By Rick Houser –
I have lived my entire life in the Ohio Valley near the great Ohio River. Along with the sight of the great river and it being a part of whom we are and why we are, we learn to never be surprised that “Old Man River” just keeps rolling along. I have heard many expressions and old sayings that have become a part of my vocabulary as well as yours. One such saying goes, “If you don’t like the weather, all you have to do is wait five minutes and it will change.”
The expression sounds a bit exaggerated but I will ask you the reader, “Does it really sound so far-fetched?”? Not in southwestern Ohio and in the Ohio Valley does it sound overstated. Just last week in a three-day span we had sunshine and mild temperatures, then cold rain followed by snow, then back to sunshine and a little warmer. So it is easy to like the weather and dislike it all in a few minutes.
This brings me to another facet of the weather when you live near the Ohio River and that’s keeping an eye on the river level. Not as much these days but in the years of my youth and adulthood, a period of heavy rain and snow could elevate the river to the point of rising above the 52 foot flood level. I lived out on Fruit Ridge, a good three miles from Moscow which is a small river town and where flood levels were and still are a serious concern.
Having grown up around that little town, I learned that the combination of rain, ice, and snow could equal school being closed for at least a week. When a community becomes flooded, those folks whose homes are in the flood plain must evacuate and relocate until the river goes down and returns to its banks, so the school has always been transformed into living quarters for the community.
Even though we lived out on the ridge, we would take our truck and go to town and help folks move out and help them when it was time for them to return. My Dad was a trustee and he and Ed Maus, also a trustee, would go to help. Since my brother Ben and I were big enough to lift, we were volunteered also. On top of that my Grandma Houser lived in Moscow and when she was forced to move it was time for her son and grandsons to help of course.
Those weren’t the best of times for but in a kid’s mind there was still that thought in the back of your head, “I don’t have to go to school”! When entering Moscow the mood of the townsfolk was one of a united situation and everyone seemed to give off the feeling of a much more pleasant situation. That part I really didn’t understand, but it was defenntly noticeable. Like I said my Dad was a public servant and he really did care about those whose property was underwater, so he went to town daily and sometimes more than once a day and of course I would go along as I just knew I was helpful and I really was hoping to see some of my classmates from school.
When I had to change schools I transferred to Felicity and I figured the days of getting out for flooding were over. But the Felicity school district covered the area of Chilo and Neville and all the land on the U.S 52 highway. Because of this the school at Felicity was the same as the one in Moscow, so for me a day off was still in play. When a flood was coming, it was aware to us all. As the weather kept moisture coming in our area and upriver, the weather bureau would hourly give the river level and even tell the listeners how fast the water was rising. Eventually the time of doom would be announced. The river would surpass the flood level at a certain time. (This was to let all know just how much longer they had to get out.)
We would drive down until we met US 52 and you would see water where you hadn’t seen it just a short while ago, where there was a roaf earlier was now part of the Ohio River.
As the water rose so did the chances for school closing and the more I hoped for it. Yes, I wanted out of school but I guess I didn’t think too much as to why. There is no way I was the only kid wanting out of school because If it didn’t affect you, the true feeling didn’t apply. Since I had to help my Dad move people I did feel it a little more and could see that Mother Nature does not relent.
Worse to me was after the flood waters resided. That was when we would help in cleaning out the houses damaged by flood waters. There is one fact that not a soul will deny and that is there is nothing dirtier or smellier than the water from the Ohio River.
Sitting on the banks of the Ohio River in late May is a great thing to do. Standing knee deep in river water in March is anything but great. It is a season that fortunately doesn’t come around near as much. I guess we have to thank the Army Corps of Engineers.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If desired he may be able to speak to you groups. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.