Residents watch as their houses are removed from the place they called Home
Lezlie Jo Brown grew up in Pinhook. So, did her Father and Grandfather covering nearly a Century of time spent on land between the Levees. Water was always an issue with rural residents of Mississippi County. It was something people were adjusted to. Until 2011, when dealing with the rampaging flood waters of the Mississippi could no longer be handled naturally. Thus, the activation of the Birds Point New Madrid Floodway at 2204 Hours Monday, May 2 of that year.
All wondered what would happen if the United States Army Corps of Engineers blew the Levee. Curiosity and suspicion of local residents and farm owners was confirmed when the gage at Cairo hit 61 and the continue degradation of the levee systems along the river forced man made intervention to corral the flood. It worked.
It also destroyed a community in the aftermath. Pinhook was swamped with flood levels of 20 feet or more throughout the settlement. And, the fallout continues.
Lezlie was melancholy and a little depressed when I spoke with her looking at the demolition work today.
“I’m really sick at my stomach. Thinking of all the memories I had here…learned how to drive…sad…I don’t even know how to feel right now”
Brown has lifelong and cherished ancestry here. Her, father Joe Brown, and grandfather Wash Cooper lived in Pinhook since the beginning. And, her recollection of the special Pinhook Days held each year in the rows and field and ditches around the settlement. The flashbacks while we spoke recalling those memories made here justifiably emotional.
“Of course, that was the most fun day. Food and games. People you got see you ain’t seen all year long. All the kids running from house to house. Everyone going from house to house to visit.”
“It’s definitely not the same”, Lezlie says, when the event is held in Sikeston – as it was this year.
Official meetings continue as to what the ultimately will come for the former residents. Debra Tarver and a group of Pinhook community members have not given up hope to have the Federal Government do the right thing and compensate these folks adequately as promised. Some financial remuneration has been awarded to residents, but it’s the wishes of some to have a place of their own to call Home again. Realizing that it can’t be on the location of old Pinhook, but somewhere folks can become united again.
“This actually hits you,” added Brown, “when you see the houses being torn down and removed. This is it. You can’t come back. You’re not going to see anything but a field.
“I felt safe. We felt safe down there. You could leave you doors unlocked. I live in town now…and can’t… but you could there. Neighbors were going to watch out for every body.”
“Basically, all of us are kin to each other in same way. Everyone there was like one big family.”
Lezlie’s grandmother, Hattie Garrison, now lives in East Prairie where some of the former residents have located. Some are in Charleston and Sikeston, too.
*Correction: There is one person remaining in Pinhook. Lionel Robinson. KFVS was at his house and will have that story tonight.
Brown says of Lionel, “He said he’s not leaving. That’s his home. That’s why he’s the only one still living down there.”
“Hopefully we can relocate. It definitely won’t be the way it was but we’ll all be together again. Hopefully that will happen.”
**In a related issue: The USACE has denied the claims of Mississippi County for a second time in regards to roads that were destroyed during the activation and rebuild of the levee system. State and Federal officials assured the county that the floodway would be brought back to pre-flood conditions. That hasn’t happened as completely as local officials want in 2015.
Further reading on this can be found on KpKronicle.com.
Updated: Aug. 6, 2015
All Rights Reserved: KpKronicleLLC; Kevin Pritchett