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'Damn Ditch': Life threathening flood issue of the 1950s

Posted Wednesday, January 4, 2012, at 12:28 AM

Glad to read last week where the Army Corps of Engineers is getting $800 million to make repairs along the flood-damaged Mississippi River.

Flooding can not only endanger lives, it can endanger livelihoods for farm families.

This I learned as a young boy, when my recently widowed mother came charging into our New Madrid County farm home, while ordering older brother to "get the shotgun and follow me!!"

She added with great emotion: "They've cut a 'damn ditch' behind Little River across the road, and are flooding our soybeans..."

Since Momma Whittle seldom cursed, we knew that "damn ditch" was serious business.

After loading up the farm truck with hoes, shovels and large concrete blocks and bricks, the entire family, Momma, sister June, brother Van, and me (the baby of the family) journeyed to the back of our farm to dam up that ditch a neighboring farmer had cut to drain flood waters out of his his soybean fields.

Being too young to man the shovels and hoes, my job, at age 7, was to "hold that shotgun!!"

Midway through damming up that "damn ditch," the neighbor pulled up a safe distance in his own farm truck, to observe my family stemming the flood waters from drowning out our crops.

He may have been unwise to have cut that ditch, but he was smart not to come within shooting distance of my enraged mother that long ago day when our livlihood crops were threatened by flood waters. I do believe to this day, Mother would have used that shotgun when her family's survival was threatened.

Amen!!



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Retired recently as world-traveled newspaperman, career made possible by late Superintendent of Schools Robert L. Rasche, about to have Bootheel life book published by SEMO State University. Loved farm life, but knew at five years old, didn't want to be a "cotton picker" when I grew up.