Surviving the Big Flood of 1921 - a Narrative
When I was about 3 years old we were living on a farm
just east of town. My
Daddy had leased it from George and Helen Glascock.
They were so sweet to Mother and Dad.
They were really nice people.
And we loved it there.
The farm was located east of
As the rains came we started to leave.
My Dad got the surrey out and hitched his favorite horse,
but when we got to the branch, we couldn’t get across.
So we had to come back and figure out what we were going
to do next. And my
Dad said “Well the only thing we can do is to get up in that
tree”. So up the
tree we went. The
house was filling up with water and there was water all around
house finally floated off its blocks.
The original house faced north before the water turned
it. When the house
settled it faced east.
My Dad had opened the barn up and all of our cattle and stock had swam off. However he had tied his favorite horse to the well to save it. Because it was his favorite, he didn’t want it to swim away. It was one of those old fashioned wells that had a bucket at the top that went down. So the water kept climbing up and climbing up. Dad saw it was going to cover his favorite horse. He wanted to swim over there to cut his horse loose. My mother was afraid for him to do that because she saw whirlpools in the water and the water was moving very fast. Finally the water got so high that the house just mashed him – mashed that poor horse to death. And my Dad had to sit there and watch his favorite horse die.
By then the water got so close we had to move higher in
the tree. There was
quite a few of us, my 2 sisters and me and my little sister.
That’s four of us.
And there’s 2 of my Dad’s field hands and my mother and
dad. The field
hands had been in the next tree but when the water got high,
that little tree wasn’t safe.
So they crawled over.
Luckily the branches overlapped and they could get into
the big tree. So we
stayed in that tree all day long.
Since I was little, I didn’t know a thing.
I had 2 little puppies and I wanted those puppies with
me. I worried about
those puppies since they were in the house.
Mama said I cried and cried for my puppies.
Later when we finally got down and into the house, the
puppies were running around!
She said the puppies must have survived on my mattress
that was floating.
So the puppies floated on my mattress and they were all safe.
But she said I kept crying for those puppies.
The water must have been 15 to 18 feet deep right in
there, there was at least 9 feet in the house and the house was
on blocks about 4 or 5 feet.
So the depth of the water flowing through the house must
have been around 15 feet from ground level and it was moving
very swiftly. I
remember the water got up so high that some of us had to go
higher in that tree to avoid it.
Of course I was just a baby and my sister was younger
than I. My mother
held her, she was about a year old.
I was just 3 years old and my Daddy held me.
We stayed up in that tree all day and all night.
And the next morning the water began to go down.
It was quite an ordeal.
We finally got down about 3 o’clock the next afternoon.
Leon Perez lived about half a mile to the west of our
house during the flood.
He told me some of the story about how he tried to save
my family. There was not
They tried several ways but the water was so widespread, they couldn’t get there. He said that they tried to go down the railroad because the tracks were a little bit higher than the water right there. They got parallel to the house but the water was too deep. So they couldn’t get across to rescue my family. No one had a boat. He said there was probably 2 miles of water between there and where the house was. So they went back and tried again. This time they went way through town and doubled back and finally got to the north side of the creek. But the house was in the confluence of those 3 streams. And they just had no way of getting close.
My mother said she saw some people over by the railroad
tracks toward Weir.
Her niece lived in Weir and turned out that she and her family
were on the tracks trying to see if they could gain any
the family was in that tree and no one saw them.
Mama put a rag on a branch and she tried to raise it so
they would see it.
I don’t know if her niece ever saw it but Mama was trying to
wave to them to say we were safe.
So we stayed all night in that tree.
The next morning the water began to come down.
I think they told me – of course I was just a baby.
And so we finally got down out of that tree about 3
o’clock in the afternoon.
When the water finally got down we saw what the water had
done. There was mud
in our house and on everything in our house.
The water did finally get out of our house so we could
get back in. All
was lost except my 2 little puppies who were dancing around.
Mama said again that they must have survived on my
mattress that floated.
No one could believe it.
Some of my mother’s folks came in as soon as they could
get across the branch.
They thought we were all gone.
They didn’t think they would find us safe and they didn’t
believe it. So it
was quite an experience for us and we were lucky to get out.
Leon Perez was one of the first people to get to the house when the water came down. As soon as the water got low enough, they waded through to get over there. So they were still trying to rescue us. And of course we were ok when they got there! Funny but life has a way of going on just like those little puppies who danced.
Oral History of Billie Ruth Russell - as told to Winnann Ewing in March 2014
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