Tuesday, May 8, 2012

River Rats

River Rats
By Revia Perrigin

The dirty, rushing water of the Tombigbee River covered the flatlands and the highlands. The musky water filled with snakes, toys, fish and any debris that would float surrounded my house. Colonies of fire ants floating in blobs made brown balls of insects going to an unknown destination.

The Corp of Engineer’s prediction of how high the river would rise before it crested was Biblical to us. I live on a road that ends at the river. When the river rises, I am caught in a circular nimbus. Residents chose to move to higher ground or stay. Once the water rises, a boat is needed to leave the area.
The flood of ’72 was the worse. Most of the north side of Columbus was flooded. The water rose rapidly leaving no time for residents to move possessions. Four feet of water invaded my house leaving mud and silt. The only thing to remain dry was Miss Beasley. Her blue and yellow polka dotted body was lying on a floating mattress. Today forty years later, Miss Beasley sits on a trunk hanging her feet over the side. She has long ceased talking.

During these times neighbor helped neighbor. My neighbor, Philip, had his house flooded several times a year. His solution was to put cement blocks under his furniture in hope that they would be above water level. Needing help to put his furniture on blocks, he pulled his twelve-foot aluminum boat to my house. The water was too low to use paddles.

Arriving at his house, we tried to maneuver the blocks under his furniture. Getting one end of the bed on blocks, that end would fall off when we tried to raise the remaining end.

This happened with the remaining pieces of furniture. Finally, after much straining and pushing, the job was finished.

In the meantime, the water had steadily risen. Philip wearing rubber hip overalls and rubber boots starting pulling me home. The slippery bottom made it hard to stand wearing rubber boots. Climbing into the freezing water that reached my waist, I pulled Philip home. After several tries, he finally managed to climb into the wobbly boat. The icy water of the Tombigbee chilled me to the bone. Wearing tennis shoes, blue jeans, shirt and jacket, I was relieved to make it home to my two children.

Today there is the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. My house is in the city limits with city services. A stranger would never think this vast acreage was once covered by floods several times a year. The media called us "River Rats". No one has moved and the River Rats, including myself, have lived here since the ‘60’s. There are many stories I can tell about my life as a "River Rat". Now thinking about Philip and I trying to raise his furniture is a comical memory, but back then we were fighting the mighty Tombigbee.


Author Bio:
I graduated M.S.C.W. and am now a life-long learner at M.U.W.  I taught school in Dade County, Georgia for several years, substitute taught in Columbus, Ms. city schools; and am retired from factory work. I currently live in Columbus, Ms.