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The Answer Man

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Q: Was Dunklin County once a temporary home for refugees?

A: Yes, during the great flood of 1937.

There is a new book out written by David Welky entitled "The Thousand-Year Flood."

Scores of books and documentaries have been written about 1927 when flood waters roared down the lower Mississippi scattering people from their homes, inundating farm lands, and causing Louisiana officials to flood certain parishes to save New Orleans.

Mysteriously lost in history, however, is an even greater disaster that took place in 1937. Torrential rain lasting for days sent swollen tributaries crashing into the Ohio River. Joining forces with the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois, the combined power spread water over miles of acreage, and sent thousands of desperate people looking for dry land.

"The Thousand-Year Flood" is far too comprehensive to cover in a brief book review.

It may be of interest, however, for Southeast Missourians to read some of the material about familiar names and places that played an important role in the flood itself, and the recovery.

Dunklin County somehow accommodated ten thousand refugees. Charleston, Missouri, population three thousand, cared for six thousand. Kennet, MO had two thousand, five hundred, and "tiny" Hornersville took in five hundred.

Over in Caruthersville a diligent person found a schoolhouse that had floated down a hundred miles from Bird's Point and attached itself to a tree. A telegram was sent to Bird's Point that said "Found - one schoolhouse now tied to a tree.

Owner can have it with proper identification."

The old fairgrounds at Memphis was crowded with ten thousand refugees living in horrid conditions. Political boss, E.H. Crump visited the camp one day and became enraged about dangerous sanitary problems that threatened an epidemic, and badly tarnished the Memphis reputation. Refugees were eventually sent to other places, but not before neighboring planters were sending pick-up trucks to gather laboring forces for the crops.

The Southern Tenant Farmer's Union had been active before the flood to improve contractual agreements that put many sharecroppers in abject poverty.

The STFU stepped up activity after the flood and stirred the wrath of planters to the point of violence. Two STFU people were lynched. In Caruthersville a meeting arranged by landlords led to a shooting. Two bullets missed an STFU person, and he was then promptly beaten over the head.

The Thousand Year Flood, along with farm mechanization, and the later on Civil Rights movement, spelled the end of sharecropping as we knew it.

An added twist: There was a lady who lived on a farm between Cooter, MO and Steele. The waters were rising, and she happened to be reading the hottest novel of the time, "Gone With The Wind." For the rest of her life she mixed the 1937 flood, with the Yankees are coming!!

Q: Is "hatred" the new mantra for politics?

A: It appears that way on every turn.

Syndicated Columnist, Gene Lyons, in his column for the Dec, 14 edition of the DDD, absolutely excoriates Republican candidate for president, Newt Gingrich. It is a venomous attack, almost making Gingrich a dangerous person to be on this planet with - a non-human.

Gingrich may have his faults, no doubt that. And Lyons may be correct on several points. Lyons says there are some conservatives who want a "hater" for president.

What is apparent in this column, however, as in most of his columns, is a seething hatred of his own.

Both political parties seem to be guilty of this. It seems that an extremity on one side just naturally causes an extremity for the other side.

Gene Lyons is an excellent writer; and you have to give him credit: There is nothing hidden in his agenda.

He hates Rush Limbaugh. He hates Ann Coulter.

He hates Fox News. He appears at least to hate anything that conflicts with his views. Gene Lyons needs to look in a mirror.

Lyons is not alone in his opinions. All those people he hates probably hate him too. Certainly no arbitrator, his opinions are strident with attack.

Politics today have an almost sing-song syncopation about it reminiscent of the old song having to do with "loving". Replacing "loving," "there's a whole lot of "hating" going on.

The Answer man
The Answer Man