We were away for a few days, traveling to the rural outback of Upstate New York (Schoharie County). This county ranks — in my estimation — as one of the most rural areas of Upstate New York. And these folks are not just rural, they are fiercely rural. No fancy, high-falutin’, city slicking city life here. Oh, these folks appreciate progress, just without the urban arrogance and unrealistic reliance on “the grid.”
It was our first time Livvy was alone in her 3.6 years she’s been with us. Well, the dogs and the bird were home, too, but they don’t count. I had the webcam set on surveillance and Livvy mostly sat by the back door and in my desk chair, waiting for us. Nearly broke my heart. I couldn’t bring her with us this time, though. We were staying at a nice hotel and would be strolling through caves during the day. Not exactly a cat vacation.
But Livvy survived and she is all lovey and cuddly now. 🙂 Hey, I could get used to this!
While we traveled through Schoharie County, we saw many, many homes devastated by the flooding from Hurricanes Irene and Lee. These folks were hit the worst– bridges and homes and barns and cows just floated away. This is a rural area where money is always tight and work is always hard. New York’s Upstate economy really shows here, and then the floods came and made bad to worse. I saw some homes that were skeletal, just barely able to stand upright.
Lots of our photos were taken from the moving car, so they didn’t turn out very well. We saw yards filled with garbage bags and strewn tree limbs, boulders and rocks in weird places, and bulldozers everywhere.
In one area, I drove past a small group of trees on the bank of the Schoharie River. The trees were literally covered with tons and tons of white feathery strips of what appeared to be toilet paper and paper towels (me being a suburbanite). As we rounded the bend, we saw that the white stuff was not toilet paper. It was the plastic wraps that go around hay bales. Large hay bales were clogging one area of the river bank, and great strips of the shredded white wrapping hung from the TOPS of the 20-foot trees. My heart ached for these folks. Wow.
Yet what makes this area so remarkable is the amazing cheerfulness of the people. EVERY SINGLE PERSON I met was cheerful and generous. Even when they spoke of their losses (some folks lost everything on the first floor), they smiled and said, “Thank God, no one was killed” or “It’s just stuff.” Now that’s an amazing community. No self-pity and wailing for government help. Help is welcome but these people weren’t going to sit on their tears and wait for FEMA. They just sucked it up and are starting again. And wherever we traveled, the folks were so generous. The coffee shop gave us two free coffees. The hotel gave us a free breakfast. The New York Power Authority Visitors Center gave us free coffee travel mugs and light bulbs. I can only admire their generosity, grace, and happiness. I also wonder if Schoharie County has the most churches of all New York’s 62 counties, because it seemed there was a steeple peeping out from the farms and forests every mile or so.
Houses come and go but communities are what make or break a town. It’s good to be home again but I can’t get those folks out of my mind. I understand flooding problems– yes, indeed. But I’ve never had to rebuild EVERYTHING like these folks have. Ya got guts, Schoharie County folks. God bless you all. 🙂