Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Red RIver RIses

So, when I was growing up in Arkansas the nearest river, and the one from which I get my instinctual ideas about rivers,* was the Red River, over near Texarkana. When my father was growing up,** this river still flooded on a regular basis, and I remember him telling me of times when he stayed out all night on the levee when the river was high (and presumably his father and brothers on other parts of the levee). And this was not to raise the alarm in case the levee gave way, he said, but patrolling it to prevent its being dynamited. The way he explained it, if the levee on one side held, it meant the farmers on the other side had their fields flooded. Whereas if the folks from the more vulnerable side could break the levee on what was for them the far side it'd protect their own side and cause the other to flood instead.

All that was long past by the time I was growing up, with the levee system having the river firmly under control (but also channeled to the extent that it no longer enriched the whole floodplain with its periodic floods). The only time I can remember a massive flood in SW Arkansas was from Hurricane Betsy, about the time I was in first grade (circa 1965-66). I didn't see the flooding myself, given that I was in Magnolia at the time, a town which happens not to be on a river, but I remember my father (who was working on his PhD down at Baton Rouge) wanted to check on his mother, who was living somewhere in the Red River region (probably over at Bodcaw), so he drove as far as he could (prob. Lewisville or that area) and then borrowed a rowboat to make the rest of the trip by water.

And now the Red River is flooding again, and on such a massive scale that they evacuated Garland City (where the road between Magnolia and Texarkana crosses the Red River) entirely:

Further downriver, near where my sister lives now, the Red River has been flooding in Shreveport/Bossier City (the west and east banks, respectively:

All this makes me grateful, for the first time, that Magnolia's not on a river. And that my mother, and sister, and nieces are all safe. And to want to check our own earthquake/flood supplies. Just in case.

current reading: some poems by W. B. Yeats

*along with the Arkansas River, later on and to a lesser extent -- and, more recently, the Green River (or Duamish), which I'm much closer to and see more often than had ever been the case with the other two.

**this would probably have been in the decade 1941-1951 or thereabouts.

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