The day Ranch Apocalypse burned, the honeysuckle bloomed.

Someone somewhere will write teleological headlines into that — a sign. I see it as a coincidence. Headline: “Mother Nature ignores human nature.”

The blooming of the honeysuckle didn’t make Tuesday’s newspaper. It was bumped by terrifying man-made events. (Someone out there is calling them God-made events. I say that’s a serious accusation against the maker of honeysuckle.)

Monday night the heavens turned dark and surly. No doubt someone looking for a sign said, “Look! The wrath of God!”

Because a son begged to be taken to the playground that evening, I had a moment to ponder those heavens as a distant front marched east.

Anvil-shaped, sopping and black at the bottom, the thunderheads wore bright white plumes. They lit up in rapid-fire fashion, showing off the synapses of an alive and lively ecosystem. They set about madly irrigating fields, trees and flowers.

The wrath of God? Bosh. Try loving maintenance.

In the senseless tragedy involving the Branch Davidians, we’ve had a curious peek at the fine line between religious devotion and existentialism. We have religious existentialists — people who believe they have no control over events, who are tossed in the divine gale, out of control except to find shelter. They huddle and wait for the end. What is the purpose except that end?

I want to understand the condition, but — forgive me — I see too much possibility on this earthly plane.

Heck, find those earthly possibilities in the Bible. I’m wondering if the Koreshians took any time out from their Revelations marathons to turn to Psalms — sort of like opening the window and letting the scent of honeysuckle drift in.

Enter the weapons

I’ve heard acquaintances of the Branch Davidians describe how gentle the group was. Peaceable is a word that came to mind.

Then I hear of how Vernon Howell accumulated instruments of death like so many stamps or coins, and I heard Kiri Jewell, 12, tell Phil Donahue that Howell showed youngsters like her how to point those instruments of death in their mouths in case it became their duty to end it all.

Tuesday’s unsealed affidavits made this peaceable group look like the Red Army, nearly $200,000 spent on weapons. No doubt Howell had orders in the mail for more. What we’re to assume was that Howell and his followers believed they lived in a world awash with sin and sinners, and there is a better place beyond.

If there is a better place beyond, why hang around inside the thin walls of a prairie compound and wait for an excruciating battle? Why not ingest a flask of Drano? It’s quicker.

Reasons to live

Why not? Because, despite the misery that is on this earth, the turmoil, the strife — how much do we need to show that this is a magnificent place?

As we point fingers at Los Federales for the missteps and miscalculations that contributed to this terrible tragedy, let’s all — all of us who live — reflect on the insanity behind Vernon Howell’s self-fulfilling prophecy. Imagine the vitality of those children, the real sacrificial lambs, being taught to tote weapons, to prepare for a battle against someone they didn’t know, somewhere, some time.

That evening while Ranch Apocalypse burned, my son was knee-deep in the sand of a deserted playground, trying to build a castle. Robert saw the far-off lightning and agreed it was time for us to go home, to stuffed animals and storybooks.

He will return to build his castles.

Someone was to blame for the deaths of the children at Ranch Apocalypse, but it wasn’t the maker of honeysuckle.

John Young’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.