In 1994, a schizophrenic Category One Hurricane named Alberto formed in July. First, it was in the Atlantic. Then it meandered across Florida and re-emerged into the Gulf and reformed as still a minimal hurricane. Then it decided to take a trip into Georgia. About 50 miles above us, and dead over the center of the Flint River’s drainage system, it became what is known as a “cut off low”. That simply meant that there were no steering currents to keep it moving; so it sat there and rained 24 inches in two days. My brother, Glenn, nicknamed it a “Hurrifizzle”, but he certainly came to regret that.
We have had a building located on this site since 1953. Mom and Dad built a catfish restaurant in 1953 on the site of our original main lodge and what is now known as Founders Cottage. All of Pop’s great aunts almost broke him because we had an all you could eat special for seniors at one dollar per plate. His aunts overheard him calling them “dollar plate pirates”, told his Mom who was their sister, and that’s one of the few times that I ever saw my Pop truly terrified. I learned why later as four of those great aunts were my first teachers in this little community school in Hopeful. They tore my little A—up almost every day, and then I got home only to receive a REAL whipping from Pop who knew how to administer one.
But, back to Hurricane now. My grandfather who was the first Cader on this land drove a big railroad spike into a cypress tree to mark the crest site of the great flood in the 1920’s. Riverview is located on one of the highest sites on the bluff of the Flint, and all of our buildings are located above that iron spike. I never knew my Grandpa Cader as he died in 1945, and I was born in 1949, but my Dad always said that I reminded him a lot of his father. I have never slept much, and have always been looking for the next big thing, or getting my fanny in a real sling. We had seen both Albany and Bainbridge flood many times between 1953 and 1994 while we stayed high and dry which was one of the reasons that I considered Federal Flood Insurance as a big waste of money. WRONG !! We do have flood insurance now.
I had good friends living in Macon who had warned me to add 6 feet to the predictions of the flood crest here. That piece of advice saved my bacon. Unlike the flash floods in the west, we have plenty of time to plan and prepare for the water. We got all of our furniture and fixtures out although Jerry fell through the ceiling of the main lodge while removing a chandelier. Jerry has never been diminutive. We took all of our doors off the hinges, and raised our windows (I wish that we would have removed them as they all had to be replaced after the flood and windows are not cheap). We wanted to provide the river with the least resistance as it swept through in an effort to keep our buildings from being swept of their foundations. We had just finished picking and shipping all of our sweet corn; so I had plenty of room to store all of our furniture. I also figured that price gouging for building supplies would be through the roof; so I purchased a lot of the building supplies that we would need to begin rebuilding and stored them at the corn plant also, which turned out to be a REAL good decision.
Once the hurricane had passed and the Flint receded, The Riverview folks began the process of tearing the buildings down to the slab, studs, and roofs. We pressure washed everything, and managed to get temporary three phase power in here, and started drying out all of our cottages with big peanut dryers. In the middle of all of this our DNR Commissioner, the head of GEMA and FEMA landed up the hill in a helicopter and asked what they could do to help. I called the DNR Commissioner, who was a good friend, off to the side, and told him to please get these bureaucrats to go help Albany and Bainbridge, and to leave me to hell alone. I said, “Joe, if these folks help me, I will go broke.” He understood, and we never received any more help. We had almost finished disinfecting, drying, and rebuilding here before FEMA allowed Albany to even enter any of their damaged buildings to check them. This was probably our finest hour of my career. I already had a firm commitment from my two favorite contractors to work six days a week. I also assigned a Riverview employee to shadow each of these guys and not allow them to leave the job site. If we needed a nail gun, claw hammer, or anything, my guy would run get it. I wanted “boots on the ground” at all times with these two contractors.
To make a long story short, we rebuilt the main lodge and seven cottages between July 15-October 15. One of our cottages broke on the foundation, and we just surround it with yellow crime scene tape, and rebuilt it the following year. This was no problem for us as we have much more sleeping space than hunting space.
Now, along comes another Alberto this week. I did learn that they did not begin retiring catastrophic storms names until later. Our predictions for both rain and winds were dire for this week. It looked like the winds were going to blow down all of our sweet corn while the rainfall totals were going to flood us again. However, God chose to smile His face upon us. The winds were minimal at best. The rains trained east of I-75 and west of us over into the Alabama and the Chattahoochee’s drainage systems. We have escaped this one intact, and wanted to let our friends know that we are in good shape. Praise the Lord and pass the black-eyed peas!!