arkansas

When a river is as wide as the Mississippi, and traveling through so many states, often through flat land, the potential for flooding always exists. I know that many people who live along the Mighty Mississippi, would never consider living anywhere else. They love that old river, and having been there myself, I can certainly understand why. The river views are beautiful. Still, the yearly potential for flooding is something that might put many people off, when it comes to living on the shores of that river. Of course, people can get flood insurance, and indeed, most banks would require it for properties along that river, but the possessions lost in floods, not to mention the time it takes to rebuild the homes, and especially the lives lost in floods, make living on the shores of the Mississippi something that I would probably not decide to do.

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles inundated up to a depth of 30 feet. To try to prevent future floods, the federal government built the world’s longest system of levees and floodways. Of the more than 630,000 people affected by the flood, 94% lived in the states of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, most in the Mississippi Delta. By August 1927, the flood subsided. Hundreds of thousands of people had been made homeless and displaced…properties, livestock and crops were destroyed. Some people left the area, because they did not have the money, or the stomach for living in an area where their homes could so easily be wiped out. Still, the draw of the beautiful Mississippi kept many people there, determined to rebuild their lives. Of course, the flood didn’t only affect the people living along the Mississippi. Lost crops affected many people in the United States. It was a disaster of epic proportions.

Then came the floods of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in 1993, also known as the Great Flood of 1993. This is one that many of us alive today remember, mostly because we were old enough to remember, but also because the television and newspapers were filled with the stories of destruction. The flood was among the most costly and devastating to ever occur in the United States, with $15 billion in damages. The damage area was more than 745 miles in length and 435 miles in width, totaling about 320,000 square miles. Within this zone, the flooded area totaled around 30,000 square miles and was the worst such US disaster since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, as far as duration, area flooded, persons displaced, crop and property damage, and number of record river levels. In some ways, the 1993 flood even surpassed the 1927 flood, which was, at the time, the largest flood ever recorded on the Mississippi River. The effects were felt by people all over the United States because of crops lost, the rise in the cost of building materials, and of course, insurance rates as a result of increased building material prices. Floods are nearly impossible to prevent, and for some people they are considered a risk they are willing to take, but for me, I think I’ll stick to places where the chance of a flood hitting my home is almost nil. On October 7, 1993, the Great Flood of 1993 came to an end as the Mississippi River finally started to recede, 103 days after the flooding began.

Allen, Laura, and Anna editedDuring the early years of my grandparents marriage, they lived  in several places, as many people do. They spent time in Lisbon, North Dakota, and several areas of Minnesota, including Loman, Minnesota, where they had a homestead. My Aunt Laura was born in International Falls, Minnesota, which is 21 miles from Loman. These days, that is a 24 minute drive, but back then it was quite a bit more, especially since not everyone owned a car in those days. In 1918, 1 in 13 families owned a car. Then by 1929, 4 out of 5 families owned a car. A lot has changed in the years since then. Most families have at least 2 vehicles. Nevertheless, at the time my Aunt Laura was born in 1912, cars, or motor buggies as they were called, were a novelty item owned by the wealthy. That said, I would expect that my grandparents were living in International Falls at the time of my aunt’s birth, and then moved to Loman, Minnesota after that time.

At some point in the year 1918, my grandfather and grandmother decided to leave the life they had built in Minnesota, spread their wings, and head south to look for greener pastures, so to speak. They had gone as far as Kansas City, presumably by train, where they bought what I’m sure was their first automobile, and headed off to Mena, Arkansas. I’m not sure how long they were in Mena, Arkansas, but eventually they ended up in Ranger, Texas, where it would appear that he might have worked in the oil fields for a time.

I can imagine how exciting this trip must have been for my Aunt Laura, who was 7 years old at the time. Not only was she going on a whole new adventure, to a whole new place, but she was going the family’s first automobile. When you are used to going places in a horse drawn buggy this new mode of travel must have been very exciting. It had speed without the horses, and better control. She could feel the wind in her hair as they flew down the road. It was a huge new adventure, a fast paced adventure, for a girl who was used to life in a slow paced world.
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I’m not sure just how long they lived in Texas, but I do know that by the time my Uncle Bill was born in 1922, the family was back in the north, living in Superior, Wisconsin. Maybe they didn’t like the heat or maybe they missed the Great Lakes region in general. I don’t know why for sure, but I do know that except for a few short years, my grandparents would live out their lives in Superior, Wisconsin. Aunt Laura, who didn’t like the cold much would spread her wings again later in her life and head out west, finally settling in Oregon, where she felt most at home.

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