What Happens to the Animals When the River Floods: Patty Henken Explains

When the Missouri River floods, all that stands between Meredosia, Illinois and the river is a mound of dirt and a pile of prayers. That and the round-the-clock efforts of everyone from sand bag-filling inmates to town employees and community members.

meredosia illinois

The river and Meredosia as seen from the bridge over the Illinois river. So far, the levee has held. Nearby towns have fared worse. The levees have softened and ruptured, flooding towns and forcing residents and their pets to higher ground.

But what happens to the wildlife when the waters rise? What happens to the raccoons, deer and birds that are flushed from their home by the waters that have been rising – and staying high – for weeks?

Today I went to the Meredosia post office to send a package to my wife Julia. The Illinois river runs just behind the post office.

Postal employee Patty Henken explained what happens to the critters when the waters rise. And why this year is different.

Bernie Harberts, general store

Patty taping up a parcel I’m sending home to my wife Julia. When she’s not selling stamps or sorting mail, she’s rescuing and raising orphan animals. She kids that the only animal she hasn’t raised yet is a kangaroo.

Patty is a huge animal lover. She’s the person that spends $45 to buy worms for 2 baby robins displaced by the recent flood. She’s the woman that dusts that ants off the exotic looking, googley-eyed hatchling, pours tons of hours and feed down the critter’s beak only to discover she’s….raised a starling.

In other words, she’s the go to person to explain what’s happening to the animals during this year’s flooding. This year has been hard on her.

Here, in her own words, is what’s going on.

Here are a few more photos of my Meredosia visit.

illinois river

The levee doesn’t have to break for the town to get a soaking. Hydrostatic pressure from below forces water up through the ground. It does not obey signs.

illinois river

Even though the rising river is the talk of the town, down at the South Side Tavern, beer has to be poured and sour cream has to be scooped in to cups. Here, Jess prepares sour cream for the coming shift.

illinois river

As sure as the river will rise, the beer drinkers will show up at the tavern and down a cold one. Here, the worn linoleum in front of the bar. I know how it feels underfoot because….

illinois river

…when the river’s risin’ in summer, you gotta drink a frosty one!

meredosia, illinois river

Meredosia, Illinois. The mules and I will need to cross the bridge over the Illinois as we make our way toward our next stop, Quincy, Illinois. There, we must cross the Mississippi river.

illinois river

On the edge of town, the river just keeps flowing. Some times high and sometimes low, but always flowing along.

Post Script: Big huge thank yous to:
Patty: for the stories, grapes and bug spray
Vaughn: for the hay
Matt: for the beer
Connie: for the place to put mules Brick and Cracker
Brandon: the oatmeal cookies, beans and wax paper taffy
The guys down at the elevator: the barge sample corn
Also…everyone else who helped mules Brick and Cracker and me. If I’ve failed to add your name to the list, please know that I appreciate everything you did for us.
I’ll be thinking of you back in “Dosh”! (That’s short for Meredosia you non Dosh-ians.)

Patty Henken
2019-06-07 17:46:21

Bernie, Cracker and Brick, I will always consider your time in “Dosh” the high point of my 25 year career. Thank you for your kindness. I hope during your travels you happen into Meredosia, IL again. I will never forget you!!! Safe travels always and blessings to you and Julia, Cracker & Brick.

James Mull
2019-06-08 10:12:15

I ran across you outside the little town of Versailles. Stopped in the middle of the road, so I could find who you where. I am glad I did.
I am amazed by your story and your travels. Be safe, perhaps our paths shall cross again.

Terry jarrett
2019-06-08 21:16:44

When you and Cracker, Brick took
A break in our front yard in Versailles it
Was awesome, My wife and I will never forget such a memorable day that we got meet you all…take care Bernie 


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