We walked with the dogs on Saturday morning – as we do almost every morning; our two, Nemo and Connor, and the exuberant labradoodle belonging to an elderly neighbor. Penny, the labradoodle is a young dog, energetic, impulsive and quite strong; late last year, while walking down to the community mailbox, Penny pulled on her leash abruptly that our neighbor was pulled over and absolutely wrecked her shoulder/rotator cuff when she fell to the pavement. This meant several days in the hospital and weeks of therapy for our neighbor, who likely will never regain full mobility – and so, we walk her dog in the morning, and the children of another neighbor walk the dog later in the day; all this aimed toward exhausting the dog, who as noted, is young, exuberant and requires an extensive program of exercise which our neighbor is simply unable to provide, as much as she adores her companion-dog. So we do it – it’s what neighbors do.
At the top of the gradual rise that our neighborhood is built on, we met Tom, another neighbor walking his own dog – Tom’s dog is an elderly beagle afflicted with skin allergies. Nemo the god-knows-what-mostly-terrier absolutely adores Tom, for some reason. Should Nemo ever run away from our house (an extremely unlikely occurrence) we would first look for him at Tom’s. We commiserated with Tom over the beagle’s allergies, as Connor also suffers from them, and then I mentioned that we would be in Wimberley on Saturday for a book event; I don’t know which of us first brought up the horrific flood that hit Wimberley a year ago Memorial Day, from which Wimberley’s various businesses and residents have made heroic efforts to recover. We had been at a book event in July, with a table next to a writer from Wimberley, whose wife had been a volunteer. He related to us how local volunteers had managed to get so much done, both during the flood and in the aftermath; by the time the Red Cross and the official disaster-coping authorities arrived on the scene, everything was pretty much sorted.
This flood had happened that very weekend that we had met up in Austin with Jonathon and some of the other Texas Chicagoboyz – and Blondie and I had skirted the worst of the afternoon storms which brought on the flooding on our way back home. Tom also had been returning from a road trip to Houston – and was in Wimberley in the days following the flood, helping in the search for survivors. One of his nephews and his family were among a party of nine who had been staying in a vacation house on the river for the Memorial Day weekend. In the middle of the night, the flooding river carried the house off its’ foundation pillars, swept it downstream and smashed it against a bridge. Only one of the party and the family dog survived, and the bodies of two children were never found. This had been in all the newspapers, of course; finding out about the connection this weekend is just additional proof that San Antonio is the largest small town in the world. Tom mentioned a long article about the flood in Texas Monthly – linked here – and it turned out to be a very good read, especially when it touched on the work of the local Fire Department. They had worked heroically all that night, knowing that the river was going to rise, not quite expecting it to flood so catastrophically. Knowing how many vacationers were in Wimberley for that weekend, knowing a bit of the terrain and how the rain can come down at horrific rate almost without warning – it was a miracle that there were not more dead than there were.
I thought about the community volunteers, after reading the article, and remembered how – when Mom and Dad’s house burned in the Paradise Mountain fire in 2003, it was the community; the local churches, fraternal organizations, businesses and ordinary citizens stepping up to do what had to be done. Then – as in Wimberley last year – by the time the Red Cross and FEMA got there, the situation was pretty much sorted. I think that the bottom line understanding is that truly organic and healthy communities are self-organizing; they do not have much need of a self-styled, so-called “community organizer” coming in from the outside with a megaphone and issuing orders.