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 seemed agitated.
“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 from exposure.
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 dreamless sleep.
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