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Background Image One home owner spray-painted "Cheapr River Front Make Offer" on their flooded home in Fredonia in 2007.

Strange Things Rising in the Flood

Stepping to the microphone, John Eck declares, “Only the good die young, but I’ve already lived too long. They say it’s a hundred year flood, thank god, because I won’t see the next one.”

He’s in a church in the southeast Kansas town of Fredonia six months after the worst flood anyone in Wilson County remembers. The Wilson County Historical Society brought residents together to tell their stories for posterity, and townsperson after townsperson steps to the microphone.

This group of Fredonians appears happy just to be here and dry, and sharing their unique memories.

Early summer 2007 brought 21 inches of precipitation in the last two weeks of June, and the night of June 30 alone brought 5.5 more inches in 35 minutes. This group of Fredonians appears happy just to be here and dry, and sharing their unique memories.

Beverly Elsberry shared the tale of how her SelectComfort air mattress floated clear to the ceiling during the flood. When it came down, the pillows were still dry.

Emma Crites recalled every time her Aunt Peggy walked across her living room, her heavy footfalls knocked over the family photos on the end table. During the flood, the torrent lifted that very end table and moved it around the corner in the next room, and when it settled back on the ground, not a single photo was out of place.

All memories were not so lighthearted. One Fredonia resident, Natalie Odell Puckett, sobbed “everything we had is gone,” as she was consoled by none other than Governor Kathleen Sebelius. 

“There was no ‘feel sorry for me’ attitude amongst those of us who were hit hard by the flood. The losses were felt keenly, but everyone pitched in to pull up and out of the mire and muck.”

Still, as the July 2, 2007, issue of the Wilson County Citizen put it, “the best in people shows up in emergency.” Pamela Walker, district manager of the Wilson County Conservation District, remembered, “There was no ‘feel sorry for me’ attitude amongst those of us who were hit hard by the flood. The losses were felt keenly, but everyone pitched in to pull up and out of the mire and muck.” Looking back, whether from a church microphone that same year or today, ten years later, one cannot help but be moved by a town reflecting on the surreal devastation of a flood and daring to laugh. 

Image courtesy of the Wilson County Conservation District.

 

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