Rose Smith stared out the window of her modest home in fear.
Water ran down the windows and continued to pool on the ground
just outside her house. She watched that pool turn into a pond as
the days passed and she sensed this would be a bad one. She had
lived through wind storms, hail storms, bad winters, and the
occasional tornadoes, but nothing like this. It was as if the
heavens themselves were waging war with the earth. The earth was
apparently losing the battle. The river had become so rain
engorged it had already in places expanded far beyond the reaches
of its banks. More and more dry ground was being taken each day
by the giant rapidly moving waterway. Rose feared the outcome
would not be good.
She had been listening intently to the radio for the past two
days now and more rain was in the forecast. They had been
advising people who resided in low lying areas to seek shelter on
higher ground. She smiled to herself. Things would have to get
pretty bad before she evacuated the family home. Her father had
built the two story cabin with her mother helping him. She would
keep it safe or die trying. A loud hissing sound came from the
old coal cook stove. Her tea water was done. She took the dark
blue coffee mug to the range and poured the boiling water into
the old teapot her mother had cherished when she was alive.
Her family had migrated from Maine when she was three. She could
not remember moving to Kentucky, but her mother had told her
stories about traveling on the river to arrive in their new home.
Her older brother John did not finish the journey with them. He
had died at the age of six. He developed a fever and never
recovered from the ailment. The boat they were moving down river
on stopped in Ohio so that he might be buried. She could still
hear her mother's crying sometimes at night. It was a constant
reminder that she had lost her brother whom she never came to
know. There seemed a hollow spot in her heart because of this.
Rose and her family had settled just west of a river town. The
people who founded the town had named it Paducah after a native
Indian chief. She had learned in history class his real name was
actually Chief Paduke and the original name given to Paducah was
Pekin. Chief Paduke was a Chickasaw Indian and he welcomed the
white settlers to his native land as they traveled down the Ohio
River. In later days the town's name became Paducah in
remembrance of his kindness.
Her tea had finished steeping and she poured the warm liquid into
the mug. The first drink worked its magic and she soon felt warm
and toasty. After drinking her beverage, she donned her heavy
coat and pulled on her father's old boots. She had stuffed old
rags into the toes of the boots so her feet would not move about
as she was walking. The first time she had worn the leather boots
she had been graced with two rather large blisters on her toes
from the movement of her feet inside the large black boots.
Remembering the trick of stuffing rags into the boots had been
learned from her mother. She tied the scarf about the top of her
head and walked the distance to the barn in the driving half
frozen rain. Rose had sheltered her three cows and her horse
Daisy in the barn as the weather worsened. Daisy who was normally
a rather gentle and subdued animal was pacing in her stall. She
"Whoa girl," Rose crooned to the horse, "what's the matter girl,
weather got you spooked."
She stroked Daisy's mane and took extra care to calm her down.
She could hear the cows mooing in anticipation of their nightly
feeding. Rose had decided she would turn the animals out if the
river crept much higher. She felt they would be better off loose
than to be trapped in the barn. She had noticed as she walked to
the barn that the water had risen another inch or thereabouts. It
seemed to her instead of the rain subsiding and clearing it was
raining harder and to make matters worse the rain was turning
into freezing rain. Hay and feed were distributed to her
livestock and she wrapped her scarf and coat about the tiny
frame. Her hands that were unprotected were a bright red and raw
She could hear the pellets of ice hitting the tin roof on the
barn and she shivered. How much longer Lord she asked. How much
longer would this go on? Having cared for her animals she wound
her way slowly back to the house. She stopped under the covered
porch and collected more firewood as she went. The electricity
would be going soon, so she had best be prepared.
After bringing in more wood and placing it close to the stove so
it would dry Rose fixed a modest meal of cheese and bread. It
tasted extremely good. She smiled for an instant at the thought
of how it might be her last meal. It was not a happy smile but
one with cynicism and loathing.
The cold freezing rain continued through the night and Rose was
awakened several times as the wind had started to gust. She could
hear the creaking of the trees as the wind caught the branches
laden heavy with frozen precipitation. My God she thought as she
lay under the many layers of blankets, will this ever stop. It
seemed she could not get warm. Even with a fire burning brightly
in the pot belly stove she still felt frozen to the bone. Her
body felt as if someone had used it as a punching bag and her
head felt hot to the touch. Close to dawn she feel into a deep