ESSAY: Rain Falls on the Just and the Unjust

I was reminded of the Bible verse (Matthew 5:45) I used for the title of this essay by the Florida professor who said Harvey was retribution on Texas for voting for Trump. (I voted for Trump, under duress; he was the only “anyone but Hillary” who made the runoffs.)

Having lived half-way between Houston and Galveston for 30-odd years, I’ve been through a few hurricanes. My late wife, Anne, and I picked our lot in Nassau Bay because its elevation was 15 feet, one foot above the 14 feet reached in that area by the Carla storm surge in 1961. It kept our house above water, even though there was five feet of subsidence caused by oil and water extraction over 30 years.

Hurricane Harvey’s storm surge was not remarkable… but the rainfall was, corresponding to about a 50-foot snowfall here in Pagosa Springs. I remember dropping a faculty colleague off in Friendswood, Texas during a 23-inch rainfall, and asking him to call Anne and tell her he saw my SUV going down the road with a “bone in its teeth”…

Harvey has set a record for the continental United States with over 60 inches.

My favorite flood story occurred in 1974. I was a physics professor and dean of science at Houston Baptist University, on the west side of Houston. Anne and I still lived in Nassau Bay, across the road from NASA. HBU had an annual event at the River Oaks Country Club to raise money. Every year, we paid for a table and invited faculty friends and others to join us. We had invited our friends Bill, my administrative assistant when I was at NASA, and Jan, a pediatrician. The plan was for Jan to pick up Anne (Bill and Jan lived in El Lago, another subdivision near NASA.), while I would pick Bill up, who worked in Houston. After the event we would sort ourselves out to go home with our wives.

Anne called to say Jan could not get out of El Lago because of high water. We agreed that Anne would collect Jan in our pickup, and Bill, also facing high water, would get me in his car. It worked! Anne and Jan got to the country club OK, driving a pickup truck and wearing evening gowns. Bill and I were at our table with our other guests waiting for them.

River Oaks is the elite part of Houston. It’s all mansions with sweeping lawns. There’s a story that a women in a Cadillac drove by a man cutting his grass. Rolling down her window, she asked: “My good man, what do you get for mowing lawns?” After thinking a bit, the man replied: “The lady who lives here lets me sleep with her.”

Anne and Jan were a little worried about driving up to the portico of the River Oaks Country Club in a Ford pickup, along with Cadillacs, Continentals, and the odd Rolls Royce. The valets, doormen, and ushers treated them like royalty! When we got up to leave after the event, we found our pickup outside waiting for us, ahead of all the limousines.

I suppose they figured anyone who would come to a formal event at the River Oaks Country Club in a pickup truck was so rich they didn’t give a damn!


Jerry Modisette

Jerry Modisette, PhD, was at NASA Houston during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flights and performed the tests selecting the Mercury heat shield materials. He also has extensive experience working in the petroleum industry. He lives in Cabezon Canyon, west of Pagosa Springs.