Flood memories resurface after 47 years

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JOHNSON SIDING (KOTA TV) - Everyone seems to have a 1972 Flood story. Many people living through it recall scenes of water surrounding their homes and sweeping away their possessions - if not their loved ones.

Bob Mordhorst relives the 1972 flood.

Bob Mordhorst is one of those people.

"It was a disaster," Mordhorst recalls. "People lost a lot of things, but that was all material."

Furniture, cars and even homes can be replaced, but the same cannot be said for the 238 people killed by the rising water.

"We lost one life up here," Mordhorst said, recalling the man's name - Harris. "He was in a Jeep and a log came down, hit him and pinned him. He drowned."

Bob, as he insists to be called, has lived in the log home near Johnson Siding for 59 years. He has seen plenty of floods living downstream from Pactola Reservoir and in a designated FEMA flood plain. It doesn't help that he built his home surrounded on three sides by a winding Deer Creek.

"I like to joke that I live in a castle surrounded by water," Bob said. To get to his garden he has to steps on river rock to cross the water. He has even built a personal fishing pond and a small bridge on his property.

His near-island paradise almost became his undoing when his babbling brook turned into a torrent of water in 1972.

"It took out the bridges and the road and cars. I had a car on my spillway," Bob said, pointing to his fishing pond. "We had 30 inches of water running through the house."

While Bob relives that day - talking about his children at home when the water began to rise, a dog weathering the storm, and an impressive tale of a full-blown house literally floating away - the seriousness of his stories are cut with the gentle laugh of a man who has seen it all and lived to tell the tale.

Still, there's another side to his story.

"I really struggled for a while after the flood," Bob said, striking a more serious tone. "It was really my faith with my wife and the support of local church groups that got me through."

While other homes were floating away, the hand-built Mordhorst castle, stood strong.

"We just decided we're going to rebuild and the log home, it took 30 inches of water but it was built so stout it never moved," Bob said.

He says the experience made him rethink his home's location. Maybe it was time to pick up and settle down somewhere further from the banks.

"Where do you go?" Bob asks. "This is home. Some people don't understand that. Your roots are pretty deep."

So, like so many others, they rebuilt, and they weren't alone. Friends, family and the community came to help, along with folks with nothing to give but their time.

"It really touched my heart when people like the Hutterites and others came in. I mean they were workers. That's what America is all about," said the Korean War veteran.

After 59 years, he says he still gets floods but none have ever come close to the terrible day 47 years ago.