Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Was there ever a “good time” for a broken arm?

For many years, when people talked about “the flood,” they either meant the biblical flood of Noah’s day, or they were referring to the Des Moines River Flood of 1903. It broke all records and was the worst flood in memory. But someone once told me that records are meant to be broken.

Heavy rains in 1946 caused the old river to leave its banks. My father owned a small property in Pittsburg. When the river finally crested, his place and Pete Reed’s house each sat on an island surrounded by the wide, swollen, and treacherous river. That was a close call!

Once again during the Spring of 1947, reports came that the river would spill over its banks. “This time I think it will be worse!” Pete Reed said. “This looks to be a bad one!”

Actually, the Flood of 1947 came in two parts, as almost equal crests came a week apart during the month of June. In between crests, people cleaned their houses and basements and prepared to return. In Douds, several residents had actually moved back into their homes when the second wave came through.

Holcomb Creek backed up and went on a rampage, producing a higher crest in Leando than 1903. Dutch Fellows moved furniture upstairs and tied a rowboat to the back porch pillar to get in and out of his house. He was told when he purchased the property, that in 1903 the cellar was full, but it had lacked three inches of reaching the floor level of the house. This time water measured as much as 18 inches deep in his wife’s kitchen!

When the flood water was at its highest level, I managed to break my left arm and had to be rushed to Ottumwa. To get to Dr. Cook’s office, we had to go the long way around and enter Ottumwa from the north side. He gave me ether, and set my arm in a plaster cast which was not removed until late August.

On Labor Day there was a reunion for people that had attended several community rural schools. People came for miles around and from out of state for a potluck picnic in the park and to listen to many speeches and recitations during the hot afternoon. Across from the park, the school grounds offered a place for kids to play as there was an 8-foot tall slide, three swings, and sets of steel “monkey bars.”

Some of us made the mistake of playing tag on the slide. I was on the top step and a girl was climbing up the slide to tag me, while another kid was right behind me on the steps. I tried to get past him, lost my balance and fell, and in so doing, tried to brace my fall.

I knew in an instant what happened, when I heard the bone in my right arm snap and felt the horrible pain. After all, my other arm had been in a cast all summer!

When school resumed a couple of days later, my “writing” arm was in a plaster cast and touching my fingers made my arm hurt so bad I could not maneuver them enough to write. I was forced to slowly print and do my arithmetic with my left hand, hoping that the teacher could read my scratching! What a challenge! Beginning second grade was certainly not a good time for such a thing to happen!

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick