“River Rising”: The Washita Flood of 1934

Seventeen lives were lost in the Washita Flood of 1934, that brought about the
  flood prevention system for the surrounding area.
Little known is this flood with its impact and death toll. Less known than that is the Cheyenne Arapaho band that escaped that flood and why they survived. Nearly completely unknown is the short conversation my grandfather had with their Chief as he led his people to higher ground…

The Cheyenne Arapaho had not completely conceded their nomadic ways to the policy of extermination that had preceded them. Nor, had they totally surrendered returning to their old ways in the devastating midst of Indian Boarding Schools.They still rode on horses for transportation at this general time. Teepees were less commonly used, yet their nomadic lifestyle was yet being preserved up to a much lesser point by the use of tar paper on poles as substitutes. The justification for using tar paper over another material like canvas, was that tar paper was superior in its water repelling capabilities.  Ceremonial teepees were still used then, and are  still used today at certain times. Although they had no need for money prior to the invasions, white encroachment, and Manifest Destiny; they were having to bend to a “new way of life.”

The Cheyenne Arapaho had two primary sources of income there that I’m aware of. One was government subsidies, while the other was farm work. My grandfather, a poor farmer, hired a couple as farmhands. One happened to have been a Chief at that time.

That relationship combined with some cultural misunderstanding led to a short talk with enormous implications then and now.

My grandfather had been traveling near the Washita, when he observed that Chief with his people moving to an unknown destination. They had been camped right by the river, yet all their things were loaded into the moving wagons being drawn by horses. “What the hell is this?” he probably thought to himself. It must have been quite a scene to witness that whole band moving themselves for no apparent reason. My grandfather walked up to him and met him. Curious and bewildered, he asked the Chief by his first name, “What are you doing?” Getting straight to the point and in haste, the Chief answered, “River rising.” “‘River rising,’ what do you mean? There’s not a cloud in the sky.” The Chief simply gave the same answer as before, “River rising.” My grandfather’s curiosity peaked, “River rising, how the hell do you know that?” “Owl hoot in daytime,” the Chief said (the owl is believed to be a messenger of death by the plains tribes that I’m aware of).

My grandfather was most confused now and reacted, “What the hell do you mean `Owl hoot in daytime’?” That’s where the conversation ended. They parted ways and continued towards their original destinations with “no cloud in the sky.”

Source (for historical verification only)

Washington, D.C.- The Hammon Flood of 1934 hasn’t been forgotten by those old enough to have lived through it.  What started as a stormy spring night in Roger Mills County 70 years ago ended up killing 17 Oklahomans, causing massive crop and property damage, and prompting survivors to keep it from ever happening again…

It was in response to disaster like this that the government decided to take on the role of creating a system of dams and watersheds, to keep Mother Nature in check.  Today, these watershed dams protect lives and property, yet few people even know they exist. That’s probably because the only time people notice a dam is when it fails.  Because they don’t fail, the possibility today of a disaster like that of the Hammon flood seems more like a movie storyline than something that could actually happen.


Flood Control

The Washita River Basin is long and narrow. The river flows generally from northwest to a southeast, perpendicular to the axis of the major frontal storms. This basin shape and orientation results in the generation of damaging floodflows. It is not unusual for several consecutive flood crests to follow within comparatively short periods.

Personal Conclusion

“River rising” then meant one of the worst flooding tragedies many might face in their appropriate regions; however, it is now true that enormous amounts of ice are melting, thus making seas and oceans rise.

The Chief listened to the owl and heeded its warning. I sure as hell hope that everyone is listening to all the scientists’ warnings…

‘Doomsday Clock’ moved forward

POSTED: 10:16 p.m. EST, January 17, 2007


LONDON, England (AP) — The world has nudged closer to a nuclear apocalypse and environmental disaster, a trans-Atlantic group of prominent scientists warned Wednesday, pushing the hand of its symbolic Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight.

It was the fourth time since the end of the Cold War that the clock has ticked forward, this time from 11:53 to 11:55, amid fears over what the scientists are describing as “a second nuclear age” prompted largely by atomic standoffs with Iran and North Korea.

But the organization added that the “dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons.”
(Watch as the hands of time are moved closer to global disaster)

1 Comment

  1. I am now a man of 93. I remember well what happened one night about 1 a.m. when everyone in my family of seven (noticed the bedroom door open and with Daddy pushing it shut it still opened over and over again because a wall of water kept flooding into our small bedroom where all seven of us slept. The three bed mattresses kept floating towards the door. Everyone, five children, my brother and I, and three sisters found safety in the one bed that accumulated all three mattresses. As the water began rising, the wooden clothing trunk began to float. The kerosene lamp which had been lit was about to fall into the water when my brother or daddy caught it before it hit the water. However in the action the lamp went out and we were then in the dark except for the lightening flashes of the terrible rain storm we were experiencing. Thankfully, my father had one kitchen match in his shirt pocket hanging on the wall and with it re-lit the kerosene lamp. We three children (two boy and 3 girls) gathered on the one bed with three mattresses wondering what we would do if the water kept coming in until too deep for us to remain there. My Father said that if we had to leave, he would help my brother, seven years older than I, to get out and stay on the top of our rather flat top bedroom. He then would help each of the other members of the family, one by one, to also escape from being drowned, to rest on the top of the roof. Thanks to God, this never was necessary because the Highway #34 east of us, that had been built with farm labor during the depression had held all the flood water until it finally broke away giving us a sudden drop in the accumulating of water in our house. Thanks to our Heavenly Father who was watching and helped us to be spared destruction. I believe there were 17 neighbors who were not as fortunate as we were.
    The next morning at day break, Daddy stood in the door, waving his shirt to the neighbors who were watching from higher ground north of us. When they saw my daddy only standing they thought that he was the only one spared but when the neighbor men and boys waded in to bring us all to safety I road on the back of George Flick a teenager until we arrived at the neighbors where we had safety from that awful flood. I remember how much talking from all the grown folks went on at the neighbor’s house while we waited to be warmed with dryer clothing given to us. Again I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father for helping the Leonard Taylor family to escape the damaging flood of 1934 in Hammon, Oklahoma. signed Richard Neale Taylor, sr.

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