Seeking shelter from the floods
Laura Mutchler is tired of not knowing what is happening in Craig, the northwest Missouri town where she grew up, where she has lived all her life.
For nearly 40 years, the 73-year-old has lived in a blue one-story house — “Probably black, now,” she cracked — on Ensworth Street.
She doesn’t know if the pressure of the overflowing Missouri River broke her glass back door and allowed water to seep in, or if moving her prized possessions, family photos, to the top of shelves allowed them to survive. She tears up when she realizes she forgot to take the photo of her late husband.
On Friday, she was worried about her cat, a Russian Blue, a beauty named Smokey who was adopted by her granddaughter but chose her, instead. Food and litter was left high up on a table for Smokey.
Fire trucks with sirens blasting were zipping down her street when she decided to join the majority of the 250 residents of Craig who were told to evacuate the town. Along with Mutchler, nine of her family members were run out by the floodwaters and stayed in the American Red Cross shelter set up in the First Christian Church in Mound City.
A garbage bag of clothes in hand, Mutchler took her last glimpse of her home on Tuesday.
On Friday afternoon, Mutchler’s three children stayed within reach of their mother, and many of her nine grandchildren crowded around her.
The “not knowing” is the worst part, Mutchler said. And what she misses the most is her bed. In the shelter, she sleeps on an air mattress.
Her two daughters have beds with mattresses and box springs at their homes in Rockport, Mo., and Shenandoah, Iowa. They know better than to offer them to their mother. The distance would be too much.
“She’s not going to leave her husband and her dad,” Beverly Longcor, Mutchler’s daughter, said.
Craig is where they were buried, where Mutchler has memories of them, Longcor said.
Though the 1993 and 2011 floods had damaged her house, Mutchler said she would always try to repair her home. She plans to do so again.
Her daughters will look for a temporary place for her in Mound City, as the floods are predicted to last through summer.
“I don’t want to think about it,” Mutchler said. “I just want (the water) to leave so I can go home, so my kids can quit worrying.”
On Friday, her family was plotting how to check on the homes of Mutchler and her son, Brian Mutchler.
Brian Mutchler was one of the last people to leave Craig. His home along Dandelion Road, called “The Lofts” by the family, was built high enough off the ground that a car could park underneath. His escape Wednesday included a mile-long trek through varying levels of water with his dog, Buster, in his arms before he hopped into the bed of his nephew’s truck.
To check on his mom’s house, Brian planned to take his tractor, with its large wheels, through the water Friday night. All he needed was hairspray to repel water off the spark plugs.
“I’m going to run the tractor as deep as I can go this time,” Brian Mutchler reported to his mother before leaving the shelter.
Jimmy Briggs, one of Mutchler’s grandchildren who went along, said Brian had ultimately been unsuccessful as the water had been too deep for the tractor.
But the trip wasn’t a total loss. When a resident of Craig with a canoe offered a ride to Briggs, he took his chance to rescue Smokey.
The fast-moving water delivered them to his grandmother’s front door.
Briggs jumped out and stalked around the house, hoping to hear a meow. After walking past three times, he eventually found the cat in a closet behind a jacket.
The house had ankle-deep water with a layer of dark silt, he said. He took photos for his grandmother to see.