The unusual thunderstorms and constant rains we are having here this summer bring a torrent of memories flooding back to me, remembrances of another time and another place, deluged with rainwater. We were in the midst of our summer vacation, camping on the Frio River. It was a time my parents, eight brothers and sisters and I looked forward to all year. The trip began like any other, full of fun and excitement and we were enjoying the clear blue waters of this friendly river, when things changed dramatically. This trip was to be a once in a lifetime experience that brought our family closer together and gave us something to reminisce about for seasons to come.
We children frolicked all day in the icy cold waters until our toes turned blue and the sun baked our skin a golden brown. We floated lazily along the river, dreaming of happy lives to come. Our parents relaxed at camp and each evening we had a wonderful barbecued meal (thanks to Dad). At night we built bonfires, gazed at the stars in the unbelievably clear skies, talked of life on Mars, and wondered about the secrets of the universe. When bedtime came, as reluctant as we were to let go of the incredibly wonderful day we had had, we drifted off to sleep with the rhythm of the night sounds humming in our ears. We did not miss our soft beds at home. The security of the darkness and the cool hill country night air made our sleep especially peaceful.
Our vacation continued as planned, filled with trips to the tiny country drug store in Leakey for spur-of-the-moment ice cream, sight seeing expeditions to the countryside, and mountain climbing expeditions. The mood of the vacation was one of tranquility and relaxation. Thoughts seldom strayed to our real lives back in the hectic, traffic-congested, steamy hot city of Houston. On the fourth night we were lulled to sleep by light rain pattering on the roof of our screened shelter.
Suddenly, in the middle of the night, we realized something was wrong. Flashlights were beaming in the darkness and there was much urgent activity. The owner of the camp had come to warn us of possible flash flooding. Mom and Dad did not want to alarm us, but fear was in the air. We were rustled out of bed and started loading our gear, rushing in and out of the shelter through pouring rain and rising floodwaters. Before we could get everything out, the water was swirling around our ankles. We were twenty feet above normal river level and the water had risen in a matter of minutes. Realizing that our lives were at stake, we abandoned everything left in the shelter; clothes, cots, bedding, my new 2 piece bathing suit. Lucky to be alive, Dad was able to drive our car up the hill to safety. When the flood subsided, we returned to survey the wreckage. The roof of our shelter was in a tree and huge uprooted pecan trees had been carried one half mile down river by the force of the floodwaters. As we viewed the destruction, we all thanked God that we were alive.
We children were disappointed that our vacation had come to an abrupt end but we felt a certain excitement, coming so close to disaster, yet escaping it unscathed. In our childish minds, we didn’t realize, as I do today, how close we came to death and how fortunate we were that God had brought us to safety, so that together, some future summer, we could sit with the old-timers at the Leakey Drug Store and speak of the flood of ’67.