A Flood Of Memories And Prayers
Wednesday - September 14, 2005
Long ago a flood taught me how to sweep, and it taught me how to pray.
The catastrophic New Orleans flood has dredged up a long-stored memory of a time in my childhood when the weather was something people just dealt with, had faith about, and the government stayed out of.
My grandparents lived on the Concho River in San Angelo, Texas. They had a big back yard that sloped down to a small man-made lagoon which was like a tiny exit off the wide, steadily moving Concho. My cousins and I spent practically every Sunday in that yard cane-pole fishing for perch, swimming in the icy well-water pool, or playing Canasta, Monopoly or “dress up” in the downstairs den.
By the time I was 10 years old, I was used to tornadoes and red dust storms and thunderstorms that came across a big sky out of nowhere. On this particular Sunday at Grandma’s after church, scrawling lightening on a dark cloud sent us a curt warning, and soon the sky opened up with rain that fell so hard it splashed as it hit the thick St. Augustine grass. Hardly aware, we kids kept on dealing cards and giggling, until Grandma came in and announced, “There’s a flood coming. Start moving the furniture upstairs.” This was a few years before flood gates were installed in the nearby lake’s dam.
By this time, the old, narrow bridge we drove across to get home was “out” according to the grown ups. That meant we’d have to spend the night, which also meant I might get to miss school, so I was secretly grateful for this flood - that is, until I saw the lower back yard quickly becoming a fast-moving river. The lily pad-filled lagoon and the little arched bridge were gone, so were the rock steps leading to the upper yard and the concrete planters. The swimming pool would be next. The ranch directly across the river had several head of cattle and a few horses, some of which were being swept away in the flooding waters. If you’ve ever heard a drowning cow or horse, you know they make a loud, desperate, moaning sound.
“Daddy, we have to save the cows and horses,” I begged, sobbing and heartbroken.
“Don’t be ridiculous. They know how to swim. They’ll be fine,” he fibbed. I tried to believe him.
The river was soon in the upper yard, and finally seeped through the downstairs doors as we sped up the furniture evacuation. We cousins made sure the toys and the games were safe and sat on the stairs watching the muddy water consume the first step, then the second. We moved up, the water followed. Would it reach the upstairs? What then? Gaining steps, the flood pushed us up and up until we had to retreat inside the stairwell door, watching and praying. “Oh God, please don’t let the water come up here, please, please, please,” I prayed in my head over and over. I guess He heard, because suddenly the flood stopped right there on the landing mere inches from the doorway.
Then, the murky, snake-infested water slowly, slowly began to recede.
Exhausted and relieved, we all found places to sleep upstairs and early the next morning arose to bright sunny skies and ... mud, thick, junk-filled mud covering everything. Since no one was coming to help (that’s what children and grandchildren were for), and the mud had to be removed from the house, we all soon learned how to sweep like pros. I swept left-handed, right-handed, backwards and forwards. I swept from corners to the middle and finally out the patio door onto the yard where the mud was beginning to dry and crack in the hot Texas sun. And I swept defensively, looking out for the random, mud-stuck water moccasin. All day we swept until we had blisters.
Eventually, the place was back to normal except for the yard which was covered with cracked mud for a very long time.
Recalling this incident from the past reminds me that floods are really quite terrifying, especially if you have no time to prepare and no parents to reassure you. Life in general can be terrifying too, if you don’t have prayer and God to reassure you.
It’s something to think about in these trying times.
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