Stilted – Preparing for high water
The gentle swish of water coming to shore, settling into a comfy deck chair and watching the water as it sparkles against nature’s light. Sounds like the beginning of a wonderful waterside vacation, but is in fact more of everyday life in a home built for everyday life far from any ocean or lakeside view. This is, in reality, the new ‘old’ home of Randy and Susan Veillon of Bridge City.
After hurricane Ike, the couple, along with their two children Kayla, 22 and son Will, 19, have achieved a new perspective. That perspective comes from fourteen feet above ground and overlooks an inlet of Cow Bayou in the Victory Gardens subdivision.
Sept. 13, 2008 found the Veillon’s, like most of the Bridge City residents, looking at several feet of water in their home. The gently lapping waters of Cow Bayou, driven by the violent winds of Hurricane Ike, jumped their borders and headed into the homes that slept close by. Also, like most of the township, upon the news report, upon returning to view what was now home, the decision to stay had to be made, along with whether to repair, rebuild, or restore.
The home that had belonged to Susan’s grandparents was just next door to their current home, it was unoccupied at the time of Ike’s watery furry. After the initial shock, clean up and FEMA trailer lodging established, talk about what to do next began.
When conversation did begin it was about the home that had belonged to Susan’s grandparents.
“We basically said, ‘If we are going to rebuild it, we might as well build it up,’” Susan said matter-of-factly. So build up they did.
With help of a house raising crew, good weather and three days time, the house was hydraulically raised to 14 feet. Randy did all the iron beam fabrication and all the work on the outside structure, adding a wrap around porch.
“It took about a year since he had to work too. It meant he could only work on the project in the evenings and on weekends.” Randy, who was born and raised in Orange, along with his brother Rick Veillion and their mother, Rena, own and operate Irving Street Appliance Inc., in West Orange.
“He really wanted to be able to do it all himself. He loved working on it,” says Kayla, “but it would have taken a lot longer.” She is referring to some of the indoor finishing work; hired laborers completed drywall and painting.
The family of four took up residence in their new high rise a mere six months ago. Having lived in a FEMA trailer for two years, and having gone through the wake of Ike has had its challenges and rewards. The home in which they now reside is full of memories, at least sections of it. Though currently about 3000 square foot of house, it began smaller and the family added on to three sides. The original structure still exists with its new parts encamping it.
“We just had a big group of young people over Friday night. Kayla has been waiting for a while to get to do this. But you just don’t have people over when you don’t have furniture. You have to start all over. It’s a trying time for everyone.” There is a slight indication of amusement in Susan’s voice, “Everyone around here knows, you just add a piece at a time when you can.”
She is, of course, referring to the fact that, most of the residents of the town, have spent their time replacing what the water has stolen. Many didn’t stay, some didn’t even return to see what was left after having picked up their lives after Hurricane Rita. Not returning, not staying, wasn’t even a question for the Veillons.
Randy being born and raised here was an obvious strength to them choosing to stay, but Susan, who was born in Beaumont but left Bridge City at age five, still has her childhood memories stored here. “Here was more home than anywhere else,” she admits.
As a child she frequently moved, but spent many days playing at the water’s edge. When her father purchased the home next door to her grandparents it officially became home and she raised her children here as well.
Their children raised and their home as well doesn’t mean they have finished. There is still concrete slab to be poured under the house.
“That will be parking,” Susan informs, “and a place to get in the shade, everyone will want that.” There will be another lift installed, an elevator for grandparents and others that can’t make the 14 foot climb as simply as they might have been able to in the past. There are plans to be here many years to come. Plans to weather whatever storm may come. Plans to have time with family and friends in a home where they can have old memories planted in their mind’s eye, as well as life’s brush painting the canvass of their minds with new ones.
“Living in a FEMA home for two years kind of had a way of bringing us all closer,” expresses Kayla. But as one of her friends pointed out, if this is the end result of all they have been through, it was worth it.
There is obvious pride, and relief and smiles on faces that have come through what no one would ever wish on anyone else once the road is traveled. A long road, one that seemed to take forever to travel. But, for now, a bit of rest in a wide openness of a grand ole home on the peaceful waters of the bayou.