Monday, June 25, 2012

Stanley visits Charleston, Missouri

Stanley came with us when we visited our grandparents - D and Papa Rolwing - in late March. They live in a small town in southeast Missouri called Charleston. It is 150 miles southeast of St. Louis in the 'bootheel' of Missouri, explained Saylor. About 5500 people live in Charleston. It is a farming community so Stanley saw many tractors, irrigation rigs, combines, discs and planting equipment and airplanes spraying the crops. The crop dusters were fertilizing the crops.

Missouri is located in the Midwest region of the United States. It is a long way from either the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean. The county seat of Mississippi County, Charleston is in the far southeastern corner of the Show Me state. The  community is only 13 miles from southern Illinois and western Kentucky and not from from northwestern Tennessee.

The Mighty Mississippi River borders Mississippi County on the east. It is in Cairo, Illinois about 13 miles east of Charleston, where the Ohio River merges into the Mississippi River, thus the confluence of two great rivers. When both of these rivers exceed flood stage, the raging rivers threaten all living in the delta.

Those living in this area well recall the surreal havoc flooding caused last spring. May 2 will mark the first anniversary of the destruction of the levees protecting the Birds Point- New Madrid Spillway by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Mississippi and Ohio Rivers hit epic flood levels. The levee system protecting these counties (Mississippi and New Madrid) was eeched by tons of explosives in three spots to relieve flooding situations all the way to the Gulf.

Aptly called a spillway over 75 years ago, this area was created to relieve pressure and flooding when the Mississippi and Ohio go on a rampage. The last time this happened the year was 1937. "Blowing the levee" meant that over 130,000 acres of prime farmland was inundated with deep water. People lost their homes and their livelihood.

The first and strongest of the explosions occurred at Birds Point, about 6 miles east of Charleston, on Monday, May 2, 2011 at 10pm. The thunderous impact was felt over 100 miles away. The other two came within the next few days, miles south of the first site. It was a stressful time for all impacted by the Great Flood.

On initial visits to this part of the country travelers are dismayed at its striking geographic feature: its flatness. Rolling hills begin about 15 miles north (Benton) or 35 miles west (Dexter). This feature combined with a very high water table makes basements the exception rather than the rule here.

Charleston is noted for its annual Dogwood-Azalea Festival always held in April. The 44th celebration will be April 19-22. Thousands of visitors come from near and afar to enjoy the beauty and participate in many activities spread throughout the community. There is something for all ages.

Stanley really liked going to Reeves Boomland on the south end of town. He was impressed with all the big game - trophies preserved by taxidermists - on display. The 'milk farm' creation by a local man intrigued him as well. It's fun place to stop - visit, shop, dine, or have ice cream, and browse their huge fireworks inventory.

Across from Boomland is Whipple Park where tribute is paid to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Nice to visit!

Stanley also saw Rolwing-Moxley Company, a grain elevator and multi-faceted agribusiness, which flourished 60 years before being sold over 2 years ago. It was managed and co-owned by Saylor's paternal grandfather during the last 49 years of its history. It continues to thrive under its new name, Rolwing-Moxley Ag, and new owners.

Unseasonable temperatures pre-empted an early spring so Stanley viewed the loveliness of gorgeous dogwoods and azaleas and an early glimpse into the festival. The Mississippi County Historical Society on North Main Street and Rolwing Park on East Commercial Street will host some of the activities next month.

On the northern outskirts of Charleston is Big Lake, the Robert Delaney Conservation Area, a popular fishing site.

It was nice that Stanley came to see us. He got a brief glimpse of daily living in a small rural community. We enjoyed having him!
Dixie and Hunter Rolwing