The holiday home tour begins with the heavy sound of boots banging through the barely lighted room.

"There's where we put up the Christmas tree. Over there's where we'd stack the gifts and things. The lights we'd put around that window."Don Lower's voice trails. His home is a wreck, knocked out of kilter by raging floodwaters in the summer. His community, a part of Jefferson City, once known as Cedar City, will never exist again.

He and his wife, Mary, have found a new place to live, an apartment on the other side of Jefferson City, far, far from the Missouri River. They are waiting for some kind of a buyout plan to be finalized, messing with the assorted governmental agencies in efforts that have at times taxed their Christmas spirit.

But they will most certainly have Christmas, although not in the house they lived in for a decade.

"We've got the tree, the gifts, all that stuff," Lower said. "But, it'd sure be nice to have all this paperwork and buyout stuff and all out of the way.

"I mean, while you're worrying about visiting and company on Christmas and all, you're also worrying about the messed-up abstract on the property and your belongings and where you'll be this time next year."

The Lowers' house had a small porch and a basement they used often. It was flanked by a garage and storage building. Nothing fancy, just home.

Lower, 72, has become used to the awful sight of the house now, the windows knocked out, a truck and van rusted motionless, tools and gun parts buried under nasty-smelling sand.

"It's been kind of funny. One minute you're thinking about Christmas and thinking about how the grandkids and all used to play in the old yard out here," he said."The next minute you're thinking about coming out here and trying to find your tools under all this goop."

He's been wearing knee-high black rubber boots since July, spending tedious days at his old home, trying to salvage something, anything. Copper wire and tubing he collected were swiped one night, but he's managed to find a few other things.

Furniture that had particle board were turned to mush; anything metal was rusted or corroded; years of ceramics and Christmas goodies floated away. But some dishes survived; some clothes were taken to higher ground before the brunt of the flood wiped out this little town.

The tragedy of the floods reminds Lower and his neighbors, now scattered to new communities, of the Christmas memories that are forever washed away.

View Comments

"You do find yourself thinking about it all (past holidays), more now that Christmas is here," Lower said. "Maybe more than Christmas, though, is knowing that one of these days some kind of buyout will be done, and we've got us a new place, near Rush Hill."

And, Christmas reminds Lower of one of his favorite stories from a time he'd otherwise rather forget.

"My wife and I came back out here, once the water went down, and got up here, and saw what a mess the place was. It was hard to see, hard to take.

"But, after a little while, the wife said to me, she said, `Well, we lost everything we ever owned, but at least I didn't lose you.' "

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.