Tornado talk stirs emotions

REMEMBERING — From left, Willis Mattison, Ron McDaniel and Clint Peterson share their memories of the 1968 tornado at The Caboose on Saturday. The inset photos are respective head shots from the 1968 THS Teton. Mattison and Peterson were teachers at the school in 1968, and McDaniel was a senior. At left is a photo taken south of Tracy of the twister as it churns eastward through town. The Tracy City Cemetery is off to the right of the frame. The never-before published photo was given to Wimpy Peterson by Leo Shoeman many years ago.

By Per Peterson

Not only did the weekend spur numerous private conversations between past and current Tracy residents, it also gave a few people a chance to express their thoughts on a public stage.
Before KSTP-TV’s Jonathan Yuhas took the stage for his presentation Saturday afternoon, a number of people grabbed a mic and talked about what they remember about that fateful night and what impact the storm had on them.
Tracy Area High School graduate Ron McDaniel was on the Tracy American Legion baseball team that was on a bus a few miles north of town on the Airport Road, headed back to Tracy from a game in Cottonwood.
“It started hailing (in Cottonwood) and they called the game,” he said. “Fritz Lessman was driving the bus; we get on the bus, and we’re headed back to Tracy and somewhere before we got to the Amiret Road, Johnny Glaser says, ‘Look, it’s a white tornado.’ It all started rather humorously, but as we got closer to Tracy it became rather obvious what was going on.”
McDaniel said team members all had developed an “empty feeling” as their bus got closer to town.
“You could see the gaping hole right through town,” he said. “You just knew it went right through the grade school area.”
McDaniel concluded by saying he’s glad to have been able to share his story and honor the people who lost their lives and their livelihoods — their whole lives, their history, their family albums were all sucked up in that tornado,” he said.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.