Tales from Troublesome Creek, Kentucky
By: Eric Short
As The Salvation Army mobile canteen vehicle made the left turn from Kentucky 80 onto 476, nothing seemed out of the ordinary in this holler compared to the thousands of others just like it in this state. But as we rounded the second bend and got further back into the canyon, we soon caught a glimpse of Troublesome Creek, which runs alongside Highway 476. Homes line both sides of the creek. Or at least they used to.
Many of the homes that lined this creek were swept away from their foundations completely on that fateful night of July 27 at approximately 11:00 pm local time. It was at that time that Terry Tartar, a resident on Troublesome Creek, said, “the creek rose, and it rose quickly. People didn’t have time to get out.”
Tartar said he was “luckier than most,” as he only had a basement full of mud. Still, he was thankful that The Salvation Army had taken the time to come through this holler, rarely visited by outsiders. He was even more thankful for the half-dozen beef barbecue sandwiches and corn hot meals that were delivered to him and his family.
“We’re so thankful for this,” Tartar said. “I’ve always liked The Salvation Army. I used to go to The Salvation Army in Chicago to get clothes growing up. They are good folks.”
As we continued to progress up the holler, we stopped periodically when we saw residents, first responders, and utility workers. Volunteer and advisory board member, Bob Meek of Louisville shouted, “How about lunch?” from the driver seat of the canteen.
Tanya Sword was one resident that was delighted for a warm meal.
“I haven’t had a hot meal in three days, so this is wonderful,” said Sword. “I can’t tell you how much this means.”
Sword said she lost her home in Breathitt County just to the north.
“My home is a total loss, so I came down here to be with family, who were also hard-hit, but still have a house standing.” Sword continued on about the pitfalls of not having running water. “It’s just the worst. You can’t wash clothes, can’t take a shower.”
She said she hadn’t been given any indication of when water service would be restored. While there, an unknown black Labrador Retriever wandered up. Sword said the dog was not hers, although it seemed to be following her around. It is possible his owner was swept away; as of early August, five bodies had been recovered so far in Troublesome Creek. Meek looked at the dog and made an instant decision to feed him as well. He put down a generous helping of barbecue beef for him, and the dog quickly ate it up.
“Dog’s gotta eat too,” quipped Meek.
“Thank you so much for feeding the dog. You all are awesome,” cried Sword, as she watched the dog eat ravenously.
What I witnessed on this day in Troublesome Creek had a profound impact on me. It was my first time seeing a major disaster firsthand. What struck me the most, though, was the resilience and positivity of the people in this devastated holler. Many said that others had it worse off than them, and they were fortunate. And many openly thanked God for blessing them with another day on Earth.
Such resilience I will never forget, as I won’t soon forget the tales I heard on Troublesome Creek.
To make a financial donation to this relief effort, please call 1-800-SAL-ARMY (800-725-2769) or visit https://helpsalvationarmy.org. 100 percent of disaster donations go to help the relief efforts.