability events actually occurs is pure chance.
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