By ZACK MCMILLIN
Scripps Howard News Service
April 04, 2006
A mounted deer wedged under a fallen tree. A stuffed bear, still able to chirp, "Time for the bear, cha cha cha." A purse, glittery and multi-colored. Diaper bags. Children's sneakers.
"Hey, Mama," Ashley Austin yelled out from near a huge tree that had been peeled and filleted into some monstrous sculpture, "I found a video camera. You think it's got anything in it?"
Ashley and her mother, Tammy, spent two grim hours Monday foraging through what appeared to have been a thicket of woods behind the property that had belonged to Tammy's cousin, Brad, and his family.
Maybe that video camera held images of 5-year-old Tyce Taylor's first T-Ball game, played just Friday.
Maybe it showed his father, 28-year-old Brad, hoisting his latest trophy animal.
Or maybe it showed the whole family together in their big house - 29-year-old Tanya and 3-year-old Kyle with Brad and little Tyce - before a powerful tornado barreled onto the ridge and took their lives.
Brad was the youngest son of Larry Taylor, who owns the Hunt Funeral Home on Main Street in Bradford, and the half-brother of Tim Taylor, the Bradford fire chief who spent Sunday night and most of Monday coordinating emergency response.
"They were very close, those two, and they never called one another anything but brothers," said Coy Hathcock, pastor of the Skullbone Church of Christ where the Taylors attended. "To Tim, those two young boys were like his own."
Tim's house, 7 miles away clear on the other side of Bradford, was also destroyed. One of his wife's eight horses was killed.
A cat carrier with T. Taylor scrawled onto it. A surround-sound speaker. A shower curtain. Pledge dust wipes. A muddied VCR. Toy tractors.
Up the road, 75-year-old Gene Fisher had crouched in his bathroom with Donis, his 66-year-old wife who relies on oxygen.
The tornado ripped off the roof, blew away half the house, turned their green Ford Taurus turtle, slammed the red F-150 about 70 yards from where the garage had been and catapulted a horse trailer 200 yards away into one of the rare stands of woods left unscathed.
"When it hit, you could hear the wood start cracking and popping," Gene was saying Monday, as his daughter, Sandra Roberson of Cordova, and other friends and family members helped. "It lasted maybe a minute, but seemed like 30 minutes."
When a friend asked how he was doing, Fisher shrugged and said, "I'm doing good, buddy. I'm alive."
From Taylor Road, all the tornado tourists could see of the Taylor property was a porch with landscaping in front of it and a slab where the garage had been. It looked like a builder had abandoned the site.
Tammy, Ashley and Ashley's boyfriend, Justin Tanner, spent their time clambering on the ridge, trying, as Ashley put it, to find, "basically something the family can have of them."
Tammy was, like so many in Gibson County, distraught and exhausted. She tried to think of her task at hand and not dwell on any emotions.
Brad, who worked at the Owens-Corning plant in Jackson, was "well-known and well-liked" throughout town, she said.
"Brad is one of the best-natured and most outgoing people I ever knew," she said. "He had a big heart for everyone."
An area rug, ripped into cobwebs of fabric, with little boy's jeans and shirts caught in it. A John Deere kid's vehicle. DVD of Kingdom of Heaven.
As they continued to clean, Tanya's father and mother arrived. Ronnie Barron tried to keep a stern face as his wife, Selene, bent over in grieving. She found some small baseballs and carried them back to their truck.
Another relative, Paul Don Lowr, explained to Ronnie that he was coming back to tow away the bass boat and other expensive items, just to be safe.
"I know it ain't right," Lowry said, referring to the possibility that some might try and steal in the wake of such destruction.
Barron shook his head.
"Nothing about this is right," he said. "They say the Lord doesn't ever give you more than you can handle. Well, He's given us a mountain."
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