Devastation Came To Paducah, Kentucky
Book #34 Story Excerpt
Devastation Came To Paducah, Kentucky eBook #34
by Raymond Cook
© 2019 (All Rights Reserved)
Page Length: 392
Word Count: 126,000
To protect the inside of their house from water, the couple had filled canvas sacks with dirt and made a wall on all three sides of their porch two feet high. They hoped any floodwaters that came wouldn’t be higher. He turned the doorknob and opened it with his wife right behind him. The Ohio River had crested sometime during the night and their farm was completely underwater.
But that wasn’t all. Michael saw that the chicken coop was gone and the fence and shed the hogs had been living in was gone too. The corral their dairy cow had been in was gone along with the cow. A large uprooted tree had slammed into their garden and both sides of the fence had been knocked down. The only structure that looked undamaged for the time being was their small barn where their two horses were.
As Catherine put her right arm around her husband’s left arm, she squeezed it and cried out, “That damn river is destroying our farm.” Her husband didn’t say anything. He only stared at the floodwaters worried their house would be swept away too. Suddenly Michael felt his wife lean against him and begin to sob. At that moment, as the wind pelted them with a sideways rain, the couple almost at the same time looked down at the wall of bagged dirt barely holding back the floor waters.
The water was barely flowing over the top row of bags and it was far too late to fill more bags and add another row. There wasn’t a dry piece of dirt between their farm and the Ohio River. One look overhead and the couple saw thick ominous storm clouds. They were filled with rain but that wasn’t the couples biggest fear. Even if the clouds passing Paducah didn’t drop any more rain and the sky turned blue, the flooding was far from over.
The Ohio River began near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, flowed through West Virginia and all the way through Kentucky. Any heavy thunderstorms upriver would make the river rise even more. The flow of water passing through their farm was strong. If an uprooted tree slammed into the side of their house or makeshift wall of bags meant to hold back the water, they could lose their house and be homeless.
Suddenly Catherine nudged her husband and with her free hand pointed in the distance. At least twenty cow carcasses along with five carcasses of horses were being carried away about fifty feet from their barn. The tears flowing down her cheeks mixed with cold rain were uncounted. The couple knew if livestock were knocked off their feet, they’d likely drown.
As they looked toward the river at the town and nearby farms, they knew other families were suffering much worse than they were. Those families who hadn’t filled canvas bags with dirt to hold back the water most likely had at least knee deep muddy, smelly water inside their house or cabin. Knowing they couldn’t add another row of bags to keep the water inside their house from rising, Michael heard his wife take a deep breath.
“We’re gonna lose our house too, aren’t we Michael?” she asked, her voice filled with fear. “Not if these bags of dirt hold and the water doesn’t rise. I’ve got to put on my coat and make my way to the barn and check on our horses,” Michael said as he looked into his wife’s eyes. A frightened glance at the fast-moving water and she spoke from her heart.
“You can’t reach the barn without being swept away sweetheart. You’ll drown and I’ll be here all alone, please stay with me,” begged his wife. But all of her begging couldn’t stop him from doing what had to be done. “I don’t have a choice Catherine. If our horses are still in their stalls, the water they’ve been standing in is going to cause hoof rot. I have to see if they are there and walk them up the hay platform ramp.
I can tie their reins to posts. They have hay to eat and I can take buckets of water from our well to the water trough I’ll tip over. I’ve got to clean and dry their hoof’s. They are the only horses we have. We can’t have them going lame,” Michael told his wife in a sincere voice. But the look in his wife’s eyes at that moment told him she wasn’t going to let him fight to get to the barn alone.
With both arms she hugged her husband tight. “If you’re going to the barn and them bring our horses fresh water, I’m going with you. I’ll be damned if you’re gonna make me a widow. If we’re going to die, I want us to die together,” Catherine told her husband in an urgent voice. She saw hesitation in her his eyes as he stared at the distance between the porch and barn and then at the floodwaters.
Knowing his wife would step over the bagged wall and follow him if he told her to stay put, he looked at her and nodded. There would be no breakfast for them that morning. When she stepped back, he held out his hand to her. “Hold on tight to my hand sweetheart. If you lose your grip, try to make it to something you can hold on tight to. I’ll get to you however I can. I won’t let you die,” Michael told his wife.
The look in her eyes told him that death was just a whisper away. At that moment Michael had never seen such fear in his wife’s eyes, even during previous floods they’d faced. She nodded and took hold of his hand. His wife’s grip was tight but he wished it was tight enough to hurt him. He didn’t want to lose her and knew if she was swept away, he might not be able to reach her before she drowned.
With his right hand he wiped the rain off of his face and was about to step over the two-foot wall of bags in front of him. Then he stopped, looked over at his wife and said, “I’ll be right back.” She watched him walk back inside their house. When he returned, she saw a length of rope in his right hand. When he stood beside her, he asked her to raise her arms. She watched him wrap one end of the rope around her waist and tie off the end with three knots.
Then he put the other end of the rope around his waist, tied it off too and held out his left hand to her. “If one of us gets swept away, we’ll have two chances to grab hold of something to keep us from drowning,” Michael told his wife. As she wiped tears and rain off her face, she nodded but he didn’t see hope in her eyes. The truth was, his wife probably didn’t see any hope in his eyes either.
There was nothing to do now but to step over the sacks of dirt and pray. With the water so high, their boots quickly filled with water and the water was very cold. They stayed close to each other and to Catherine, at that moment, the only thing keeping them from dying were her prayers to the Lord. They hadn’t struggled to walk slowly ten feet when she heard her husband yell out anxiously, “Watch out Catherine, here comes a tree!”
Unless the water made the tree change direction and come toward them it wasn’t a danger to them. But it was still frightening to watch as it drifted across their farm. Only after the tree was well past them did they take their next step. The wind-blown cold rain in their faces made their journey that much sadder as they waded through knee deep muddy water. At that moment, time held no meaning for them.
Each of them felt a glimmer of hope they could reach the barn door, pull it open and get inside. But that bit of hope was short lived when something under the water struck Catherine’s right leg and she screamed. She was knocked off of her feet for a moment and disappeared under the surface. Before her husband could grab hold of the rope and pull her to the surface, he saw her face and heard her gasp. She was spitting out filthy water, choking and coughing.
Before they could look into each other’s eyes, Michael was pulled off his feet too and they were carried away. All they had to do was get their feet on solid ground and stand up. But that proved impossible as the floodwaters swept them farther and farther away from their farm. Now it was a fight for their lives. All that Michael could think of as his life passed before his eyes was getting his wife close to him.
He flailed his arms in every direction frantically hoping his hands would feel part of the rope between them. He too was choking on water but as he coughed again, he got a firm grip on the rope. Soon Catherine felt her husband pulling her toward him. But it didn’t keep her from screaming out in short breaths, “Please don’t let me die.” By the time they were inches away from each other, Catherine’s arms were desperately trying to get a hold of her husband’s jacket.
At that moment Michael didn’t want to hold her. He was looking all around him for a fence post, a shed, well or outbuilding that they could reach to stop themselves from being swept away for miles. Michael saw a carcass of a cow ahead of them but before he could do anything to keep them from hitting it, both of them struck the carcass. It had been dead for several days, was bloated with gas and Lord did it smell.
When Catherine slammed into the carcass, she let out a horrible scream. By now her husband was on one side of the carcass and she was on the other side with the rope lying over the carcass. All three were carried away. Michael didn’t know how he did it but he was able to get around the carcass and now he was closer to his wife. She was hysterical and grabbed onto his neck so tight she was choking him.
She was holding on so tight he couldn’t break her grip. Then the worst thing possible happened. They were knocked off their feet again by something unseen under the surface. Under the water they went for a second time. This time Catherine reached the surface and gasped for a breath first. As she looked around, she didn’t see her husband. All she saw was the rope disappearing under the water.
Before she could grab onto the rope and pull hard, her husband made it to the surface. While under the water, his head hit something hard or sharp. As muddy water ran down his cheeks, she saw blood running down his face and he looked dazed. She let out a scream and pulled hard on the rope. As she saw them passing a fence post, her left hand grabbed it hard, hoping to stop them.
But the force of the water pulled her away. It could be safely said that Catherine believed they were about to die for sure. As she pulled hard on the rope, they got closer to each other. “How bad are you hurt darling? Your head is bleeding,” Catherine cried out. She could see by the look in her husband’s eyes he hadn’t heard her or didn’t understand. Just as she was going to ask him again, both of them slammed into some sort of shed.
It wasn’t large but large enough to help them get their feet on the ground and have a chance to rest. Quickly Catherine pulled hard downward on the left sleeve of her soaking wet bathrobe. When the sleeve tore off, with both of her hands she wrung out as much as she could. Though wet, she hoped with it wrapped around her husband’s head that it would stop some of the bleeding.
The Woods situation was dire indeed. As they tried to rest as water rushed past them, neither of them saw a man, woman or child. To make matters worse, they had no idea where they were or how far from their farm they were. To heap misery on top of misery, they were hungry and without a roof over their heads. It was raining heavier now and there was a risk they could catch pneumonia.
Her husband’s breathing was shallow and this worried Catherine. If he collapsed from the loss of blood, how could she alone keep them from being swept away for miles? Sometimes fate shows mercy toward the unfortunate, rather than simply take their life. Five hundred feet past the wall of the shed that was their salvation was a two-story house. On the porch five feet above the muddy water was a couple.
They too hadn’t seen anyone since the flood began and desperately wanted to save anyone they could. It didn’t matter if a man, woman or child was colored or white, everyone deserved to live. Suddenly something under the water banged into the couple and it pushed them beyond past the shed. Swept off balance once more they were carried away by the rushing water.
The man on his porch next to his blonde-haired wife saw Catherine and her husband fighting for their lives. The man had a hundred-foot-long rope. One end was tied to a post and the other end was tied around his waist. The couple hoped if someone was close enough to their porch that they could save them. At the same time the man ran down the steps and into the water, Catherine was begging God, “Please don’t let us die.”
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