Sunday, March 30, 2008

The invisible floods, part three - this weekend

I've been calling them "invisible floods" because most Memphians haven't even noticed that it's flooding. This isn't like the floods in Arkansas that are destroying homes and crops. Our local flooding is really quiet and unobtrusive.

I've been watching the rivers all week as I drive around town. Mostly, I watch the Wolf River creeping out of its banks along my drive home. It's drowned a field, creeping along it day by day until the water's lapping at the embankment at Whitney Ave, over half a mile from the river itself. One of the driveways to the sewage treatment plant is completely underwater and blocked off. The little dirt access road leading down to the Wolf River, by the bridge, is completely underwater. It's really trippy to drive by, notice that the water's moved in another 5', and then realize the sheer volume of water that it takes to make that happen.

As far as I've been able to figure out, the tributaries (Wolf and Loosahatchie) are flooding because the Mississippi is too high. There's so much water pressure, and the MS is so high, that the little rivers can't properly drain, so they're backing up and spilling their banks. The rivers are supposed to crest next weekend, so we've got at least another week of rising water!

But it's not raining, nobody's home is flooded, and no roads are flooded, so 99% of the city doesn't even realize it's flooding. So weird.

James and I saddled up our trusty horses (Champ and Handyman) and went out yesterday. We got to the usual point where we head off Millington into the trails and... stopped. The water was within 100' of the road. It was flooded over a mile from the river. Last week, it was a quarter mile further away from the road. Even for us, the barn's resident King and Queen of Stupid Riding, there was just no way we were going to take the horses through that.

So we explored up old Old Millington. Sometimes I call the road Millington Rd, because that's what the maps and street signs call it, and sometimes I refer to it as Old Millington, because that's what people call it. Before Hwy 51 was built, decades ago, Millington Rd took you to Millington. When the state built the fancy 4-lane highway, they closed down Millington Rd - that's why it curves so sharply and "turns into" Overton Crossing. If you ride back in that area, it's pretty obvious that there used to be a road. It's a huge embankment, rising probably 50' in the air in places, running vaguely NE. We go over it on one trail, then curve around the end of the embankment, where the river bridge would've started, in the woods on a different section of trail. Here's the satellite map - the really straight line running straight NE is the railroad embankment, and the curvier line going ENE is the old road bed.

I've explored different sections of the road, but we hadn't started at the beginning before. There really wasn't anywhere else to ride yesterday, so we tried it out. We had to get off and break away some muscadine vines to get started, but once we got on the road it was pretty smooth going. And pretty neat - the road bed was probably 10' above the surrounding forest, and there was water on either side as far as we could see. We only rode maybe 1/3 of a mile, half a mile at the most, before we came to a smaller bridge-that-was-no-more. The road just stopped, with some concrete piers on either side of a 20' gap. Right as we came out of the woods, back onto the paved road, it started raining.

I hung out at the barn the rest of the afternoon but didn't ride again. I took pity on the horses and put them up - they were standing at the gate practicing their "I'm wet and pitiful" looks. Poppy ate all of his grain then immediately laid down for a nap. There is nothing as big and cute as a curled-up sleepy Percheron. Champ glared out the window, acting like he hadn't been demanding to come inside. The girls quietly munched hay and looked out their windows.

One of the barn cats had kittens - first ones of the year. She's a black cat, two years old, who had kittens once late last summer. She didn't know what to do with the first batch - she had them under my wheelbarrow, then decided to move them but got confused halfway and left them in the sun... where they died. It was so sad, even though they were the epitome of unwanted kittens. I was there the whole time that day. I saw the kittens under the wheelbarrow, still wet from being born, and I thought "that's a really terrible place to have your kittens, little momma cat." I didn't want to freak her out by moving them, so I just stayed away from the back of the barn for a couple of hours. When I went back there again - they were dead in the sun. :(

Anyway, nobody ever got around to having her spayed. She's figured it out this time, and she had three little kittens in a safe spot somewhere. Yesterday she moved them into the Poseys' feed room, where James found them. James has an irrational phobia about very small kittens. They give him the heebiejeebies when they're tiny. These little fluffballs had just opened their eyes and he couldn't bear to touch them, even though he needed to put some hay right where they were, so he came and got me. I made them a nest box in a milk crate, lined with hay and an old sweater, and put the box off to the side in the same feed room. Momma cat stayed with me the whole time I had them, but she didn't seem to mind me touching them. I showed her where the kittens were and left them alone. One black, one tiger-grey, and one grey and white.

There's a new boarder at the barn who works for Animal Control, so hopefully she'll get all the female cats spayed this year. It's so cuuuute to see tiny little kittens... but so sad, when you know they'll just catch FeLV and live out their sick short lives at a barn. :(

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