April 17, 2009
Before you begin reading this Sunday''s interesting and informative "Strummin''," you should know that I''m lucky.
When I turned south on to my street, Sedgwick Drive, off Westbrook Road, and saw water covering my path home -- complete with a pair of Mallards happily paddling away while enjoying the various landscapes -- I should have taken it as a sign.
I was living in Jackson.
It was a day or so before Easter, 1979.
That night it had rained cats and dogs. A few of us Rolling Fork Methodist Church Choir alums had been summoned home for choir practice to present Handel''s "Hallelujah Chorus" on Easter Sunday.
The next afternoon I noticed the water standing on Harrow Drive one street over and parallel to Sedgwick. It really piqued my interest when I noticed the water a lot higher than usual right behind my house.
Where I stopped mowing in my backyard was the boundary between "fashionable northeast Jackson" and the wilds of the Pearl River Swamp.
No big deal
It was a beautiful spring afternoon.
Like me the neighbors had all been housebound with the rain, so many of us were out walking in the neighborhood, the focal point of course was the water on Harrow Drive that for some reason or another was rising by the minute.
We knew because we were tracking its progress with chalk marks.
No big deal though.
It wasn''t long before it started to threaten the first house at the eastern end of Riverwood Drive, just around the corner from my house.
The water seeped in much like the infamous "Blob" of ''50''s movie fame and continued on.
Various interests of where families were going to worship on Easter Sunday, what to have with the ham and Easter egg hunts shifted by the minute.
Change of plans
In Hank Hill''s pals fashion, discussions quickly changed to who had flood insurance, moving vans, pregnant wives and just what in the heck we were going to do.
The whole situation was getting worse by the minute and the folks in the know talking on the TV news didn''t appear to have a clue.
A young couple who had just had a baby were forced out of their home at about 10 that night. The mama wasn''t handling the stress very well. I invited them to stay at my house because I was "certain" my house would be OK.
The next day the "Blob" took house after house.
A family a block or so away had left town for a long weekend. They had a ski boat that they kept locked in their garage. As the water rose, so did the boat. It took the roof off the house.
When we talk about wealth, most of us equate it with money, stocks, bonds and real property.
Cinder blocks, bricks and firewood, for stacking things on, became valuable commodities. By the time I and my neighbors knew that we were in trouble we couldn''t get out. Stacking stuff was priority one.
In my convoluted and selfish way of looking at things, I figured good Christian folks would see to it that I had a bed, food and a good supply of second-hand clothes; therefore, I made sure my Martin D35 guitar was on the very top of my stack -- as guitars would be low priority on the Red Cross'' relief effort.
Saturday night (did I mention I had to pass on the "Hallelujah Chorus"?) they came through with bull horns warning of the imminent collapse of the Ross Barnett Reservoir Dam, which meant we would end up floating in the Gulf of Mexico if we didn''t seek higher ground immediately.
As I left my house wading in waste deep water, my two labs swimming at my side, a backpack with a change of clothes and my Martin D35 guitar high over my head, I turned and took one last look at a house a Delta boy from Rolling Fork would have never dreamed he could afford and my second most prized possession right behind my Martin, my royal blue 280Z parked in the garage.
I didn''t handle it very well.
Dam, luck holds
Well the dam didn''t break.
Every, and I mean every house in my neighborhood, took on at least 18 inches of water -- well almost every -- mine was high and dry.
When the water crested, my foundation at 5070 Sedgwick Drive was exactly 1/2 inch above the water line.
I might have failed to mention I was one of the fortunate few who had flood insurance.
Many of my neighbors and friends suffered terrible losses that Easter weekend 30 years ago -- not just your plain old, run-of-the-mill financial ones, but the terrible emotional kind.
When it was all over, I wasn''t out in the backyard doing cartwheels.
It''s hard to describe the guilt I felt having been spared and watching my neighbors deal with all the hardship and pain.
I started by saying I''m lucky. I am -- but not just from dodging a flood.
If you think I take it for granted, you''re wrong.
This Sunday and most every other day, especially in my old age, I thank the good Lord for having taken care of me -- and selfishly ask him to keep doing so -- even as undeserving as I am.
After all, it ain''t all luck.
Roger Truesdale owns and operates Bayou Management Inc. and is a semi-professional guitar player. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roger owns Bayou Management, Inc. and is also a semi-pro guitar player.