This was her third flood. I did not ask why she stays, because it is her right to live where she chooses, and she owes neither me nor anyone else an explanation. For her, this yard, this house, this oak tree, is happiness. I see a clever sign. She sees birthday parties and prom date photos in the front yard. She sees her children’s tiny fingers and toes and smells the sweetness of walking in the front door with a brand new, fragile life in her hands. These things are not easy to leave.
Keith Kresta, a Crescent cotton farmer, grew up on a farm and is accustomed to the capriciousness of weather. Already mid-harvest, when he saw the Colorado River rising, he hastened to prepare his crops, move his cattle to higher ground, load his furniture into trailers, and install a pipe ring and pump around his farmhouse. As darkness fell on Texas, there was nothing more Mr. Kresta could do. He had managed to harvest 60 percent of his 800 acres.
After Katrina, blue tarpaulins fluttered in the breeze, trying to protect what little was left. In some places, the cheap tarp was the most expensive thing on the property. In Houston, salvation came in the form of white sheets, white t-shirts, white bandanas, white garbage bags — anything that could be tied to a car antenna, a windowsill, a rooftop, a branch. A sign of life. A sign of resignation. A sign of surrender.