PRAIRIE CENTER – The first tornado struck the ranch belonging to Gene and Linda Lay in the late 1970s.
It took the home. And they rebuilt and carried on.
Last year, a massive grass fire swept across the ranch, burning fences and destroying much of what the family had built.
And again, they carried on.
Monday, the Lay family was in the path of Mother Nature again when another tornado – this one spawned from the series of storms that moved across the region from northern Colorado – struck the land where Gene has lived his entire life.
This one damaged the home that had been built to replace the one lost to that first twister. It destroyed a shop and barns, equipment and livestock on the ranch, which has been in Gene Lay’s family for generations.
But, despite Mother Nature’s best efforts to drive them off their land, Gene and Linda remain indomitable, their niece Jenni Goslin, speaking for the family, said Wednesday.
They will rebuild and carry on again.
“Gene’s been on this place his whole life” Goslin said. “This land goes back quite a ways in our family.”
As of Thursday morning, an account set up following the storm at gofundme.com has raised more than $8,600 to help the family get back on its feet. And a separate account has been set up by Goslin at Pinnacle Bank in Torrington for the community to donate to the
Relating the story as told to her by her aunt, Linda, Goslin said her aunt and uncle retreated to the basement of the rural home near Prairie Center just moments before the tornado struck. Linda had been watching as the wind increased and the dark clouds moved in.
“She said she was looking out the living room bay window and it looked like it started forming,” Goslin said. “Her and Uncle Gene tried to get them and the dogs downstairs, into the basement. The dogs wouldn’t go.”
Linda told her niece the storm sounded just like any other Wyoming spring windstorm, at least from the safety of their underground shelter. Linda opined later the twister must have passed directly overhead, the home in the eye or calmest part of the storm for most of its brief journey.
The storm broke windows, tore off part of the roof and stripped brick and siding from the home. It also destroyed a tractor and round hay bailer, flattened a workshop and destroyed a barn, which had survived that first tornado 40 years ago.
“The shop is gone – it leveled it” Goslin said. “And that old barn on the west side of the house – there’s not a twig left where that barn was.”
In addition, two of the Lay’s horses had to be treated for injuries by a local veterinarian. They’re back home now and doing fine. But a three-year-old colt and a three-month-old filly weren’t as lucky. Both had to be put down due to their injuries.
The family is currently in need of basically everything as the long work of clearing away the debris and picking up the pieces begins in earnest. And Goslin said there isn’t an estimate yet of the total, dollars and cents cost of the storm.
“I haven’t heard an amount yet,” she said. “I know it’s going to be a pretty penny.”
Goslin was not with her aunt and uncle when the storm hit. She went out later, once the all clear was given and the storms had moved out of the area, to offer what help she could.
When she pulled into her aunt and uncle’s ranch, “I wanted to go back home – I was hoping it was a dream,” Goslin recalled. “But I couldn’t do that to my family. I had to go and do what I could to help.”
As for Gene and Linda?
“They’re trying to keep their spirits up,” Goslin said. “They’re not doing the greatest, but they’re keeping their spirits up.”