My Beloved Daughter,
I’m going to step out of chronological order again this week to deal with something that is—at the time of this writing—a timely issue.
The lifeblood of my hometown of Van Buren, MO, was the Current River. During the winter, our town was small. When I was in high school, we had only one open spot for teens to hang out, that being The Oasis. It was a small, fast food establishment that also had an equally small arcade. As a child, I would go there and play the likes of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Popeye. By the time that I was in high school, they had more up-to-date games, like Street Fighter 2. But it could only hold so many people, which is probably why most teens headed to Poplar Bluff (we called it “the Bluff”) on weekends.
But when the summer came? Suddenly, Van Buren was the place to be! With the coming of Memorial Day, Van Buren swelled with an influx of tourists. On that special holiday, the famous Jolly Cone, a fast food stand where you walked up to the window to place your order, opened for the summer. The Water Slide, on the outskirts of town opposite where your grandparents and I lived, opened. But, most importantly, the Current River opened.
The river, winding its way through our little town and our neighbor of Doniphan, MO, was filled each summer with swimmers and fishermen. Motorboats would speed down the river to find the perfect spot to catch some fish. During the summer, the local motels would often have a policy requiring you to book two days per weekend, as they were often booked solid throughout the summer.
Floating was a fun pastime that even I—who never learned to swim—would take part in at least once a year. I can remember my friend, William, parking his truck at Big Springs and us all crowding in my car to drive to Water Crest. I’d don a lifejacket, fasten my glasses to my face with a rubber band, and jump into my tube (usually rented from one of the businesses in town that specialized in them). Out of all of us, my friend, J.D., usually didn’t even use a tube. Like your stepmother and stepsister, he could swim like a fish, so he swam the river next to us, holding onto one of our tubes whenever he would need a short rest.
We would float from Water Crest to Big Springs, which usually took about two hours. Then we would jump into William’s truck (I’d usually ride in the back) and drive back to my car. I don’t normally like water sports but even I enjoyed these days.
Big Springs, by the way, is a contender for the largest spring in America. Depending on rainfall, springs give off different amounts of water on any given day, so it may share that title with the Snake River Spring Complex in Idaho and the Silver Spring in Florida. But, with an average output of 286 million gallons of water a day, Big Spring is an awe-inspiring work of God, to be sure.
The majority of the businesses in the little town of Van Buren seemed to make the majority of their income from the tourists who came into our town in the summer. But, living on a river could definitely have its disadvantages. Too much rain could make the river swell. I remember a time, when I was in high school, when the river came in so far that it flooded even the town library. Every bottom-shelf book was lost. Homes and businesses near the river tend to carry flood insurance, which has more than paid for itself, time and again.
As I write this post, however, the river has risen to the highest that it has ever risen. The entire town of Van Buren, proper, is flooded. Even my high school, several blocks from the river, hasn’t escaped the damage. The problem with this is that most of the homes and businesses that weren’t really close to the river don’t carry that all-important flood insurance. Many of them have lost everything. Cell coverage for AT&T seems to have been affected severely there, although other carriers seem to be okay. Each time I log into Facebook and read about the devastation of my hometown, my heart breaks. Many of them have set up Go Fund Me pages to try to get help.
I haven’t lived in Van Buren in twenty-five years but it’ll always be home to me. And I know the people there, people who have a strong will and work ethic. If the town were filled with other people, they might let this destroy them. But I’m confident that they will bounce back from this. They will rebuild and Van Buren, MO, will be even better than it was.
My prayers are with them.