Archive for the ‘Local Flavor’ Category

Church Suppers

September 22, 2013

I’ve been thinking about, for sometime, getting more active with this blog. My original thought was to use it to record an uncommon way of life and that is still my predominant intention. I have not pursued that intention really, with any consistent activity, and have mostly used this blog to participate in the annual Blog Action Day event, coming up in mid-October. I intend to post a blog again this year.

There won’t be any photos, though I think they would have been a great addition to this blog. I have been thinking about that also. Photos give the eyes some visual candy to help the wordy stuff go down better. It was on our drive to an annual “church supper” fundraiser yesterday that my mind was caught up in the realization that the event would be great in pictures. I did have my iPhone 5 with me and considered that but for now I stayed my inclination, it felt “intrusive” somehow but maybe I will grow into it.

Our closest neighbors belong to a humble, little rural country church, a Methodist associated religion, called Rhodes Chapel. For most of the 25 years that I have lived here, we have gone most years to participate in their fund raiser, though we have missed a few. So, first we went with my in-laws, then we added children to our family, then my in-laws left us and so, now it is my husband, my self and our boys.

They serve fried chicken (they have a little enclosure out back to cook in) and dumplings, green beans, mashed potatoes and corn and a few other sides along with ice tea and lemonade. The dinner cost us $8 for adults (of which my oldest son now belongs to that category) and $5 for children. There are homemade desserts – pies and cakes – as well. I ate too much, even though I took small servings.

After supper, they have a quilt auction. We usually look at the quilts before leaving. I always looked for the traditional quilts, pieced together in traditional patterns, from scraps of fabric. My favorites are generally the tiny floral and patterned kinds of scraps. Some of the quilts are modern printed material, batted and embroideried and well “quilt” stitched. There was one like that with a Buck Deer and Doe embroidered over the print.

We have stayed for some of the auction, in the years that my in-laws were alive. It is a “true” auction with a fast talking auctioneer and pointing at people who fidget in the least. It always amazed me, the prices the quilts would fetch. $100, $200 and more sometimes. This is not a wealthy church nor people with a lot of disposable income. It is quite humble in size and décor and it is a “family-run” church to a great degree. The family that our closest neighbors are part of and why we go to be supportive of their fund-raiser.

We are always at the end of supper serving time each year and so, we go the fastest route, over the one-lane, cement bridge that the Castor River (tiny yesterday – raging when it floods and closes the road) flows over. We always take the “long-way” home, past the natural artesian well that still flows and was once crucial to early farmers and pioneers in the area. The water is sweet with minerals and very cold.

We pass Denman stables on the way to Marquand. They always seem to be ending a day-long trail ride as we pass the place after a Rhodes Chapel supper on a Saturday evening in mid-Autumn.

These are some of the things I love about living in rural isolated wilderness, long-haul community, simple pleasures and basic living . . . maybe next year, I’ll take some pictures of all this.

Advertisements

Water, Water Everywhere

May 15, 2011

 This is the 150th year, the Sesquicentennial, since the beginning of The Civil War, there will be many battle reenactments in key states . . .

In May 2011, we took a little trip, down the Mississip. 

We saw a lot of water; and in Memphis, we had a little fun . . .

This year (2011), the earthquake in Japan and the tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi devastated human life more significantly; but closer to my own backyard, the Mighty Mississippi is drawing lots of attention, more than it has needed since the Flood of 1993.  While there are similarities, there are differences. 

The Mississippi is the 3rd longest river in No American and it’s watershed is the 4th largest in the world.  These are the worst floods to hit the central US in 70 years.  Below Missouri, the 1993 Flood was not big news; but then, during that flood, over 1,000 of the 1,300 earthen levees failed, flooding farmland and small towns and sparing the lower river of much flooding.  Major cities like Hannibal, St Louis and Cape Girardeau in Missouri along the Mississippi River, have massive concrete flood walls with heavy metal gates.  These protected the old city centers but areas above or below these structures did not have the same protection.  

Similarly, the combination of record winter snowfalls, and the snowmelts of spring, along with heavy rains over the Midwest – have done their best, quite successfully, to cause much damage.  Here is a pretty good overview of the June to mid-August Mississippi River flood of 1993.

The USGS has some good photos of that same flood here – http://mo.water.usgs.gov/Reports/1993-Flood/photos.htm .  They note that on Aug 1, 1993 the largest peak discharge since 1844 was measured at St Louis on the Mississippi River.  Before 1927, there were no flood control measures in place on the river.  Most of the damage in 1993 occurred in the area from Minnesota to Missouri.  In the Fall of 1992, soil moisture levels were already high in the Central US.  Winter rain and snow contributed to the saturated soil conditions and so when spring rain and snowmelt came, it could only run off into streams and rivers.

In June 1993, the rivers were already running high and a persistent upper level atmospheric pattern developed.  Moist air flowed up from the Gulf of Mexico into the Midwest.  Other upper level disturbances were crossing the country from west to east and collided with the moisture coming up from the south.  There was wave after wave of these storms.  Between June and  August, some locations had received over 30” of rain (almost 200% above normal).

The river crested at St Louis in 1993 at 49.6 feet (over 19’ above flood stage and 6’ above the record set in 1973).  The river remained over flood stage for 2 months.  Record flooding was also occurring in Iowa along the Des Moines River (which is a tributary of the Mississippi).

Because the Mississippi River Flood of 2011 is also a significant historical event, our family decided to take a little trip this last Thursday and Friday down to Memphis, TN (where the river crested 2 days earlier – Tuesday, May 10th – at 48′). Memphis received 11” of rain between  April 25th and May 6th and a downtown airport in Memphis was submerged on May 5th when a temporary levee broke.  The Mud Island reproduction of the Mississippi River watershed is submerged, though the walkway is high and dry.  We enjoyed strolling the riverfront, where the river looks more like an ocean and took in a supernatural carriage ride (perhaps I’ll add more about that in a comment to this blog) and a trolley ride.  We stopped at King’s Palace Cafe on Beale St to eat Crawfish Etoufee and were entertained by some old black men playing authentic classic blues live.  My friend, Lucienne (in the Netherlands), found this video (without knowing anything more, than that I had listened to Blues in Memphis on Beale St).  It so perfectly captured that last part of our Memphis experience, that I had to share it with you in this blog.  There was a man in a red bowler hat, that strolled through the diners, playing his trumpet at the beginning of the band’s set.  I’m certain the guy in the video, is the guy I listened to that night.

Here’s a little video of the flood, made at Memphis, about the same time we were there.

We started our contact with the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau on Thursday morning.  This year’s flood of the Mississippi is caused by a combination of April deluges (in our area, in one 8 day period, we received 22-1/2” of rain).  The flow was made heavier by near-record winter snows in the northern states beginning to melt.  The crest in Memphis was approx 48’ – the 2nd highest on record (that record being in from 1937, when it reached 48.7’).

Before we got to Memphis though, we traveled towards New Madrid and the Bird’s Point levee.  The National Guard had checkpoints in the area and the roads were still flooded, causing the first of our backtracks to detour around impassible roads but we were able to reach the river on more than one occasion, where we saw livestock having to make due with levee hills and river water, instead of their usual pasture and ponds in the floodplain.  The plan to breech the levee was highly controversial in Missouri.  The State of Missouri asked the US Supreme Court to intervene with the US Army Corp of Engineers’ plan to intentionally blow up the levee.  The lower court and the US Circuit Court of Appeals had both already ruled against Missouri, giving the Corps the right to breech the levee based upon a 1928 law.

Here’s a YouTube about that breeching of the Bird’s Point levee – (the video didn’t seem to embed on my preview and so, just in case, here is a url http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmF3m4R3FfY)

Besides the flooding of the Mississippi itself, there has been record flooding on the Ohio River (which merges with the Mississippi at Cairo).  Harrah’s casino at Metropolis IL on the Ohio River is an island in the flood now.  They have donated $100,000 to local chapters of the Red Cross.  The Ohio River has been so high that barges are passing over dams on the river.  The Ohio River crested at Cairo IL at 60.5’ on May 1st.  That exceed the 100-yr flood stage and is the highest flood in history.  The previous record was 59.5’ in 1937.  So this was the highest flood height ever recorded at Cairo (records go back 100 years) on the Mississippi, due to the effect of the Ohio River converging.  The new mayor of Cairo (only just sworn in on May 2nd) had evacuated the entire town of Cairo, before the US Army Corps acted.  Previous records at New Madrid, MO (which crested at approx 44’) have been – 48’ in 1937, 44.6’ in 1913, 43.6’ in 1975, 43.5’ in 1950 and 42.9’ in 1997.

The blasting of the Bird’s Point levee did seem to help with water at Cairo, IL dropping almost 2’, down from a record of 61.72’.  The water was still lapping at I-55 in that area, when we drove through.  It was still sandbagged, as well.  We drove through water, that was still over the road (though not deep) there.  I would assume it got a bit higher there on the Interstate, when they first blew the levee.  Also establishing crest records were Caruthersville, MO and Poncahontas AR (along the Black River, where a levee failed near Poplar Bluff, MO).  Down in the boothill of Missouri, one riverfront business in small rural town had a sign in the window of his sandbagged store front “Play Nice Old Man River” (video is Paul Robeson in Hammerstein’s Showboat song) – (the video didn’t seem to embed on my preview and so, just in case, here is a url http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh9WayN7R-s)

It is still the poorest of the poorest that are most devastated by Old Man River and his ways.  Yes, Old Man River keeps rolling along.  He’s not in any hurry to reach the sea.  The story is still unfolding, and far from complete – at Vicksburg MS, the crest is expected at 57.5’ on May 19th (topping the 56.2’ historic record set in 1927).  The Arkansas and Yazoo rivers have contributed additional water flow.

The Army Corp of Engineers is faced with yet another unpopular decision.  If it doesn’t act, the predicted crest at New Orleans around May 22nd would be anywhere from 19.5’ to 25’ (these predictions are constantly changing, of concern there in New Orleans is that the top of the levees are approx 20’).  We heard a lot of news locally in Memphis, about the plan to open a spillway to relieve the river in Louisiana.  There are even concerns about the river choosing a new channel to the sea.  Baton Rouge and New Orleans would likely flood, if something isn’t done.  The flooding of farmland and rural towns would prompt further evacuations and flash flood warnings in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Army Corps of Engineers opened the Morganza Spillway yesterday, channeling Mississippi floodwaters into the Atchafalaya River basin.  This is “built-in” to their system about 45 miles northwest of Baton Rouge.  The last time that they had to do this was in 1973

Around 2,500 people live directly on the flood path of the diverted water, which could also impact another 22,500 people and 11,000 buildings, as well as 2,264 oil wells which produce almost 20,000 barrels of crude a day.  But it does take the pressure off the cities and numerous oil refineries further south in Louisiana.   The number of huge oil and chemical processing plants in that region is staggering; and so, the opening of the spillway is realistically as much about big corporations with huge financial clout, as it is about any of “the people” living in New Orleans and Baton Rouge (but making it about the people is better received by the masses ;p and doubtless, it IS about them as well).

The engineers estimated that had they not opened the spillway, New Orleans would have been swamped in as much as 20′ of water.  If you are interested in learning more – about the Army Corps Mississippi system – there is a good deal of information in this New Yorker article – The Control of Nature: Atchafalaya.

I have a friend, Denise, who lives north of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain; and I checked in with her yesterday.  She wrote back –

“Oy, that river is something, huh?  I’ve gained a whole new respect for the Mighty Mississippi!! They finally opened up the Morganza Spillway upriver from Baton Rouge today around 4, I believe.  That has diverted all of that massive amount of rushing water to split so that we won’t get the full force of it all down in the cities along the river.  It’s a sad thing that all of that farmland and smaller communities will be flooded ‘on purpose’ to save the big cities, but I do understand that they are saving the greatest population areas.  Doesn’t make one feel any better about it though.  On the news this afternoon around 6, they were reporting that the river had already crested in New Orleans, and is expected to crest in Baton Rouge on the 16th, so apparently it’s working, but the rivers are SO HIGH it is eery.  Now, as long as the levees hold! Luckily we’re not expecting *any* rain, which is a very good thing right now!”

I’m not sure about the “river had already crested” part.  My understanding was that it was not due to do that, for a few days yet.  I saw a graphic in Memphis on their commercial TV showing the river was moving rather slowly.  I think the crest in Vicksburg was not expected before Thurs, the 19th; but perhaps it is the opening of this spillway, that allows that determination regarding New Orleans.

Below is a picture of the current level of flooding at the Old Train Depot in downtown Vicksburg MS, just yesterday (Sat, May 14th).

I found this NASA photo taken from the Space Station of the flooded fields in Missouri from the Bird’s Point levee breech by the Army Corps of Engineers.  This is actually from the day (Thurs, May 12th) that my family passed through the area of Caruthersville, MO (this photo shows just north of there – note that north on this photo is the lower right corner of the image).

Below is an image from Vicksburg – the “Flood Mark” on the river flood wall is the 1927 historic flood level that caused the creation of the Army Corps flood control system of locks, dams and spillways.

Now here’s an interesting aside, which I personally attribute to Nature’s innate wisdom – at  NOLA.com (note, this is the abbreviation for New Orleans, Louisiana) I found an article titled “Audubon Park Bird Island abandoned”

Is it related to the weather and flooding ?  I would hazard a “yes” on this one.  Of course, it could also be somehow due to adverse conditions for food continuing in the gulf, from the BP Deep Horizon incident of a year ago.

The Audubon Park Bird Island in New Orleans, LA houses one of the most prominent rookeries in the region for great egrets, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, herons and double-crested cormorants.  On our own journey, we did see such birds scattered about the receding floodwaters in Missouri, Kentucky and Northern Tennessee.  Anyway, the article says that “some birds indeed arrived at the island early this year, began mating, buidling nests and laying eggs but in early April, they all mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind nests and eggs.”  You can read more at the NOLA.com link above.