Dutchtown: Flood of 1993

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993Some of you have been wondering where I’ve been. I was busy in Cape getting a boat ready to pull down to Florida for Kid Adam, then it was a long slog south because of weather. When you’ve been gone from home for months, there are a number of things you have to catch up on. If you don’t accept all those excuses, I’ll have to fall back on “the dog ate my homework” and hope you don’t know that I don’t own a dog. (I’m owned by a cat, but they rarely eat homework.)

OK, to bring us back to the headline, I was in Chicago for phone switch training when the Flood of 1993 was going on. I told the boss that I’d pay any difference in ticket price to do a stopover in Missouri for a couple of days, so I could see the high water.

Dad’s construction company owned a piece of ground at the southeast corner of Highways 25 and 74 in Dutchtown. It had gone under in 1973, and was revisited by water backing up from the Mississippi River in 1993. Brother Mark and I rented a canoe to explore the property at the height of the flood. The building we’re headed toward was what we called the mechanics shed.

Big enough to hold heavy equipment

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993The building had a super-thick slab strong enough to hold bulldozers and draglines when they needed repair and maintenance. Half of it was set aside for mechanical and welding work, and the other side had storage cabinets and a carpentry setup.

The first challenge was how to open the door. The Master lock was located just beyond where you could reach it comfortably without tipping the canoe over. My key ring, 22 years later, is still bent from trying to twist the lock open.

Not a pretty sight

Mark’s first peek showed stuff bobbing around all over the place. We lost some good table and band saws because we never thought the water would come up so high and so fast.

How do we get through the door?

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993The next challenge was how to get a wide canoe through a narrow door. It was part of family lore that Dad once built a boat in a basement on Themis street, then figured out it was too big to get out. I never knew for sure if that was true, and he’s not around to either confirm or deny the story.

I REALLY didn’t want to go swimming, and I REALLY, REALLY didn’t want to spill all my camera gear in the drink, but how can you pass up an opportunity like this?

I went first

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993I managed get the bow of the canoe far enough into the building to rig a 2×8 or 2×10 board between the top of a cabinet and some shelving, and clambered out. Mark handed up everything that was in the boat and followed my lead.

Once the boat was empty, he was able to twist it enough to get it through the door.

Mark doesn’t look comfortable

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993He’s giving me the look that says, “I bet you’ve rigged that board to dump me. I can’t figure out HOW you did it, but I’m pretty sure something nasty is going to happen.”

Snakes?

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993He looked even more uncomfortable when I started sharing snake stories from other floods and hurricanes I had covered. “Don’t forget,” I warned him, “snakes are looking for high ground, and they might mistake you for high ground.”

Compressor was flood casualty

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993There was a huge, industrial-size air compressor on the mechanic side of the shed that wasn’t bolted to the floor. When the water came up, the air tank on the bottom started to float, but the heavy motor and compressor on the top caused the unit to flip over. Had it been bolted down, the water wouldn’t have gotten up high enough to do any damage. Mark’s using the big ceiling hoist to get it out of the water.

We asked someone if they thought the compressor was salvageable, but we were told that the motor was probably shot. We gave it no thought for about ten years until Brother-in-Law John came down to help us with something. He said he’d take the thing off our hands.

Sure enough, when I went over to his shop a couple of weeks ago, the compressor was puttering away as good as new. I’m glad it found a good home.

On the same side as the compressor was our ski boat, The Mary Lou, floating, still attached to its trailer. (You’ll hear more about The Mary Lou later.)

Water marks

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993When I got back to Cape several months later, the armpit-high water marks on the buildings were still evident. Mark may be my “little brother,” but he’s not that little.

I saw drone aerial photos of the property shot a couple of days ago. The water is already into the buildings, and I suspect that Mark and I could take a canoe through the big shed pretty much the same at 1993 if the water crests as high as predicted.

 

High Chair, High Waters

Elsie Adkins Welch, Mark and LV Steinhoff eating winter watermelon at kitchen table March 1961Neighbors Bill and Rhonda and I went down to Dutchtown Monday afternoon. While we were there, I opened some mostly-empty sheds that hadn’t seen light (except for a hole in the roof) for years. Most everything of value had been taken out of them a long time ago, and whatever contents that remained had floated and rearranged themselves in the various floods since 1973. Stuff that could rust had rusted; stuff that could rot or fall apart had done just that; everything had a thick or thin patina of river mud sticking to it.

As I was playing a flashlight beam around, Rhonda said, “That’s a high chair under there.”

Indeed, it was. It was the very yellow high chair that Brother Mark was sitting in back in March of 1961. That’s my grandmother, Elsie Welch on the left. Dad, engrossed in one of my comic books, is on the right. Looks like we were having some combination of brownies, milk, barbecue sandwiches (made on the grill in the background, where our microwave lives today), and iced tea.

It’s still in pretty good shape

Mark Steinhoff's high chair - Dutchtown 08-17-2015I was surprised to see it was in better shape than I would have thought. The metal tray that Mark used to bang his cup on like he was in a B-Grade prison movie would still slide on and off. The legs have some rust on them, but I don’t know if that’s from the Mississippi River or my brother’s leaky diapers.

You might just see this at Annie Laurie’s Antique Shop one of these days, Lord willin’ and the rivers don’t rise.

Clinton Wren Remembers Smelterville

Former Smelterville resident Clinton Wren, photographed as a child c 1966-67.I’ve got to get on the ball if I want to have an updated version of my Smelterville project out by this summer. Clinton Wren and I took refuge in Long John Silver’s on a scorching hot day in July 2011 while he talked about growing up in South Cape. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Everybody was loved

Smelterville“Everybody was loved,” he said. “Everybody was family. If one done something, another parent would take care of you. Everybody’s parent looked after you. It wasn’t like now, you know. It was one community of love. I’ve got good remembrances from there, you know. Some of that made me the man that I am now.”

Floods and chopping wood

Hogs in Smelterville 08-01-1967“Worst thing was the floods and high water. Actually, coming back in and lots of cleaning to do. After that ’73 flood, we didn’t come back after that. We went through two floods before finally Mama made the decision to move out.

“I’ll tell you another thing – making fire, too. Going out there in the cold and chopping wood; that’s another thing coming back to me. Outside bathrooms. We had some hogs back there, too. That might have been our hog pen, but I don’t remember us having that many pigs.”

A quarter went a long way

Smelterville 06-05-1967“Henry Warfield was in the construction business. Sold a lot of lumber; tore down a lot of houses. There used to be a couple of big houses at Morgan Oak and Frederick. He just tore down stuff all over the city. He’d haul it down there and salvage what he could salvage. He’d save all the bricks. You can drive all over this city and see brick homes built with those bricks. Cleaning bricks… Made a lot of money then.

“We always had a little money. Of course a quarter was quite a bit of money. We’d get a quarter a month allowance. A quarter went a long way. After school we’d work for Henry. Maybe make 50 cents or a dollar, depending on what he was doing. Brick work, you’d make a little bit more money. A quarter was quite a bit of money in those days.”

Other Smelterville stories

 

Alan, Lisa and Reality

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013I was supposed to meet Friend Shari and her mother, LaFern for an afternoon ramble. The left rear tire was a little low, so I went down the hill to Plaza to have them check it out. I rolled forward slowly and nothing appeared to be sticking in it, and it would taken them an hour to get around to me, so I had them air it up and I went to pick up my passengers.

We were going to be driving around on some remote roads, so I stopped at an auto parts store and picked up a portable tire inflator “just in case.” My two passengers pronounced it “cute” and thought it would make a good Christmas stocking stuffer. (If you get one, credit – or blame – me.)

We paused at the Thebes Mississippi River overlook and admired Alan and / or Lisa’s pronouncement of devotion. You can decry graffiti on public property, but it had to have taken a long time to etch out “Alan Hearts Lisa Always” in the seat. It was at least 3/8″ deep and filled in with black.

There is always a cynic around

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013In different handwriting and with an indelible marker, the inevitable gonna-rain-on-your-parade cynic scrawled, “This Week!” above the “always.”

Debris from flood

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013We looked at debris, including a green buoy, deposited by the recent flood.

What are these?

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013

On the way to the car, we tried to identify these purple things. We weren’t sure if they were berries or grapes. They were intermingled with mulberries and poison ivy. Maybe somebody can tell us what we were looking at.

This is bad news

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013

When we got to the parking area, I noticed the tire was down about a third. I said we’d better go back to have it checked out. Just before we got to the bridge, I could tell the tire was almost flat by the way the rear end was acting squirrelly. Yep, it was nearly flat. I pulled out the “cute” inflator and let it pump away. The box said it should inflate a tire in five minutes, but that might be one that’s not leaking air. When it hit 32 psi and wouldn’t go any higher, we took off.

By the time I got to Plaza at William and Kingshighway, it was flat again.

The nice man who looked at it said I was lucky to have made it in at all. It had a big split on the inside of the tire. “And, by the way, did you know you had two wrong-sized tires on the rear of the car?”

Nope. But it turned out to have been two tires I had to buy at Sam’s in the middle of Nowhere, GA, when I had a blowout on a day when temperatures were just short of that of the surface of the sun. Since the second tire was getting close to the wear bars, I had them replace both of them. That should keep me safe from hydroplaning if I have to make a mad dash through a tropical storm or hurricane.

Did I mention I had calendars and books for sale? I ask because Wife Lila called yesterday to say that our 20-plus-year-old washer died on the same day she had her power steering dohickey replaced.

I felt like I had been swatted by the guy who added a dose of reality to Alan and Lisa’s message.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.