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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Jack Wise is again stuck on Pierson Hill where he was in 1937

  • PIERSON HILL -- Jack Wise is living on his farm with his cows surrounded by water at 1404 Pierson Hill Road.


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  • Jack Wise is living on his farm with his cows surrounded by water at 1404 Pierson Hill Road.
    But Wise is no stranger to floods. Born in 1927 Wise was 10 years old the first time he saw his family's property flooded out.
    Wise and his son, J.C. -- whose house is about 300 yards away -- can sit outside during the evening and watch the cattle.
    "My whole herd is on an island now. There's about 50 head with calves and everything," Wise said.
    The cattle mill about on their knoll of about 20 acres grazing and are content, if curious about the situation.
    "As long as they've got a full belly they don't act up. They go down to the edge of the water and look at it, but they have no problem," Wise said.
    Wise doesn't have much of a problem, either, with plenty of groceries and electricity. The telephone connection box is underwater which makes it difficult for Wise to hear callers, but he has a cellular phone to make calls.
    "No, it doesn't bother me. I knew it was coming. My family is not afraid of water. We swim in it. We're all water ducks," Wise said.
    His son J.C. is kayaking to state Route 145/34 to work at Egyptian Public and Mental Health Department. A coworker picks him up at the highway. J.C.'s wife, Cindy, is staying with her aunt in Eldorado.
    Wise's son Terry boats out to check on him each day and works on machinery in the shop.
    Wise can look down in the valley at where he lived during the 1937 flood. His cousin, Johnny Kent, moved a manufactured home to where the old house was. Kent had to move out when the water rose.
    "It's up to the last block, maybe to the floor. (The water) is right at 3 feet deep around it," Wise said.
    "He moved out. He's the last one on the spot. The only house in the bottoms."
    It was January and cold in 1937, the year the Saline Valley began the quick transition from community to cropland.
    Prior to the flood Wise had about 35 classmates at Saline Valley School. After the flood he had 15.
    "The '37 flood washed all of them away," Wise said.
    It took at least two weeks for the water to go down and the families could return. Many found their homes had been washed off their foundations or simply washed away.
    The Wise family was lucky.
    "The house washed a little bit off the foundation," he said.
    Waves were high during the flood and most houses could not take the current.
    Page 2 of 2 - During the flood Wise's family moved to higher land with family on Pierson Hill along with most of the valley's displaced hogs and cattle.
    "Some swam up and others walked up," he said.
    Pierson Hill was a crowded spot that winter.
    "It didn't bother me. We just moved up there. There was a lot of help. There were a lot of cattle on the hill and we went down and fed them every day," Wise said.
    When the water receded the family found the house needed a remodeling, but remained serviceable.
    "It had to be replastered and all that. We put in new floors. It wasn't too badly damaged," he said.
    But neighbors found their way of life would have to change. Many left farming to relocate to cities for work.
    Saline Valley has since all but disappeared.
    "There are two kids in the district now," Wise said.
    Wise is grateful the flood of 2011 is not as bitter cold as that of 1937, but there is really no good time for a flood.
    "We are fortunate, but this time it will probably cost us in the crop. We'll be late getting the crop out. We should be planting corn now instead of looking at water."
    The good news is Wise said as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday the Saline Valley floodwater had crested.
    "It's crested down here now. It didn't raise any last night. But it will take a long time to get the water back down in the river," Wise said.
    Wise is disappointed he can't receive mail until the flood goes down.
    "The main thing I miss is my mail. I miss my Daily Register at least," Wise said.
    "It's been an experience, but there have not been any problems. As long as you've got something to eat. Those who went through the '37 flood know when it's wet to stock up."
     

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