Floods Sweep over Eastern Colorado 1921

17 Jun

My Take

DiVoran Lites

The New York Times June 3, 1921

Pueblo, Colorado Inundated, Hundreds Reported Dead 

Story by Dora Bedell Bowers

My cousin, Lloyd had his birthday on June 3, 1921. We were then both six years old. I have a picture of the two of us from around that time. We were the same height and we wore identical blue rompers. Our hair was cut in Dutch Bobs with every strand in place. My mother, my brother, and I had come to Pueblo to stay with Grandmother and Daddy Hunter while my father was working as the manager of the gas plant in Canon City. We would join him when he found a place for the family to live. 

We were in Lloyd’s mother’s upstairs apartment gazing at the birthday cake sitting on the table in front of an open window. We could hardly wait to get our forks into that cake. Suddenly we heard a hullabaloo of sirens, church bells, factory whistles, and shouting from the street below. Daddy Hunter ran down to see what was going on and discovered that a telephone call had from upriver at Canon City with a warning that Pueblo was about to be flooded by the Arkansas River and a tributary that had joined it.  Daddy Hunter hustled us downstairs and into the wagon where his horse Big Bill waited patiently. I’d never seen Daddy Hunter hit anything before, but he used the whip to get Big Bill galloping up the street to higher ground. That night we and hundreds of other people slept or tried to sleep on the floors of the schoolhouse that sat on a hill. We learned later, that although there were many miracles and generous-hearted people who saved others, the death toll eventually rose to 1,500.

The next day we heard that men from Canon City were coming to help clean up after the flood. My daddy was one of them. Six years before, around the time I was born, Mother and Dad had lived in a small house across the railroad tracks from the Pueblo gas plant and Daddy had worked there. There was talk of him being a good man in a pinch and I was so proud of him. He brought four men from Canon City in a Model T Ford to help clean up and reorganize the Pueblo gas plant. When they got there they discovered that the holder where the manufactured gas was stored had sunk into the muck and had to be lifted and resettled. 

Better times, Roger, Dora’s Daddy, Vera her aunt, Dora, Mabel, her mother and Dora Bell, her grandmother.  DiVoran’s Vintage Pictures

That first day at the school I looked up and saw my daddy walking toward us through the crowd. I ran to meet him. There he stood, tall and straight. He was about 5 foot eleven and always weighed one hundred forty- four pounds. He was dressed as he always dressed in well-shined black Bulldog boots that had a rounded toe and laced to the ankle. He wore striped work pants, a blue shirt, and a one-inch long black string tie. He parted his thick chestnut hair on the side. He had blue eyes and big ears. When he saw me, he got a silly grin on his face and picked me up and swung me around. After he set me down, I put my small hand into his big one and kept it there while he talked to the other adults. My only thought was, daddy’s here, and I’m safe. 

The next morning we ventured out to see what we could see. The river was still in full spate roiling up under the nearby bridge until I was afraid people standing on it would be swept off and drowned. I learned later that it had happened just as I had feared. The muddy yellow water contained all kinds of debris, including dead horses and cows. We saw bedraggled bouquets that had been set out in the cemetery for Decoration Day. The water had swept them off the graves and into the raging flood. We half expected to see dead bodies come rolling down the river. It was scary but I knew my daddy could look after all of us.

When we were sure the danger was past, we went to Grandmother and Daddy Hunter’s rooms to bathe and put on clean clothes. We were surprised that even though the two-story building sat by itself on the low ground everything was just as it had been when we left to go to the party. There was the old rocking chair with its homemade cushion, and the coal-oil lamps ready to light as soon as it began to get dark. After our baths, Lloyd and I walked the block to Dammeron’s where we bought red and black licorice sticks, one for a penny.

When the family got together for our belated supper at Lloyd’s house, Auntie told us what she found when she got home. The first thing was the high-water mark at the second story level.. When she actually got into her apartment she was amazed to see that the cake had floated off the table and out the window. My mother said that we could have been swept out just as easy if we hadn’t got away. We were so grateful for the warning and for our escape. The watermark remained on that building for decades and it could still be there as far as I know.

More about the Great Flood of 1921

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 New Living Translation

Author, Poet and Artist

DiVoran has been writing for most of her life. Her first attempt at a story was when she was seven years old and her mother got a new typewriter. DiVoran got to use it and when her dad saw her writing he asked what she was writing about. DiVoran answered that she was writing the story of her life. Her dad’s only comment was, “Well, it’s going to be a very short story.” After most of a lifetime of writing and helping other writers, DiVoran finally launched her own dream which was to write a novel of her own. She now has her Florida Springs trilogy and her novel, a Christian Western Romance, Go West available on Amazon. When speaking about her road to publication, she gives thanks to the Lord for all the people who helped her grow and learn.  She says, “I could never have done it by myself, but when I got going everything fell beautifully into place, and I was glad I had started on my dream.”

2 Responses to “Floods Sweep over Eastern Colorado 1921”

  1. Onisha Ellis June 20, 2019 at 8:53 am #

    I can’t imagine the loss if someone had not made that phone call! It is hard to imagine the Arkansas river so wild.

    Like

  2. ludyja June 17, 2019 at 7:19 am #

    WOW!

    Like

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