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Will the flood of 2021 be the last hurrah for the old homeplace?

By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times

Aerial photos of flooding taken with a drone camera caught my attention on Facebook. To my dismay, I suddenly realized they were showing my old school in Hitchins and the nearby neighborhood where I grew up.

My heart sank when I saw those century-old, clapboard houses in the Blue Camps under water for at least the 10th time in my 78 years. I closed my eyes for a moment and could see and smell that stinking, muddy water coming closer and closer, as it did so many times in my childhood and teenage years.

My brother, sister and I sold that house about 30 years ago to settle our mother’s estate but it still holds lots of great memories. Our parents moved in as newlyweds in 1939, raised three kids there and were still living there when Dad died in 1977 and Mom in 1986.

My wife and I visited Hitchins last weekend because I had to see for myself what was left of the house, the old neighborhood and what used to be Hitchins High School, now Carter Christian Academy.

The first stop was our homeplace. We met the young couple living there for the last several years. They obviously were tired from hauling and cleaning but were pleased to report that the flood water this time had climbed less than a foot inside the house.

I had heard they might demolish the house and build a new home on top of a concrete block basement garage, high above the worst flood crest in anyone’s memory. The couple confirmed that plan to us.

At first, I began to feel a sense of personal loss but then quickly concluded that they were doing the right thing. The old house’s floor joists and other critical parts had seen their best days.

I recalled considering trying to buy the place back and doing the same thing after the flood of 2015. But I also remembered from the early 1980’s that my brother and I had paddled a canoe through the entire house in about five feet of muddy water.

My attachment to the past is almost as strong for the old school building which continues to perform its educational mission as a private school. I was particularly anxious to see if Little Fork Creek had damaged the gymnasium which also had been restored. Today, it is the home court of CCA’s basketball teams.

To my delight, the floodgates at the front and side doors had kept the creek at bay and that beautiful hardwood floor remains shinier than ever. In fact, I was so happy that I made another contribution to CCA for taking such good care of the basketball court where I never became a great athlete.

As we drove away, my heart reminded me that Hitchins will always be my hometown.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com



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