Sunday, June 26, 2016
When the news of devasting floods hit the airwaves this past Friday, I couldn’t help but think, “Flooding is nothing new for West Virginia.”
More than forty years ago, on February 26, 1972, one of the deadliest floods in U.S. history occurred in southern West Virginia's Buffalo Creek hollow. It was reported that negligent strip mining and heavy rain produced a raging flood. In a matter of minutes, 118 were dead and over 4,000 people were left homeless. Seven were never found.
The flooding that struck Charleston, West Virginia, and the surrounding Kanawha Valley on July 19-20,1961, was one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the area. Five adults and four children died in what was then called Magazine Hollow, and 22 people overall died from the torrents of water.
The flood that came the closest to home for me was the Paint Creek Flood of 1932. Some of my earliest memories are stories my parents and grandparents told me about this one.
Late in the evening, on July10th, after a beautiful sunny day, the heavy rains commenced, accompanied by lightening and thunder and didn’t let up. People began to realize it was showing signs of flooding. They gathered their families and moved as quickly as possible to higher ground. Some to old chicken houses and other out buildings that had been built for their needs. Others relied on the kindness of relatives who lived a few miles away from the creek that was on the verge of overflowing its banks.
The flood caused widespread damage and at least 18 deaths.
Many years later, after my grandmother passed away, I had the opportunity to read the journal she kept as a young wife and mother. She wrote about her family’s experience with that killer flood. Here’s her account:
“One terrible night in July of 1932, disaster struck. With little warning, there came a heavy downpour. It rained and rained and rained. Thunder boomed and great bolts of lightening lit up the sky like daylight. Before long, a huge amount of water was rushing down Paint Creek. Faster and faster it went gaining speed until it was strong enough to destroy everything in its path!
Melvin was good at reading weather signs. We had survived severe storms in Alabama before moving to West Virginia. Early on, he realized we needed to move to higher ground. Gwen, then thirteen, was able to scale the steep mountain behind our house on her own, Melvin carried Ben, six-years-old and I toted four-year-old Jack on my hip.
We stopped behind a huge boulder and watched in amazement as the waters rushed past us down below. It was shocking to see large articles of furniture bobbing up and down in the angry waters as they raced by; animals trying desperately to swim to safety – in vain; whole houses and rooftops and all kinds of debris speeding by as if they had an important destination. We heard screams and people yelling their loved ones’ names. It was chilling!
We hovered there in the safety of the boulder until daylight – the children clinging to us – frozen in terror.
With the rising of the sun, the storm subsided and the waters slowed to a trickle. We made our way back home, wading through deep mud, not knowing what to expect.
Our house was still standing, but filled with sludge – no longer livable.
Standing ankle-deep in thick slimy mud – wet, cold, hungry and homeless – I lost control. With my three children clinging to my legs, I cried out, “Sometimes it seems that God Himself has turned away from us!”
We set out for Kingston, a few miles up the creek, and stayed with my sister, Ann, and her husband until Melvin got a job with the mines there and the company rented us a house of our own.”
I wonder how many victims of this latest West Virginia flood felt the way my grandmother felt as they watched their homes and all of their belongings snatched away in seconds. One man on TV said he had only the clothes on his back and didn’t even know where his house was!
The latest death toll is 26.
I was startled when I saw a comment on social media that read: ”Does anything good ever happen in West Virginia?”
Well, yes, it does. But before I answer, I need some time to reflect.
Monday, June 20, 2016
His name was Freddy. He was only two and a half years old.
In the summertime, he was often seen roaming the neighborhood barefoot with his soaking wet training pants hanging down to his knees. In today’s world, someone would have called the authorities, but in the 1950’s, the neighbors looked after him. In Freddy’s case, it really did “take a village.”
Freddy was an adorable child, but he wasn’t cared for the way he deserved. He showed up at our house frequently at mealtime and hung around in the kitchen until my mother had dinner ready. She often fixed an extra plate and lifted him up in a chair so he could eat with us. Nobody ever seemed to be looking for him. When it was almost dark, Mother would say to me, “It’s time to take Freddy home.”
His mother thanked me for bringing him home, closed the door and that was that until the next day when I’d look out the window and see Freddy in our yard again. We had apple trees and, there were always apples on the ground around them. It wasn’t unusual to see the little boy carrying a big apple around munching on it while he played.
Ours was the last house on the street, right beside the river. It was a miracle that the water held no fascination for Freddy except he loved to throw rocks toward it, but try as he may, he didn’t have enough strength in his little arm to hurl a rock far enough to make a big splash in the water.
Freddy had another problem: at two and a half years old, his speech patterns had not developed completely and it was rather amusing to hear him use “Ls” in place of “Rs.”
One day, another neighborhood boy, about 15, came by to talk to me while Freddy was throwing rocks toward the river. When he became exasperated because he just couldn’t lob one into the water, he picked up a rock, handed it to my friend, Ronnie, and said, “Lonnie, will you please throw this lock in the liver?”
My friend and I doubled over with laughter. Freddy looked from one to the other of us in surprise, then turned and ran out of my yard and down the street toward his house as fast as his little chubby legs would carry him. Ronnie and I stopped laughing and yelled at Freddy to come back, but he didn’t even slow down!
We felt so bad! “He’ll be back,” I said. “After all, he’s just a child. He won’t stay mad at us.”
He did come back, but not as often. It was as if he didn’t trust us after that.
Soon, summer was over and I returned to school. Time passed, I grew up, got married and moved away. After a while, my parents moved away, too, and we lost track of Freddy and his family, but I thought about him sometimes and wished I could apologize for my insensitivity all those summers ago when he was just an innocent toddler whose speech was still a work in progress.
And I wondered what happened to him.
Did he grow up, go to school and become a worthwhile human being? With a family that didn’t seem to care about him, it was hard to imagine that he would have had a normal life. But I hoped it turned out well for him.
Then one day, while shopping, I ran into Freddy’s sister, Angela. She was three years older than her brother. After exchanging pleasantries, I eagerly asked, “How’s Freddy?”
“Oh, he’s fine,” she said. “He’s a veterinarian, married and has two kids, a boy and a girl. Lives in the old neighborhood.”
“That’s great!” I said.
We said our goodbyes then – and promised to stay in touch.
It made my day to see Angela and to know that Freddy was okay. All these years, I’d carried around the guilt of hurting this little boy's feelings.
I should have known that God takes care of little children!
Picture by www.pottyscotty.com
Picture by www.pottyscotty.com
Friday, June 17, 2016
The 2016 election has been controlling the air waves for at least six months. Brace yourselves! There are approximately five months to go before it’s over. Though I like to keep up, it does get a little annoying sometimes when that’s nearly all you get on the Telly.
However, I’ll take that any day over the events that have been pushing it aside for the past few days.
Dominating the news this week was the dastardly shooting in an Orlando gay bar. At least 49 people were killed and 53 wounded. It’s being called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Not only were 49 lives snuffed out for no reason, but also, the lives of their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and others who loved them were changed drastically because of one madman who had no regard for human life! The only redeeming factor is that his life was taken, too.
Equally as spine-chilling was the horrifying news of a two-year-old boy snatched by a menacing alligator as the toddler played near the edge of the water not far from a Walt Disney World hotel.
The boy’s father tried to pry the gator’s mouth open but the reptile wrested the boy from him and plunged into the murky water. Thankfully, the little boy’s body was later found – in tact – and it was concluded that he died of drowning.
What a nightmare!
Sometimes it seems that all the news is bad. Nary a day goes by that we don’t hear something terrible. Has it always been this way or do we just pay more attention to it as we get older?
A friend and I were discussing all of this and we agreed that, just once, we’d like to get out of bed, turn on the TV and be greeted by a smiling announcer who says, “Good Morning! Here’s your weather report.”
“The sun is shining everywhere today. The temperature is perfect! There’s no rain in sight – no clouds in the sky!”
“And now, for the news...
Actually, there is no news to report.
It’s all good!
Enjoy your day!”
Sunday, June 12, 2016
June 11 – 93°.
The summer’s barely started and already, the heat is unbearable. Furthermore, it is predicted we’re in for a lot more of the same!
It’s no secret to those who know me that I don’t enjoy it. In fact, I hate it!
I hate summer like most people hate wintertime. I’m good for no more than ten minutes outside on a day like this. It saps my energy and when I go back to air conditioning, my sinuses are so messed up, I’m miserable. It’s just no fun!
I’m looking forward to late August when a hint of fall starts moving in.
But to all my summer-lovin’ family and friends, by all means, enjoy!
My son, Lee, and I had a rather odd conversation the other day. It started with both of us lamenting about how fast time passes. Lee and I can have this conversation because it feels like we’re much closer in age than we are. I was barely 18 when he was born. As my first-born, he matured so quickly, I sometimes wondered if he’d been reincarnated (joking). We can talk about literally anything – and do.
Neither of us understands why it seems that one day, we’re young and enjoying life – the world on a string – and the next, we find ourselves at an age we used to think of as middle-aged – or older! We see gray hair, wrinkles and what’s worse, our health begins to fail in small ways and we find ourselves in doctor’s offices more than we ever thought we would.
“The only social life your dad and I have these days is going to visitations at funeral homes and funerals,” I told him. “We do get the occasional graduation, but these days, more of them are from colleges than high schools.”
“Do you ever wonder what it’s all about?” Lee said. “Just what is our purpose? Life goes by so fast! Much of our time is not enjoyable and sometimes, we have hardships that make it almost unbearable, yet, we soldier on. Why?”
”I suppose that’s the way it’s suppose to be,” he continued. “We live our lives, play the hand we’ve been dealt to the best of our ability, then get old and watch the next generation preparing to take over – and like us, they’re certain they can do it better than we did and sure they have plenty of time ‘cause they’re gonna live forever!”
“Ha! Are they in for a rude awakening!” I said. “It’s such a surprise when, one day you wake up and look in the mirror and see your mother or father staring back at you. Suddenly, your children are grown and you’re buying long-term care insurance and a cemetery plot.”
“I think I’ve figured it out,” I said. “Each generation is responsible for populating the earth with the next generation and teaching them everything we know so they’ll be able to carry on when we’re gone.”
“Ultimately, everyone comes to the same end,” Lee said.
“Death!” we said simultaneously.
I warned you it was an odd conversation.
Laughing, we agreed it was time to change the subject.
I warned you it was an odd conversation.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
I’m always amazed when suddenly, it turns as dark as night, rains cats and dogs, thunder booms and lightening crashes making me feel helpless and then, within a few minutes, it stops as fast as it started and the sun comes out again! Somehow, I feel as though I’ve been chastised, or at least, warned. It reminds me of the way my mother used to warn me about my behavior and then, kiss the top of my head to let me know she still loved me.
A little while ago, it was like that here. When I got up it was so dark, I thought perhaps my clocks were wrong and it was the middle of the night. Maybe I should go back to sleep, I thought. But I could hear Mr. H. going about his usual routine and knew it was time to get up. Suddenly a bolt of lightening, accompanied by booming thunder, seemed to come right through the skylight. I shrieked loudly, scaring poor Liza and she scurried from the room.
Okay, I said to no one in particular, a cup of coffee and a little TV will relax me and the storm will be gone shortly – but no such luck! The cable was off! Lovely! No TV, no Internet, no phone calls, just total quiet. What will I do with that?
Think back, Peggy.... when you were growing up, you’d never even heard of the Internet or an iPhone, TV was available but expensive and everybody didn’t own one. (I’m telling my age here, aren’t I?) And even if they did, it was on only a few hours a day, usually in the evening.
What did we do with all that time?
Well, for one thing, we talked to each other. I think we’ve forgotten how nice conversation can be. Each family member contributed – sharing experiences and telling funny stories. We laughed and sometimes, we even sang, especially at holiday time. Memories we cherish now, were made then.
But it seems we’ve become a society of, “Maybe we can talk later, it’s time for my favorite TV show!” Or, "Can it wait? I’m Facebooking right now.” Or, “I don’t have time for a phone conversation, just text me, okay?”
Time goes by—and one day we realize we’ve lost a whole lot of relatives and friends with whom we rarely talked or spent time. Guilt and sadness prevails for a while, but life goes on and so do we—in the same old manner.
Unfortunately, we tend to fall into the patterns and practices of the day. I once said, “Facebook doesn’t interest me in the least.” But now, my day is not complete unless I check in with my Facebook friends and see if anything noteworthy has been shared. Sometimes, I feel I have something to share, too. Same with Twitter. When did I go from, “It doesn’t interest me,” to “tweeting” every day and having more than 2500 followers?
As for now – right this minute – the sun shines mockingly. I'm still waiting - and more than a little disgruntled. It’s been over two hours; my house is as quiet as a tomb. Technology is so advanced, we shouldn’t have to wait for two hours plus to get our service back when it goes off.
That's asking a lot of someone who's addicted to Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, don't cha' think?