Friday, March 21, 1997
No one here takes
a roof for granted


BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Lucy Aulick can't win for losing.

First the flood left her homeless.

Now, progress is about to do it again.

In all her 82 years, Lucy hasn't seen such a string of bad luck.

When the flood struck Falmouth, she fled just minutes before the angry waters tore into her frame house.

She went to stay with her granddaughter, Sandi Dennie. Three weeks later, after saving just two kittens and four boxes of keepsakes, Lucy is still waiting for official word on whether she'll ever be able to go back to what's left of her home.

Sandi's waiting, too. She lives with Steve, her construction- worker husband, and their two sons on the outskirts of town.

The Dennies rent a 100-year-old farmhouse that sits on a rise, safe from the flood, with massive twin oaks in front.

''Me, oh my, you should see those big old oak trees in the fall,'' Sandi says. ''They're gorgeous with their oranges, reds, greens and yellows. We sit outside and just look at them.''

A cardinal sings a spring song in one of the oaks. The bird picks at buds on branches thicker than most tree trunks.

Mighty as they are, those twins will not see another fall.

The land under the old farmhouse has been sold. A deal that has been in the works since December will turn this 35-acre spread into a subdivision for 95 houses. They'll call it Cardinal Ridge.

''We plan to be moving ground by mid-April,'' says developer David Butcher.

''Unfortunately, the house sits on a rise. And, we need that dirt to fill in the low spots.

''So the farmhouse and the trees will have to go.''

The Dennies will go, too. But where, Steve says as he sits at his kitchen table, ''is a good question.''

He's just not speaking for his family. He and his wife have taken in four other flood victims besides Lucy. For a time after the flood, their house was home to 17. ''They were all homeless,'' Sandi says.

''Besides, it's a big house.''

She takes me on a tour. The lone bathroom is just off the kitchen.

''Nobody fights over it,'' Steve says. ''We just get in line.''

Lucy points to the sofa in the living room. That's her bed.

Steve and Sandi share the first-floor bedroom with 9-month-old Jordan.

An upstairs storage room shelters Jovana and Junior Platt and their son, Doug. The flood, Doug says, turned their house, ''into a junkyard.''

Now, his mother and father sleep on a mattress from the Dennies' camper. Doug sleeps on a cot.

''This is their home,'' Sandi says. ''This little room is their life.''

The other second-floor room used to belong to Sandi and Steve's 9-year-old son, Joshua. Since the flood, he's had to share it with his half sister, Kristy.

Downstairs, Lucy stands at the kitchen sink. She's washing a mud- caked picture frame. ''This is me and my baby boy,'' she says and holds out a photo that peels away the years. A very young Lucy, her lined face smooth and unwrinkled, her white hair dark, cradles a young boy.

That's her son, Kenneth. He was Sandi's dad.

Kenneth died in 1994. ''Took his own life,'' Sandi whispers.

''He left a note. I remember his words every day: 'Sick of this life. You all go on and do good.'''

That's why Sandi took in her ''Mammaw,'' as she calls Lucy, and why she fixes dinner every night for nine.

Sandi worries about being homeless herself. She wonders how long she's going to be cooking in her 100-year-old kitchen.

David Butcher is no Simon Legree. The developer swears he is not going to throw the Dennies into the street. ''We'll do some scouting around to find a place for this family to rent.''

Sandi takes in that news and her face takes on the weary look of someone who's been through a lot but expects to go through a lot more before she's heard the last of this flood.

''We don't ask why,'' she says. ''We just go on.''

And try to do good.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.