Focused on Mississippi: Rodney after the flood

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(Jefferson County MS)- Rodney was once an important Mississippi River Port about halfway in between Vicksburg and Natchez- the river right at the foot of town. But shortly after the Civil War the Mississippi changed course westward about two miles and left Rodney high and dry. If it had just left it at that Rodney would be in a lot better shape today. But it didn’t. Because every so often over the past a hundred and fifty or so years the Mississippi has crept back to Rodney and flooded the town to one degree or another. 1927 was the worst.

Dale Williams, who lives in Rodney, says 2011 pretty bad, too. But this year tops it in many ways.

“It wasn’t near as high but it lasted forever it seemed like. It just wouldn’t never go down. You know it would go down a little bit and it would come back up more. It just stayed here, stayed her. Yea. That was the main thing. It just stayed here so long.”

There’s not much left in Rodney anymore. The flood of 2011 floated and flipped some houses. They’re gone now. And the old Mount Zion Baptist Church Number 1 building was stressed to the limit by the 2011 flood- but may have been pushed beyond it by the prolonged water this year. Floorboards are buckled, walls out of plumb. There is not a surface in it that is level and square anymore. There is a quarter-inch thick layer of cracked Mississippi River mud on the floor and even more, washed into the walls.

The Presbyterian Church in Rodney missed getting water inside it by several inches this time. But it still needs a lot of TLC if it is going to survive into another generation.

The Masonic Lodge- I wouldn’t go in there. I think even the termites have deserted the teetering building. People voted here in 2000 on the State Flag referendum. Probably nothing official has happened here since then.

Dale Williams said the alligators vacationed in Rodney during the high water.

“Many sunning on this woodpile. There was any size you wanted. I think the biggest one was about 12 foot- on down to two foot.”

But even way back here in the wilderness in a flood Dale was too law-abiding to try to get him some free alligator steaks.

“Naw, it’s kind of against the law to do it and then you kill him and you got to clean that thing.”

By sheer determination, they are digging out the roads that had been six feet or more underwater and slowly dust is once again replacing mud and Rodney is drying out. The handful of people who live here are glad to see the ground again. The on-again-off-again volunteers who come to work on the churches will be back to survey what they have left to work with now that the Mississippi River has left Rodney Mississippi high and dry one more time.

Rodney has roots that run back to French Colonial days. Zachary Taylor could well have been walking the streets of Rodney when he was given the news that he had been elected President. Then the river changed course and the town literally dried up.

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