Monday, June 8, 2015

The Swimming Ford

The Hunt School, after flood, July 1, 1932
With the recent floods, which were so devastating in many parts of the state, I thought it would be good to look through my files to see what I could find about floods in Kerr County. Here's another installment of what I found:
July 2, 1932 was a big day in the history of Kerr County, because that was the day that the river rose up out of its banks in a mighty flood, pushing its way toward the gulf and etching the sight into the memory of every living person who saw it.
Over the years I've heard lots of stories about the big flood of '32 and I can't tell you how many pictures I've seen of it. It made a bold mark on those who were there, and while the pure facts of the stories they tell don't always exactly jibe with one another, the bigger story, the story of warning they hand down to us -- well, that story comes through loud and clear.
The Guadalupe is a slumbering beast that only needs a nudge from the clouds to dance in our streets.
Rain certainly did fall July 1st, 1932, and it fell on ground that was already soggy. Last week, I wrote about the late Bobby Cannon's account of the flood as it rolled through the playing fields of Camp Stewart, above Hunt. This week, let's follow the flood downstream with another eyewitness, Roxey McGrew Alexander.
Her story is recorded in the Kerr County Album, published several years ago by the Kerr County Historical Commission.
"When the rain began, it rained all night and all day. The thunder and lightning were fierce, and Cypress Creek which normally was ankle deep was water from bluff to bluff."
This Cypress Creek was on the South Fork of the Guadalupe. Ms. Alexander was a twelve year old girl, visiting her sister and brother-in-law Berney and Charlie Wootten who lived on the Tom Moore ranch, where Charlie was building a dam across the creek for Mr. Moore.
As for the rain, "the situation was serious, so Charlie went up on a hill to see how bad it was, and a man hallooed from another hill, telling him all the towns below were washed away."
This was not what Wootten wanted to hear -- he had family downstream in Ingram -- and at once they began a dangerous journey from the South Fork above Hunt down river to Ingram, traveling in a Model A.
A Model A that could swim.
"By the time it had stopped raining, the creek was going down and as Charlie was really worried about his folks and ours in Ingram, we started down river . . . . We had several crossings on Cypress Creek before we reached the river. Charlie would get out at each one and walk across, to be sure there were no deep holes or boulders in the road, then he would come back and drive us across. The water was very deep, and once we stalled in the middle of the crossing. Charlie had to use the crank to get the car started again. Afterwards, we swore this little Model A could swim, because no matter how deep the water, it went right on across."
Most of Hunt had been washed away.
To cross the big crossing at Hunt, "three or four men jumped on each running board to make us heavier and that little Model A swam right across . . . ." At Schumacher crossing, the little Model A was towed behind a truck through the swift water, with men once again standing on the running boards."
Johnson Creek, outside of Ingram, was too high even for a swimming Model A, and the travelers boarded a little boat near where the Hill Country Arts Foundation is today, and exited "just behind Tom Moore's store."
And their families? They were all right, some spending the night in the school house. Alexander's house had been washed away, but she was thankful no lives were lost.
More on this big flood next week; until then, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers many Guadalupe River floods. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 6, 2015.

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