Dripping dirty water with shredded insulation still clinging to it, the plastic lion caused her face to light up – almost as much as the discovery of a mud-caked t-shirt showing a cat in space.
Most of the time she just stood there, staring at the head-high mounds of broken furniture, moldy mattresses, clothing and pulverized sheet rock as the flies swarmed.
This wasn’t a pile of garbage – it was her home.
There it sat heaped on the front lawn merging with the piles of neighbors, each a broken dream of stability, safety and security.
She wants to go home.
No, not to the empty hull reduced to its framework inside, but to the place existing before record-setting rain broke the levee and struck the French doors in a five-foot wave.
She wants to go back to the time long before the boat came, before it dropped the family off in the shallows for the long walk to help, before her big yellow lab was forced to swim for the first time in its life, before her cats’ lives depended on her sister’s boyfriend holding a broken carrier high, before the shelter, before her beloved art supplies and drawings were reduced to mush, before this, before that, before it all.
So she sits on the drive way, hands on knees, and watches as the mound is shifted slowly by hand and another small piece of her life surfaces.
Filthy clothes, a few tattered books and some plastic statues of animals.
The rest is gone, perhaps washed away with the freezer she saw floating down the road as they crawled into a self-designated rescue unit – just some guy and his buddies who figured folks in that neighborhood might need a helping hand.
The hunt for something salvageable is just another blow for the 16-year-old who has already had to accept living with another relative, a new school, new rules and dashed plans big and small.
This one isn’t a Wharton County story – it’s a not so humorous chapter in the Crabtree Chronicles taking place this past weekend.
And it’s far, far from unique just a few miles north, south, east or west from here.
The future, as Mr. Berra said, ain’t what it used to be for so many people from the families hunting a place to rebuild lives to the ranchers counting lost animals and farmers wondering how to cope with yet another bust year.
We’ll never know why El Campo was spared.
We can certainly make sure we don’t forget our neighbors, friends and relatives who weren’t as lucky, however.
This story hasn’t ended for thousands, tens of thousands or more.
El Campoans, you are to be commended for being there in those first few days. You made a difference for so many.
For the ones who lost everything, the future is a daunting one, filled with lost from the expenses of finding the basics from shoes and socks to towels to food to something to cook it in to the realization that the world, for them, truly is a different place.
Please don’t give up now.
– Shannon Crabtree is editor & publisher of the El Campo Leader-News.