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The Flood of 1937 a Story of Bravery

Novel By: Mistress of Word Play
Historical fiction

It was in January of 1937 that the rain started. Before the end of February of that year 18 inches of water would drop from the heavens and leave people destitute and homeless. Property was damaged, homes were lost, and death claimed countless lives. One woman in the face of adversity survived to tell her story. View table of contents...


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Submitted:Dec 13, 2009    Reads: 63    Comments: 9    Likes: 17   

The water from the mighty Ohio began to rise in earnest. A vast majority of the city's inhabitants had fled days earlier and only a handful of people remained to ride out the disaster as best they could. Most of the people who stayed behind had already found refuge on the second levels of their buildings. They had entrenched themselves with supplies and firearms anticipating only a few days of isolation. The river had already drifted a good foot over flood stage along the river's edge and the water had amassed to over a foot deep in Paducah's lower town area. The electricity had finally failed and with no power, wood or coal burning stoves and fireplaces were the only heat source. Phone service had also come to an abrupt end.
Andrew Long, his wife Margarete, and Billy Wright had not prepared as well as they thought for the disaster. Food, kerosene lanterns, water, blankets, and firearms had been carried to the upper level but they had never considered the temperature dropping below freezing. The men had only carried a small amount of wood up the steps, never realizing the length of time they would be trapped by the water. The river had already swept its way down the city streets closest to the river's bank and water which measured at least two foot deep now stood in the lower level of the store. Margarete Long had taken to not eating and had developed an ominous sounding, deeply seeded cough. Margarete had just finished having one of her coughing fits. Andrew looked in her direction with a look of concern etched on his face.
"Margarete," Andrew Long asked his wife, "are you okay?"
Margarete who had refused to move away from the second floor window of the store turned and smiled a cold lifeless smile in her husband's direction.
"I am fine," she finally whispered hoarsely at her husband of twenty years.
"I worry about you dear," Andrew replied, "you haven't eaten since this thing started and you scarce sleep anymore."
Margarete sat as still as a granite statue. She continued to gaze out the window as if it was a beautiful spring day and nothing was wrong. A sudden coughing spell caused her to double over and Andrew Long noticed the spatters of blood that tinged his wife's handkerchief. He cringed and walked over to Billy Wright.
"I fear for my wife's health," he said quietly to Billy, "she is not well and refuses to eat or rest. Maybe we should have done as the others and moved to higher ground. I am afraid escape is impossible now."
The cold icy water continued to rise almost as if by magic. Billy and Andrew had gone down to the lower level earlier that morning and found the water to be almost two feet deep inside the store. There had been cries that had come through the night from neighboring buildings. The others who had opted to stay were communicating with each other by a series of yells that went up periodically. The electricity and phone service had finally played out and Andrew wondered if his dear wife would survive the ordeal.
"I should have taken her to safety," he whispered to Billy, "if she dies it will be my fault."
Billy placed a hand gently on his friend of ten years shoulder and gave a firm squeeze.
"No my friend," Billy responded shaking his head, "we had no way of knowing this would happen. Come let's fix something to eat and get Margarete away from that window."
Andrew feigned a smile at his friend and then nodded his head in an affirmative manner. The two men walked over to her side and pulled Margarete cautiously away from the perch she had built at the window. At first she began kicking and screaming but she soon exhausted herself. They brought her to the makeshift bed in the corner of the room and Andrew covered her up with several quilts which Margarete had sewn. He bent down slightly and kissed her forehead. Her skin was cold as the rain that was falling beyond the store's walls. What bothered Andrew the most was the glassy look she had in her beautiful emerald eyes, those eyes Andrew had fallen in love with years ago. They had been so full of life and promise and now they had become dark and cloudy.
"Will you try and eat something?" Andrew asked her imploringly.
Margarete still in her own little world she had created stared at her husband with a blank expression. It took several minutes before she eventually nodded her head in a negative manner. Andrew sighed and pulled the quilts a little tighter around Margarete's tiny body.
"Sleep my love," Andrew whispered to her, "when you wake up the worst may have come and gone."
He watched her eyes flutter several times and then they closed. Andrew sighed and went to sit with his friend.
"With any luck at all and maybe a prayer or two," Billy said to Andrew, "this thing will be over with soon."
Andrew had always been a very religious man and he and his wife had attended church services on a regular basis. Andrew had not a doubt that there was indeed a God and he believed in the Bible. What struck Andrew as odd was that his friend Billy had in his own way professed his faith as well by saying what he did. Andrew knew for a fact that his friend did not believe and never had in God, church or the Bible. It seemed strange to Andrew that Billy would make such a remark.
"Yes my friend," he replied smiling, "perhaps a prayer or two will get us through."
The two men sat and ate a modest dinner of bread and goat's cheese. Billy had brewed a pot of coffee to drink with the meal. They sat talking quietly to each other for a long time.
The sound of people calling back and forth to one another began once more. There was a faint tapping noise as the rain had changed over to sleet. The sound echoed hollowly and eerily in the room where the three had taken refuge. Margarete had fallen into a deep uneasy sleep and occasionally the men would hear her coughing. Each time her cough sounded just a little bit more severe than the time before.


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