Flood damage

A lot of areas are flooding right now, most of them south of Interstate 70. (It’s the Mason-Dixon line of Missouri.) But a lot of that flood water is headed toward St. Louis. Residents are leaving their homes, levees are in danger of being breached, communities are sandbagging.

I don’t know if you’ve done any sandbagging. I have, during the Flood of ’93. Yep, it’s a capitalized flood. Two people are required to effectively sandbag. And a pair of gloves for each. One person holds the bag open. I don’t know what they’re made of — some kind of woven plastic material kind of like burlap. The second person shovels sand into the bag, but only about half full. Then you fold over the bag and tie it shut; there’s a drawstring on the bag, made of that same stiff plastic material.

In 1993, my mother was a district manager for a farm seed company. She worked with many grain elevators in central Missouri, and knew people who farmed along the Missouri River. The rest of my family went to Norborne, Mo., to sandbag; I was working at McDonald’s at the time and missed those trips. Norborne flooded. So folks moved on to Grand Pass, Mo., which coincided with my days off. So we went and sandbagged.

hat no one tells you about before you start shoveling sand or holding bags is the blisters. It doesn’t really matter if you wear gloves, although it does help. There are blisters from the shovel. There are blisters from handling the bags, especially the tying part.

At the time, I was working at McDonald’s. I was in high school; it was a job of necessity. When I went to work the next day, blistered hands and all (no open wounds, I swear, just very tender skin), a shift manager that I didn’t like was working. He didn’t like me either; he put me in charge of the fries that day.

It was a simple job. You put frozen french fries in wire baskets, preparing several baskets at a time. You drop the basket of fries in grease and set a timer. When the timer goes off, you pull the fries out and dump them in a tray, applying a specific amount of salt and scooping them up into fry containers.

The problem was the salt. And heat. With the blisters. I quit soon after that — for another fast-food job. Oh, and Grand Pass flooded, too.