MIDFIELD, Tex. — This is the “town too tough to die,” so its 200 residents say they aren’t worried about the rain, even as disaster seems to be unfolding all around them.
The Colorado River is forecast to swell, hitting near-record levels Wednesday night, as dams are being forced to release water to avoid collapse. Torrents of water will be heading to Matagorda County, leading to the mandatory evacuation of Bay City, its county seat. Some county residents were leaving for the second time, having returned home after the first evacuation only to get back on the road.
“This means there will absolutely be no emergency response, including law enforcement, fire and EMS, in all areas of the county,” said Bay City Mayor Mark A. Bricker, demanding residents leave by 1 p.m. Monday. But Midfield, about 50 miles northeast of Victoria, isn’t too concerned. When asked about losing county services until the water recedes, many residents simply laughed.
“We don’t have many services out here anyway,” said Georgia Kramer, 51. “I’m worried about the people in Houston.”
On Monday afternoon, as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey strengthened just offshore, the area was pounded with 50 mph winds and torrential rain. Most of the area lost electricity days ago, and dozens of ambulances and buses drove through the rain and wind trying to evacuate Bay City’s 6,000 residents.
But here in Midfield, at state highways 71 and 111, two dozen residents gathered at Dorothy’s Cowboy Country, which doubles as the town’s only bar and general store. Opened in 1931, the bar is plastered with taxidermy, beer advertisements, and “Don’t mess with Texas” and “Kiss my rebel ass” stickers. The word “Redneck” is proudly displayed on a Confederate flag.
As patrons chain-smoked cigarettes and chugged midday Bud Lights in the dark, most here shrugged off the potential dangers from floodwaters — even though nearby cotton fields were soaked in several feet of water.
“If you don’t get out of here, that is your own decision, said Marty Kramer, 63. “I’m too old to run.”
Residents in Midfield note they live at a higher elevation than Bay City, so they don’t expect much flooding here, except on the crops and highways leading out of town. Most patrons here say they feel comfortable riding out the storm in the bar, even though they will be sharing it with Texas-sized cockroaches also seeking a place to stay dry.
“Some people panic, but I think it’s the media that creates a lot of the panic,” said John Kronos, adding he’ll get by using a butane cooker to make meals. “We will survive.”
As he sipped his beer, Harold Harper, who lives near Bay City, said he will handle the flood just like he did the high water that crept into house last week. He’ll “battle” the armadillos that try to use his house as a refuge and leave only if it looks like the water may flood his truck.
“Not sure how they can call it a 500-year flood, when we haven’t even been a country for 500 years,” said Harper, who nonetheless credited county officials for an efficient and orderly evacuation process.
On Monday evening, between Midfield and nearby El Campo, torrential rain was flooding homes and trailers and covering miles of fields of cotton and corn, at times inching up to within a foot of one of the few highways in the county. This reporter tried to reach Bay City on Monday afternoon but returned to Midfield because of weather conditions.
What makes Midfield’s residents so optimistic, they say, is that they have a history of being survivors. Their hardiness was captured in a country western song, by singer Darryl Lee Rush, named the “The Town Too Tough to Die.”
Midfield was settled as an agricultural prairie town but it lost half its 300 residents during the Great Depression, according to the Victoria Advocate newspaper. “The only ones who really made it were the ones with gardens and animals to slaughter,” the paper reported in a 2002 article about the town, which has joined the bar’s memorabilia collection.
“We are not afraid of anything here,” said Curtis Warchesik, the owner of the bar. “But we did get lucky because we had a Category 4 hurricane just down the road, and we have remained open the entire time.”
Whether that luck will continue remains unknown. But don’t expect expressions of concern from this crowd.
“Our biggest worry is we run out of beer,” said Monty Kramer.