Week One of the Rain: The pond at the crossroads breaches its banks and rushes across the road creating a canal a couple of feet wide and six or eight inches deep, deep enough to rattle your teeth if you hit it going faster than 10 miles an hour. On the other side it hurries down into the branch along the vine-lined gulley that curves into the deep woods.
n the 46 years I’ve lived in this corner of the county the pond has always, before now, managed to hold its water. Even in 2004, when the rain of three hurricanes fell in rapid succession, the tiny bowl surrounded by pine trees and scrub oaks that make it all but invisible if you don’t know it’s there managed to contain all it had received.
Fifteen or twenty yards up the hill a dead tree loses its grip on the earth and falls across the road. I watch as my brother and two men in the truck behind him hoist the trunk and its severed branches, tossing them to the side, a skeleton straddling the water-filled ditch.
Week Two of the Rain: The clouds break long enough for me and Owen to venture forth. I feel the wet creep into my shoes and through my socks as I tip-toe back and forth across the ruts searching for the best footing. We make it past the fallen tree, the overflowed pond, the deep circles that someone on a four-wheeler has cut in the intersection. Ignoring the fact that he has clean water at home, Owen gulps from ditches and puddles all the way to the bad curve.
Heading home, I hear the sound of heavy machinery somewhere ahead of us. (Not a tractor – it will be weeks before the ground is dry enough to hold up a John Deere.) Owen runs ahead and greets the men on the county road equipment. One is shoveling wet dirt into the wash-out; the other is addressing the dead tree. We share a brief exchange before Owen and I continue on toward home.
Week Three of the Rain: I am no longer asking Daddy how much rain we got. He is no longer looking at the gauge. I don’t remember the last time I came to a full stop at the four-way; I just lift my foot off the gas and take a quick right-left glance as the slick mud propels me through the intersection like some kind of carnival ride.
The road crew returns during a momentary break in the rain just long enough to scrape the road, to leave small hillocks of damp red dirt in long lines on either side. It takes less than 24 hours for the hillocks to dissolve into mud.
My brother tells me that the two dirt roads just past Kennedy Bridge are both under water. And that reminds him of the story our grandfather used to tell about when you had to pay a toll to cross Kennedy Bridge, about how the toll was operated by two women, about the day Pa went to cross and tried to pay the 3-cent toll with a nickel and the women didn’t have any change, and about how they told him to go on across and they’d settle up when he came back the other way.
And, then, Daddy is prompted to tell the story about the time it was so wet that a mule got bogged down in the field – “I saw it myself.” – and when I ask him why in the world anybody would let the mule get that far out, he just shakes his head.
The sky is gray and heavy as a wet quilt. It is going to rain again. That is for certain. And as I make my way home I wonder what stories this rain will become.