Folks in this area are living through one of the most devastating winters in decades. Temperatures reaching far below zero have caused many hardships regarding households and highways. Families endure frozen pipes which inevitably burst causing havoc. Electricity has also been disrupted causing further inconvenience to homes, business establishments and schools.
The cold wave brings to mind hardships this area endured years ago having to do with flooding instead of zero temperatures. When folks ask me, “Were you in the flood?” I respond, “Which one?” My home place was decimated in 1963, flooded again in 1969, after which the dwelling was raised 11 cinder blocks, or standard basement height, but to no avail, because flood waters got into the second floor 5 feet in 1977.
Those who have never experienced floods don’t realize certain things and have strange notions about them. Those people think the water rises and flows out like clean water in a bathtub. The water is anything but clean. It is tainted with sewage and often contaminated with oil from loose fuel tanks.
They don’t realize the great force of the swollen waters, how the stream or river carries large objects along with unbelievable swiftness and deposits them in unlikely places when the water recedes. That great force inside a dwelling stirs heavy furniture and large objects as if they were toys in a washing machine.
Flood mud is deep, thick as glue and finds its way into every thread of goods, every crack, nook and cranny, every shelf, cabinet, drawer, not to mention insulation and sheetrock. No amount of washing, hosing, scrubbing, mopping or cleaning with sprays and detergents ever gets rid of it completely. The smell lingers years later when flood dust is disturbed.
Each flood brings with it its tragedies, its miraculous rescues, its acts of heroism and its sense of community shared by those who are in a common predicament. Acts of compassion and kindness abound. Tragedy often brings out the best in people who feel the urge to help their fellow man.
One such incident comes to my mind. When I was cleaning up after the 1963 flood, there was no water in my neighborhood. As I labored on a task, one of a hundred or more, Jackie Forester from Ivy Street came by carrying a bucket of fresh water and some paper cups. She said, “I don’t know what else to do, or how to help, but just thought you and your neighbors could use a good cold drink of water.” I’ll never forget that drink of water or that act of kindness.
Charlie Harris from the Red Cross came by with a personal hygiene kit of sorts. It had in it a comb, a toothbrush and paste, soap, shampoo and hand lotion with menthol. After having one’s hands in cold, muddy water for hours, a bystander could not possibly believe how welcome and precious each item was, especially the hand lotion. The menthol soothed each aching joint with a balm of comfort. There again, I have never forgotten that act of compassion and thoughtfulness.
Kindness by the thousands can be recalled but not all can possibly be related, however, I do remember with fondness a humorous incident.
After three weeks of intense cleaning after the 1963 flood, I brought my mother down from the Methodist parsonage to view the house. Much had been accomplished. One could see the floor; a great deal of progress had been made which, I thought, as encouraging. Mother looked around and was non-committal. Tons of mud had been removed from the front and side yards and dumped in Wade’s Alley. Wheelbarrow tracks were a testimony to the heavy work which had been accomplished.
Mother surveyed the scene. She walked through each room and looked around, then went on through the kitchen onto the back porch and onto the top step. She heaved a deep sigh as she looked toward her flower garden and said, “Well, (pause)…somebody stepped on my iris.”