Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Flood

by Doug Draime

The levee was breaking
and a call went out
over the local radio station
for all able bodied men
and any male children
that could lift
at least
forty pounds,
to come down to
the levee to help
fill and stack sandbags
to reinforce the old
dilapidated walls. I piled
on a flatbed trunk
with my grandfather and
some neighbors.

The sky was black
and ominous, ready to
split open again
with thunder and
another massive downpour. We
got to 1st  street
across from the levee,
where four or five other flatbed trucks
were parked, men and kids
getting off them, and one
truck already empty
heading back out
to pick up more people. Women
were serving coffee, donuts,
and hot chocolate; makeshift
tables were lined up for
a block down 1st street. There were
about ten men filling sandbags
and sealing them up. We had
gotten off the truck and the
National Guard was directing
everyone to form a line
in front of the men filling the sandbags,
to pass them down to a few
other men standing by
and ready to stack them against
the levee walls.

We could all see and
hear the raging Wabash
flowing and busting
over the top of the walls. I was
only nine, skinny and barely
able to pass the bags
down the line. We heard
shouts from
the National Guard,
that there was another crack
farther down the wall. Almost
simultaneously it started
to  rain, falling down on us
like spilling buckets. I don’t know
how I passed those bags,
my arms and legs and hands
were throbbing with pain.

It was a long time before we
got a break, as others fresh from the trucks
replaced us on the line. I
wolfed down four powered donuts
and a cup of
hot chocolate. And just as we
were being directed to form another
line, the National Guard
on bullhorns were
shouting again and this time, that the dam
a couple of miles down
river was breaking and that we all
to our homes. We scrambled like monkeys
and piled back on the trucks, and I looked back
as we were hauling ass out of there
and watched people shouting
and running for vehicles and just
plain running helter-skelter in every direction;
the garbled sound of bullhorns echoing and
vibrating through the lights from the trunks
in the deluge of
pouring rain.

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