The river had gone berserk. Over its banks and hungry, it ripped and roared at everything in its path. Chicken houses smashed into propane tanks while pieces of someone's back porch, or maybe even a house, snagged in the roots of a tree.

The river had gone berserk. Over its banks and hungry, it ripped and roared at everything in its path. Chicken houses smashed into propane tanks while pieces of someone's back porch, or maybe even a house, snagged in the roots of a tree.

Like a baby drawn to an electric plug, local residents gathered to watch the churning water the afternoon of Dec. 22, 1964. Jim Collier and "a lot of other people from town" were standing on the Shady Cove Bridge, enjoying nature's latest temptation.

Sliding around the bend of the river, a few hundred feet east of the bridge, a big tree, probably 7 or 8 feet at the stump, took aim on the center concrete pier.

The branches, which were still upstream, went underwater and lifted the massive root ball upward. The tree hit the pier at an angle, with the root ball catching in the steel stringers under the bridge.

"The bridge shuddered considerably," said Collier. "You now had the key log for creating a dam."

As debris backed up all the way around the river bend, the water began to rise.

"That night the water came up fast," said Bill Littlefield, "and a lot of people were trapped, standing in the water that was maybe 3 or 4 feet deep near the north end of the bridge."

Littlefield was a logger working in the woods for Steve Wilson. Wilson was owner of the sawmill that was located where Shady Cove Park and the Edgewater Inn stand today.

"I fired up a dozer from Wilson's mill and began hauling people out," Littlefield said. "We were lucky the cat was there. We were going to haul it back into the woods the next day."

Collier said the debris kept piling up behind the pine tree dam until about 9:30 that night.

"That's when it pushed the bridge off its piers, smashed all the concrete into chunks and twisted the steel into a ball and pushed it to the mouth of Indian Creek," he said.

Littlefield said the town was isolated for a while.

"Power was out, but at least the phone worked," he said.

Residents who had lost everything huddled together in the school gym. Clothing and food soon arrived from concerned Rogue Valley citizens.

"I think it was Fletcher Baker and some others who rigged up a riverboat on a cable just north of where the bridge had been," said Littlefield. "People used that for a while to get across the Rogue."

That was the first regular ferry across this part of the river since 1921, when the old bridge had been built to replace ferry service. The bridge had weathered the massive floods of 1927 and 1955, but had finally given up.

Littlefield said he wasn't alone that night.

"The community really came together and a lot of people helped out," he said.

"But, I guess you could say that at least for that night, I probably was the very last taxicab in Shady Cove."

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.