FOLKS who live along the Mississippi River are having a...

Salmagundi

July 21, 1993

FOLKS who live along the Mississippi River are having a rough time of it. This is not the first time the Mississippi has stretched her massive arms to reaffirm her power. As in the past, the flood is producing heartwarming stories of people banding together to make the best of it.

Thad Snow wrote a short story in 1954 describing this phenomenon. Here are a few excerpts from "In the Same Boat:"

"Do you know when you have to do it, you can make a boat out of practically anything? There was a saying in the bottoms that you can make a boat out of a picket fence, if that's all you've got.

"I should say there were about fifteen hundred families living then in the bottoms of my country that were overflowed (in 1937). Most of them, after the break, had twenty-four hours to do what they could before the river filled in the lowest land and rose to their houses and barns.

"I venture to say that every household had its boat completed in that time. No two were alike.

"A little later on when the country was covered and everybody had done all he could and saved what he could, there was lots of visiting around, and people made humorous, uncomplimentary remarks about each other's boats.

"If you had a two-story house you just carried everything upstairs and stacked it up the best you could and set up housekeeping with your boat tied to an upstairs window.

"There was no water problem; you just let down a bucket and filled it. Maybe at first you let it settle before you drank it, because it was very muddy, but you soon stopped such nonsense.

"There was no sewage disposal problem, either. You just dumped it out.

"Were the water-bound people downhearted and dispirited? Not your life! I never saw people happier. They made it a grand jamboree.

"There was nothing to do but have a good time, and it was easy to get around, and interesting, too, if only to see how the other fellow made out.

"I have sometimes wondered why it was that the people who stayed it out in the water were so cheerful and happy all the time.

"I think it may have been because everyone had similar problems and discomforts, which gave them a fine sense of unity, which people appear to enjoy whenever they attain it.

"They were all in the same boat, so to speak, although their sure-enough boats were ludicrously variegated."

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