Friday, April 25, 2014

River Rats

River Rats
By Revia Perrigin

               The dirty rushing water of the Tombigbee River covered the land for miles.  The musky water filled with snakes, toys, fish and debris surrounded my house.  Brown blobs of fire ants floated to an unknown destination.

               The Corp of Engineer's prediction of the river's crest was Biblical to us.  Living on a dead-end road, I am caught in a circular nimbus when the river overflows .  A boat is the only transportation out of the watery plateau.   

               During the flood of '72, most of the north side of Columbus flooded.  The water rose quickly with such fury the residents had no time to save possessions.  Mud and silt covered my floors after four feet of water invaded my home.  The only thing to remain dry was Miss Beasley.  Her blue and yellow polka-dotted body was lying on a floating mattress.  Today, Miss Beasley sits with her feet dangling off an old trunk.  

               Neighbors helped each other during high water.  My neighbor, Philip's house was invaded by ebbing water several times a year.  Cement blocks were placed under his furniture to defy the atrocious water.  

               The water between our houses was too shallow to use a paddle.  Philip pulled me in his twelve foot aluminum boat to his house.  We maneuvered blocks under the furniture and kitchen appliances.  Getting one end of the bed on blocks we tried to raise the other end.  The end already placed on blocks would fall. The bed was see-sawed up and down. After much straining and pushing, the job was finished.

               The river was steadily rising.  Philip wearing rubber hip overalls and rubber boots started pulling home.  The slippery ground made it hard to stand.  Philip slipped and eventually managed to climb into the wobbly boat.  Climbing into the freezing waist high water, I pulled Philip home.  My attire was not suitable for wading river water.  My tennis shoes, blue jeans, shirt, and jacket clung to my body and I arrived home chilled to the bone.  

               Today there is the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.  My house is in the city limits with city services.  A stranger would never imagine this vast acreage was covered by floods several times a year.  The media named us "River Rats". The "River Rats", including myself has lived here since the 1960's.  There are many stories I could tell about living in a flood prone area.  Philip and I raising his furniture is a comical memory.  We were fighting the mighty Tombigbee River.