By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald/The Ashland City Times

Published July 27, 2010

On a sweltering July morning, Michele Dozier applies a fresh coat of heirloom-red paint to her kitchen walls, with the help of her 16-year-old son, sister-in-law and niece.

Meanwhile Butch, Michele’s husband, tugs on the starter rope of his push lawnmower in the backyard, just yards away from the Harpeth River.

The Doziers, who saw six feet of water roll through their house and restaurant during the May flood, are steadily rebuilding their lives at their longtime home at the end of Dozier Boat Dock Road, where the now calm waters of the Cumberland and Harpeth rivers merge.

It’s been nearly three months since the flood devastated Middle Tennessee. Michele and Butch, like hundreds of Cheatham County residents, are trying to return to normal.

“It’s still crazy,” said Michele, a fourth-grade teacher at East Cheatham Elementary School. “I teach as well, and trying to juggle this and that is crazy, but we’re better.”

The Doziers, who own Dozier’s Boat Dock and Restaurant, hope to be back in their home by Aug. 6, the date school starts back in Cheatham County.

Their living quarters presently lacks water heaters and adequate plumbing, along with central heat and air conditioning, but they have cleared the debris from their property and have electricity in their home.

“Right now, our sole priority is getting a place to live,” Michele noted. “We just got rid of the last layer of mud off of the back deck. We got our pressure washer out last week and got the final layer out of here. So we’re really proud of that.”

Butch plans to re-open his restaurant by late fall, but his establishment, which used to offer dine-in service, will only serve a carry-out menu, featuring his famous catfish and other menu staples.

“We had tables and chairs in there (the restaurant dining rooms),” recalled Michele. “You could eat it here or take it with you before. Now with all of our tables and chairs being thrown away, we’re just not even going to replace those.”

The flood also wiped out the Dozier’s campground, destroying about 20 mobile homes and campers. Butch plans to re-open a section of the campground closest to his home by late fall as well.

Damage estimates

Like the Doziers, hundreds of Cheatham Countians are still recovering from the May flood.

As of July 23, FEMA had received 1,232 individual and household program applications from Cheatham residents, and provided $7,333,412.85 in individual homeowner/renter aid and other needs assistance (help with medical bills, car repairs, etc.).

As of July 20, the Small Business Administration had approved 129 home loans for a total of $9,765,500, along with nine business loans totaling $1,695,400.

“We’re still trying to get exact figures on the total amount of damage,” said Edwin Hogan, Cheatham County Emergency Management Agency director. “What I can give you now is $27,617,986 million (total damage countywide as of July 23), and that’s damage to homes, businesses, roads, schools, etc.

“You can add another $64 million to that because of State Industries (A.O. Smith) – that includes all their losses to buildings, production, inventory, etc.,” he said.

The Doziers received FEMA funds to refurbish three rooms and a bathroom on the first floor of their home, since the upstairs portion of the house didn’t flood, and the back portion of their house, the restaurant, was a business.

“We’ve been through three floods here. Water’s been in the house three times. This time being the worst of course,” said Butch, who took over his family’s business in the 1960s. “This way of life, living by the river, you expect or know it’s going to flood. Lots of hard work and the good Lord’s blessing is why we’re still here.

“This has been a mighty fine way of living. I love it,” he added.