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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Driving Through a Flood

First,  let me give you a little background. I was born in September 1946. My brother G was born in November 1947. My sister S was born in December 1949.

Three weeks after she was born, she was having trouble breathing. My mother decided we should get her to the hospital quickly. However, she soon wanted to turn back.

We lived in the country north of Frayser, Tennessee, just north of Memphis. The route to town Memphis started on a road with huge rocks the size of golf balls or larger. It had been raining, so going was rough.

At one point we had to cross a river with an old bridge. I remember seeing nothing but water as I sneaked a peak out of the car side window. Remember, I was short and this was an old car. Plus, I was cautioned to stay seated and still. The water just went on forever on both sides of the car and in front of the car with no bridge in sight even though we were on the old wooden bridge. Yes, I sneaked a peek over the front seat and got in trouble for getting up.

The bridge was the kind with boards going across it from side to side, just sort of a scaffolding. The part the car actually drove on was a series of boards running the length of the bridge but not covering the scaffolding part completely. There were two lengths about two feet wide each that the car tires had to drive on. So, this was a treacherous drive since the driving surface was invisible under the water. It was only a one-lane bridge. And, the six inch high sides of the bridge were under water, also. It was like we were riding on water.

I remember my mother's voice, barely audible, tiny, tremulous/quivering and frightened, begging my father to turn back. He assured her he could just follow the fence posts barely visible in the fields beyond the bridge. Her voice frightened me and her words even more--"Oh First Name, please turn around. I am so scared. Please!"

Daddy was hunched over the steering wheel, gripping it, searching the water's surface for the bridge as he furtively looked for fence posts ahead and to the side to guide him. His skill kept us on the tracks of the bridge. I suppose the weight height of the ancient car kept us from being swept away.

This all terrified me. While I did not cry or say a word, I felt numb. She said we might drown, something I had already figured out even though I had no idea what would happen. At three I knew not to get under water because I could not breathe. Neither of my parents could swim. But, what could they have done to help a three-year-old, a two-year-old and a three-week-old infant in a fast moving flood even if they could swim? Nothing.

That is all I remember of that time or at least the most scary part. We got through somehow. It was incredible luck that we were not pushed off the bridge by the moving flood. 

We went to the hospital with my sister and she spent the several nights there. My brother and I spent the night at aunt J's house. I think my father stayed there, too. Not sure. That visit was frightening to me since I barely knew her or her family. My sister was sent home a few days later. I was so relieved to see my mother! So, we all survived. I am the only person in the car that day that was old enough to remember and is still alive. My parents would have remembered. My brother did not remembered but has since died.

S was diagnosed with pneumonia. From what I understand, newborns with pneumonia do not survive. Mama had no idea that she would be diagnosed with pneumonia. She just knew she needed the emergency room. I do remember how sick my sister seemed, not able to breathe well.

I am often struck by the fact that a whole family would have been wiped out that day early in 1950. We might have never been. And, certainly not the two children born later. It is a sobering thought.

I was hesitant to publish this while the floods were ravaging the country, but it appears that flooding will be around once again.

(Just a reminder: This is my property so I do not want anyone copying or using it an any way. You know who you are!)


  1. What an amazing story. I would hate to be in a terrible situation like that. It is incredible what we can recall from when we are so small.
    And thank you so much for the kind words yesterday. It helped.

    1. Sonya Anne,
      I am not planning on dying, but I thought it was a story I needed to tell while I was still able. When I was in my thirties, I started telling Mama something from my childhood. She was stunned because she said I was only two when it happened, actually, the summer before I was two. She said it was something she never discussed with me--going to pick persimmons.

      Sometimes, it is easier to figure things out or see something from afar.

  2. Replies
    1. Anne,
      By the time I was four the next September, Daddy had built us a house in Memphis. I imagine Mama wanted to get away from that bridge.

  3. Quite the story. Your dad knew how important it was to cross and so did your mom. In moments like these I like to think we have unseen Co-Pilot that keeps us safe.

    1. Gail,
      Daddy would not have backed off from the challenge. My mother was so terrified.

  4. How scary! I don't blame your mom for wanting to turn back. I'm glad you made it!

    1. Michelle,
      If I could not see that already dangerous bridge, I would want to turn back, too. Thanks. I am glad we made it, too.

  5. shan't copy
    this was a good story.

  6. Ur-spo,
    I would never suspect you. Thank you!

  7. That would be terrifying.
    I'm sure your dad was skilled and I suspect you had some supernatural help as well.

    1. kylie,
      If there were supernatural help for us, that means that god refused to help other people I read about who drowned, little children and the elderly along with the able-bodied. That would not be a good god. I suppose it gives some people comfort to think god saved them and let others die. Not me. Thanks for the thoughts.

    2. Ok ,thats reasonable. I guess Gails co-pilot idea doesn't work either


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