The 200 Year Flood

Evergreen, 1910You can’t work in a service industry without encountering situations that you couldn’t even dream up. The other day I came in at my usual time and found Billy and John in the kitchen, strategically placing pans to catch the water that was dripping down from the ceiling. We had a torrential storm the night before and apparently the roof had given its best effort, but failed.

The roofing company promised to be out to look over the situation between 10 and noon. In the meantime the rain had pretty much eased up, the floor was mopped, and things seemed to be under control. It wasn’t a pretty sight, like something local tree trimming Chesapeake VA would deal with after a storm, but Billy was able to work around the assorted catch pots and no one in the dining room suspected a thing. That is until Hannah (Banana), our new girl at Three Bags Full Cafe felt like it was her duty to tell flood stories to anyone who would listen.

evergreen damn floodThe story of the 200 year flood. At the end of Main St. we have a sizable damn that regulates spill from the town lake into a stream. With all the rain we had been having Hannah was a little unglued by the thought that it has been over 200 years since our last flood.

I suppose to relieve her own anxiety she was compelled to talk about the damn being the only thing between the town and a deluge. She verbally pointed out the cracks in the damn and made-up odds of it breaking.

She noted how high the lake was and how fast the spillover was, along with how high the creek had risen. She gave everyone a little history lesson and warned them to be ready to evacuate. By the time she had reached three or four tables it started to drizzle again outside.

So much for a relaxing experience for diners at Three Bags Full that day. By now she even had the cafe staff on edge. The drip, drip, plunk, plunk of the water in the catch pots in the kitchen now seemed to echo out into the dining room, reminding everyone that although they may be inside – so was the rain.

It wasn’t long before a few of the old timers were adding their bits and pieces to the story. One rancher who liked to spin a tale anyway, added his version of the 200 year flood. It was told to him by his grandfather, who was told by his grandfather and so on and so forth. You know one of those not so reliably, embellished tomes. By now most of us are sucked-in to the land of – what if. Since it was a dreary day a good story lightened things up even if it was filled with fraught and danger.

Old Tom said that his great great grandfather was in town on the day of the last 200 year flood. At that time there wasn’t a damn and the lake was a ranch owned by an early settler. The ranch sat at the opening of a canyon and the runoff from the hills could get superabundant. As his story goes, after a sudden cloud burst his great great grandfather who was 12 years old at the time, heard a roaring, crackling sound. It didn’t sound like thunder, but more like a stampede.

He didn’t know what it was, but it was getting louder. Instinctively, he ran up the side of the hill that borders the backs of the buildings on main street to see if he could get a better look at whatever was making the sound. What he saw was a huge wall of water rushing out of the mouth of the canyon. A flash flood. He ran higher and before he could turn back the water was already filling Main St.

He reported seeing wagons with horses still harnessed to them float by. Trees and mud absorbed some of the space, but the water rose to 4 feet before it started to settle and level out. The ranch at the opening of the canyon was wiped out and livestock was lost. Only one human casualty, Grandma Gilbert, who was 103 yrs old and couldn’t move fast to save her life. Nonetheless, it was a devastating event and one that earned the right to be told.

Then we all jumped in unison when we heard banging above us. No worries, it’s just the roofing company doing their thing to keep us dry, and unknowingly snap us out of our morbidly hypnotic states. Enough stories! Everyone eat up, let’s get a laugh or two going and feel blessed. Remember that old saying about April showers bringing May flowers – well OK then.

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