The Roundup -

Shake, Rattle and Roll


August 16, 2017 | View PDF

Tender footed me has never experienced major weather upheavals. Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, forest fires, and other natural disasters or weather phenomena all belong in the realm of ‘they happen to someone else, far far away from here’. No longer. I can now say that I have lived through an unwanted natural geological event, even if I had no idea at the time what on earth I heard or felt.

Every so often, earthquakes have a habit of jolting residents of Montana. Virginia City suffered through a major earthquake in the early fifties, one that rattled and banged and managed to make the local school unusable, as well as leaving other damage in its wake. This area has many tiny quakes every year, thanks to the proximity of Yellowstone National Park, but few of them reach any magnitude that catches the attention of outsiders.

A month or so ago, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake rocked Virginia City in the wee hours of the morning. My husband slept right through it. I did not, but never having experienced an earthquake before, I had no idea just what on earth I heard.

Before I share the details of this most interesting experience, let me backtrack. My husband and I sold our house in March and moved into a 12x16 building which we used as our living quarters. We called this little area home for the three and a half months it took for contractors to build our cabin and move it on site. This tiny little building, as well as the 12x28 foot shop that we also spent a lot of time in while waiting for the cabin to arrive, did not sit on a totally firm foundation.

The perimeter sat solidly on the ground, but the center part had a little bit of give to it. The floor would rock beneath our feet and rattle the objects within the building as we walked from one end to the other. Our cabin of course does not move at all. Built as solidly as an army tank, complete with a solid foundation beneath it, it has no give whatsoever as we walk around and through the structure. The cabin sits firmly anchored to the earth, with no give, no shakes, no rattles, nor rolls as we move around in the interior.

We moved into our new cabin about a week before the earthquake struck. Still unfamiliar with our new sleeping quarters, I had not yet identified all the new sounds and disturbances that always accompany new living accommodations. The night the earthquake hit our area, the fact that I woke up in the midnight hours in an as yet strange location caused temporary confusion as to where I was and what was happening around me.

My dog Ruby woke me first. Her pacing around the bed and quiet whining partially roused me from sleep. I then felt and heard the floorboards tremble, so my sleep fogged brain told me that my husband was on his way to the bathroom.

Then my not-quite-awake mind reminded me that we now lived in our new cabin. The floorboards of this cabin did not groan or moan when we traversed from one end of the structure to the other. So what did I hear?

Still nowhere near awake or alert, I listened to what I thought sounded like dishes rattling in the cupboard, as well as what sounded to me like metal rods clanging together, along with a strange shake, rattle, and roll. Figuring I was totally out of my mind, I awoke completely to try to puzzle out what on earth I heard. By then, silence reigned, my dog settled down, and all seemed as usual. I lay awake for quite some time, wondering what woke me, what I had heard, and debating whether or not I ought to get up and look out to see what sort of animal might be lurking in our back yard, wreaking havoc and causing the disturbance. No rational explanation occurred to me as to what I had just heard, and I decided against crawling out of bed to investigate. I figured since I didn’t know what I was looking for, I may as well stay under the warm covers. I finally fell into a fitful sleep.

The next morning on my way to work, our neighbor passed me. He stopped to inquire how we had weathered the earthquake of the night before.

Earthquake?? What??? My poor naïve brain saw the lightbulb switch on in full brilliance. Aha, I thought, we just experienced our first, and hopefully last, earthquake in Virginia City, even if we had no idea what it was we had just lived through.

The next time our otherwise sturdy abode does its shake, rattle and roll dance, I will know exactly what causes this uncharacteristic behavior. Next time I will wake up and have time to begin worrying about what sort of upheaval this may be, and what, if anything I ought to do about it.


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