A few angels watch over J.M. Jones

Published 12:13 am Friday, June 3, 2011

Lee Jones believes in guardian angels.

It has been a long two months for the J.M. Jones Lumber Company owner who has been fighting the largest Mississippi River flood ever recorded.

In the fight to save the 100-year old lumber mill, Jones admits there have been many “white-knuckle” moments in the last couple of weeks.

Email newsletter signup

“There was a part of me that didn’t believe we were truly going to make it,” Jones said.

And they still might not, he acknowledges. Even on its way down, the river is still a threat.

Walking along the levees, one can see clouds of mud and dirt washing from the bank into the swirling waters. Each day, crews continue to perform regular maintenance to prevent a collapse.

Even though doubts still exist, Jones says there have been a few miracle moments that make him wonder if angels are watching over.

Local businesses and organizations have offered what they can to support Jones’ battle.

When the levees appeared as if they would be too low, The Blain Companies came to the rescue to offer 400 modular concrete barriers to add to the top of the earthen banks.

“Michael Blain is a true guardian angel,” Jones said.

Local businesses, like The Castle restaurant have been providing ice to keep workers cool.

The Natchez-Adams Humane Society offered food to work crews maintaining and monitoring the situation.

“This is from an organization that is in dire need,” Jones said. “And they are giving us stuff.”

Such support is heartening, but it is the angels driving 18-wheelers and delivering the mail whom Jones finds truly miraculous.

During the height of flood preparations when it looked like sandbags were not being made quickly enough, that is when the first guardian angel appeared at the lumberyard, Jones said.

“It was complete chaos,” Jones said. Trucks were hauling lumber to higher ground, while other trucks were hauling dirt to add to the levees.

That is when an 18-wheeler loaded with 3,000 sandbags appeared.

“Just when we were trying to get ahead of the flood, the truck showed up with these sandbags beautifully arranged on pallets,” Jones said. “We couldn’t figure out who sent it, but we needed those sandbags at the time.”

Amid the commotion, Jones turned around to inquire about the origin of the shipment and could find neither truck nor driver.

“Next thing you know he was gone,” Jones said.

It was only Thursday that Jones learned the sandbags were sent by the American Snuff Company which had sandbags left over from its flood fight in Memphis, Tenn. The company had seen a story about J.M. Jones and wanted to offer help.

So, too, did West Virginia resident James Webber. After seeing a story on CNN, Webber decided to send what he could in the mail. On the day after the crest, Jones discovered a note and check for $100 from Webber.

Even though Webber’s contribution looked tiny in comparison to the thousands J.M. Jones has spent fighting the flood, Jones said he is amazed by the generosity and will purchase flashlights and batteries for the men who walk the levees in the pitch black darkness each night with Webber’s gift.

“Some said I should return the money with a thank you note, but he wanted us to have it and I am going to honor it.“

All of the contributions — both from locals and strangers — are overwhelming Jones said.

“There are a lot of good people out there — a lot better than I am,” Jones said. “It makes me want to be a better person.”

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.