Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gift from Joplin

The work in Joplin is getting very specific, so they have a desperate need for skilled tradesmen, ie: electricians, carpenters, roofers, and drywall installers. 
I have to say, in my experience, during my week down there, most of the work was being done by faith based groups. 
The local government had a problem with the US government coming in and giving the rebuilding jobs to outside sources, while local contractors were unable to get work. Many of the tornado victims we spoke to, had unfavorable things to say about the federal government, but they were proud that the mayor had stepped in to speak for the Joplin people. 
On a 100° day, we were approached by our coordinator. She told us she had some projects that other groups had declined. One involved getting an 8' ladder on a roof by using a 20' ladder and painting some trim. 

The school had this part of the roof replaced and the trim needed painting. The hardest part? There are three air conditioner units up there and on such a hot day, they ran constantly, blowing hot air on the paint brushes, making the paint thick and difficult to work with.
trim painted!
Another task that needed doing was a more rewarding one, for me. A group of men were working on the inside of the school, repairing the damaged classrooms and restrooms. One of these men was a local guy, waiting to hear from his insurance company, hoping they would call his home a total loss, so they could rebuild. 
While his wife waited at home in a fifth wheel camper, this guy worked on the school, giving of his time until he could begin rebuilding his own life. Soon, bulldozers would arrive at his damaged home and tear down the remnants of his life and he could start over. Until then, he is donating his time to get the school back up and running. While the permits were waiting for approval, there were a few things that he would love to get done. There were heirloom iris on his property, left over from when his was the only home on 40 acres. They ran the length of the chain link fence, which also should come down, he told me. 
It was a hot day. I mean, after being on that roof, the last thing I wanted to do was yard work. But we decided to drive over and survey the situation so we could gather the necessary tools. That was the day we drove thru the hardest hit area. 
The tornado struck an area of town that was suffering in a poor economy, so many of the homeowners are still struggling to get things back together, or some of them have given up, simply driving away from twisted remains of their lives. 
We drove up to the home where we were to work and found a long, long iris bed. They were in decline, not having been divided in a long time, suffering from drought as well. A terrible irony: Joplin is in the grips of a terrible drought. No significant rain has fallen since the storm that brought the tornado. 
the bed was choked with Bermuda grass and weeds had gone unchecked. We also found shot gun shell, a lot of roofing shingles and glass. Cass even found a headlight to a Lincoln. We found the Lincoln on the next block, with a lot more than headlights missing....
The grass was brittle from lack of rain. Huge holes in the yard indicated to me that this area was once in full shade. Our friends told us that they found a headboard in their kitchen and they would like the owners to know that they can come get it, anytime. Anyone missing a Mickey Mouse headboard?
We had to find a way for them to store the iris until their home was rebuilt. We found bread trays in the dumpster and I realized they would be perfect! Here is BarbG. Not a gardener. BarbG is a quilter, but today, she was a servant and she said, tell me how to do it and I will. For hours, BarbG trimmed corms and foliage and checked for mushiness. 

 I told her they looked like mail order iris! She did such a fantastic job, never mind the heat nor the fact she'd never done this before!
in the end, we got 4 bread trays full for our friends. I really hope they can replant them, but judging by the looks of things and the snail's pace they work, I am certain they will never see the earth again.  
ugh. you can just see the heat hanging in the air! 
I dug corms from 8 sections of the iris border, hoping to get them every color they thought was in there. 
Incredibly, they sent us home with a gift. 
They wanted us to have some of their iris.
In my own border, I now have what I am calling 'Joplin Iris'. As a matter of fact, I had to dig up my red twigged dog wood to get them in here, but it didn't matter to me. 
I planted them so I could see them from my deck, but the annuals would grow up around the declining foliage in the summer's heat. 
In the spring, the zinnia and coreopsis will not be this tall, letting my Joplin Iris show thru. Our Joplin friends thought these were blue and small. They also had some yellow ones, which I planted in the middle of this bed. I cannot wait till spring. 
Another find was some of the bulbs of the plant Southerners call "nekkid lady lilies". These are rain lily, or magic lily or Resurrection lily, depending on where you are from! 
These are not considered hardy, here. I am going to plant them next to my foundation on the south side, behind the junipers. South side because it is warmer, receiving 10 hours of sun per day, and next to my foundation NOT because I think it would be best for design, but because the cement might be warm enough to help these guys overwinter. If they do make it, I will divide them up again and surprise my Joplin travel mates with them. I did not want to give them bulbs and have them not make it and then my friends would feel at fault. 
In the end, Joplin has left a deep impression on me. I hope I will be able to visit sometime in the healed future. To find rebuilt neighborhoods and lives. 
a limb from a 40 year old black walnut
 iron cross from St. Mary's parish. it alone, remains from their campus
 the ruins of a community
 progress is evident, even in the middle of ruins
believe it or not, Joplin is at the end of this rainbow. 


  1. It's hard work digging up Iris, but how nice you have a memory of all the good work you did down there.
    Cher Sunray Gardens
    Goldenray Yorkies

  2. I think having a few of those Iris is a really nice way for you to remember this time. It was hot and tiring, but you've done a wonderful job and should be proud of all the help. I'm sure these folks won't ever forget you!

  3. Your photos showing the devastation are so revealing. It sounds like the same story as previous disasters....waiting.....for other people to make a decision on what happens to your life. Meanwhile, the locals do what you need to do to help others. A community effort. That absolutely had to be hard work, digging in the dry ground but you guys did an amazing job. What a great memory with the gift that you will enjoy every year. Joplin has clearly left a mark on your heart forever. Thank you for sharing.

  4. This country is made up of wonderful people just like you and your friends who did hot and backbreaking work in Joplin. I salute you and those who helped you. Good work and I know those who you helped are eternally grateful. God bless you!

  5. Thank you for sharing the story of your trip and all the photos of Joplin, Sissy(sorry, I didn't realize I had missed your last post until today). The scenes of destruction are chilling, and I can only imagine what an impression this whole trip made on you. We had a bad tornado about 15 years ago that leveled a nearby small town, and I remember the eerie scene weeks later when I was able to drive through it.

    I admire you and your family for all the hard work you did while there--here I am complaining having to water flowers on a hot day, while you're up on a roof! What a wonderful story about the man helping to rebuild the school while his own home waits to be rebuilt. It just shows how many good people are still out there.

    Your irises will be a wonderful reminder of the time you spent in Joplin and I hope will make you proud of all that you contributed.

  6. Wow, Sissy. You had me just riveted. I am still so impressed by your desire to help the residents of Joplin the way you did. And thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. Hugs!

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience - you are an example of faith in action, Sissy - your help will be remembered by so many - lives you touched that you might not even realize - can't wait to see those iris in bloom!


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