Saturday, April 30, 2011

Two Days at Dixon Springs and Tough Times in America

Rain has finally stopped, but more is expected. Large areas of Southern Illinois are inundated. People in Cairo, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, have been told to evacuate by midnight tonight. Floodwalls there were built to protect against a 64 foot water level, and the river is likely to reach over 60 feet tomorrow. The long period of stress there, however, creates danger of the levees breaking. Our state is holding our breath that this historic town with close to 3,000 citizens will not be flooded.

Meanwhile, two barges with 265 tons of explosives are waiting to possibly break a two-mile stretch of the levee at Bird’s Point, Missouri, if the Army Corps of Engineers deems it necessary to save Cairo. If this happens, 130,000 acres of prime farm land may be flooded making the land unusable for perhaps as long as a decade. I have read estimates of from 75-l00 homes in this area. I am holding my breath for these people also.

A lawsuit was settled quickly when Missouri tried to block Army Corps of Engineer plans. The federal judge in Cape Girardeau ruled in favor of the Corps of Engineers, who have been given responsibility and authority by Congress to make such decisions.

Sandbagging has been going on in many areas of our state including Union County, where Gerald and I grew up. Although Tuesday and Wednesday had to be cancelled, we did get to have the last two days of Stewardship Week at the Dixon Springs Agriculture Center, where school children come in for the day and experience the out-of-doors walking from station to station and learning about many environmental and nature topics.

Despite the fact that their home in Karnak had to have its water shut off in these unpleasant times, Scott Morris, who became interested in Indian languages when he was just 15, kept his commitment to help me at our Trail of Tears station. He taught the children some Cherokee words and sang “Amazing Grace” in Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek. When Scott told how Cherokee boys used blowguns to help obtain game for the family table, we saw some little boys’ eyes light up.

Today’s kids are so well behaved and polite (thanks to conscientious teachers whom we heard reminding the kids before they came into our station), and it is a joy to share history and information with them.

We were in a tent this year, and the ground inside stayed muddy—very muddy. I brought an old piece of carpet the second day to put down after I had a shoe stick in the mud on Thursday. Teachers had advised kids to wear boots if they had them, and many did. I cleaned a great deal of mud off two pairs of Birks first thing this morning —but I noticed after they dried, that I still need to give them a second cleaning.

I am not about to complain, however, knowing how many people in our area are suffering and that a large part of the southern states are devastated by tornadoes. It was interesting on Facebook, that one young woman from our community, was serving as“information center” with her daughter and friend at Tuscaloosa where there was, of course, no electricity or land line phones. She was watching damage and weather reports on the web and sending the information down to them. Somehow she and they were able to text each other on one phone (not the other) during the scary ordeal when the friend’s parents were missing. (They were safe.)

It has been a difficult week for so many people, and I am glad it is over. I told the kids at our Trail of Tears station about the Cherokee kids who were their ages and walked a 1,000 miles under terrible weather conditions. Those Cherokee kids proved that humans can do tough things if they have to, and I tried to impress on these school children that they too can do tough things if they are required to do so. I wish I were not hearing thunder right now.

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