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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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WAVELAND, Miss. – It’s still not hard to find houses ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, standing empty in overgrown yards with windows boarded up, shredded blue tarps flapping from their roofs, stark reminders of the deadly 2005 hurricane. And there are photographs everywhere of homes that were destroyed, their debris now trucked away to the landfill.

But out at the end of a one-lane road just northwest of town stands a house that Katrina built. There you will find Bob Fricke, 63, and his wife Mickie, 59, in the middle of the 38 acres where Bob was born and reared after his parents plunked down $1,500 and settled in 1942.

Amid about 40 dogs, a few cats, a dozen goats, several horses, assorted farm implements, three of his eight kids and a constantly varying number of his nine siblings, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, the Frickes’ new home has risen, a literal gift of the hurricane's flood tide.

The low-slung, green-metal-roofed house has been constructed largely of lumber milled from logs that were left lying all over Hancock County when Katrina’s waters receded: pines that snapped at the ground in the hurricane’s winds, limbs that fell from the giant oaks that dot the coast, cypress, black gum and a host of others.

“A lot of them were on our property,” says Fricke. The rest he got simply for the asking wherever he spotted debris being cleared away.

Fricke says Kathleen Johnson of the Katrina Relief organization in Waveland was the first to suggest he try using the logs to build a new home after the house of his youth was washed away. Johnson hooked him up with a nearby sawyer, then lined him up to borrow one of a number of portable sawmills that various donors sent to the hurricane zone with the notion that the salvaged logs could be a boon to rebuilding efforts if they could be cut into useable boards.

A mill from the Middle East

The gasoline-powered, trailer-mounted mill Fricke has been using was donated by Saudi Arabia. Made in New York, it can handle logs up to 36 inches in diameter.

“I never ran a sawmill before, but you do what you gotta do,” says Fricke, a retired phone company technician who stresses his gratitude for volunteers sent by Johnson to help him do about 10 or 15 percent of the actual construction.

With three of his kids building and rebuilding homes nearby, he laid out a 40-foot-square structure on the site of his parents’ old home and went to work. The posts that hold the building up were purchased at the lumberyard, along with the joists and plywood for the floor, but Fricke milled most of the rest of the boards in the solid wood house himself.

The exposed rafters are peeled 22-foot cypress logs, about 6 inches in diameter at the ridge and tapering down to the eaves. Above the rafters is pine roof decking, left exposed to create a gorgeous ceiling. Studs are also pine, a full two by four inches. The exterior is pine that Fricke rough-milled and sent to a commercial mill to have it shaped into faux log siding. He has used oak for door trim and has a pile more of it that he may use for the floor in the master bedroom. Even the showers are built of wooden planks, covered with clear acrylic glass.

The result is a unique cabin of about 1,000 square feet with another 600 feet of covered porch. The rich grain of the various woods glows warmly from its simple coat of oil, creating a décor that would be more at home in the Sierra Nevada than in the middle of a Mississippi farm. But the house has plenty of charming Southern touches, too, like the crescent moon cut into one of the bathroom doors, denoting “the indoor outhouse.”

The house is not entirely finished. The bulk of the construction took about a year, with Fricke finding that milling free logs for lumber is a good strategy for “when you’ve got more time than money.” The big payoff is that he doesn’t owe a nickel on the place.

A deeply religious man who quotes Scripture at will, Fricke scratches his head when friends tell him they’re still waiting to see if they’ll get grant money to rebuild. He applied for that, too, and hasn’t heard anything since.

“I tell people all the time, just get going and God will meet you halfway.”

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Good for Mr. Fricke, he did a great job and did a great service to himself. I have spent about 10 weeks on hurricane relief down on the Miss. Gulf Coast, spending time a rebuilding in Biloxi, Gulfport, Pass Christian, Waveland and Bay St. Louis. It's a beautiful place and I hope to se it in it's glory someday.

Bravo Mr. Fricke. We do have to be our own cheering section sometimes. My husband and I lost our home in Louisiana in Hurricane Rita.(My parents and brother lost theirs in Katrina in Biloxi). We are doing the rebuilding ourselves also. And it is a beautiful place. We are eager to complete enough to move in soon. (Still in FEMA trailer - formaldehyde and all).
Would be pleased to meet you sometime on a visit to the coast. Seems we have alot in common. Not the least of which is gratitude for all the blessings from God.

Amazing!!! You are my new hero.

A Picture of the house after all that work would be really nice addition to this page!

We are all proud of you dad!!! I still find it amazing just what a bunch of trees blown over in a storm can become....Anyone interested in Dad's story, email me at [email protected] for some pics of dad's house. He'll be more than happy to share them, don't worry, they are free if anyone wants to see the work he has done on his house. Dad doesn't own a computer, but he will share them through me. Kudos to the writer, he did an excellent job describing.


I read your Dad's story today and was truly blessed by his testimony. He should
be an inspiration to all on the coast. I now live in Northern Virginia, but was
born in Natchez, Ms and raised in North Biloxi, Ms. Our families are still in
Biloxi and were very much affected by the storm. I was 13 when Camille came on
shore. I remember working and cleaning up our home place and then helping our
extended family clean their places. My parents didnt wait for the federal govt
to help. As your Father said " God will meet you half way."

Please send pics of the work your Dad has done thus far.

Best wishes to you
Sandra Norris

My parents have always been an inspiration as well as heroes to me! Mom and Dad, you are two perfect examples of what life is really all about. The world is a better place because of you. I also contribute a special thanks to the writer for exposing their dedication.

What an inspiring story.

Compare this guy to all of the folks in New Orleans that are all over the news today telling us that the "government" has not rebuilt their house fast enough. Maybe they could take a page from this guys playbook.

Wonderful job, he took what was left after a disaster and turned into something wonderful that he made with his own two hands. It goes to show what a determined person can do, I applaud his fortitude.

Way to go Uncle Bob-me, mom and the rest of the girls are so very proud of you as well. I will remember that God will meet us halfway ...it is so true. Kiss the family for us

Also to J. Allen from Shreveport....don't believe everything you see on TV-that is a handfull giving the rest of us a bad name. Most of the people who have stayed to rebuild are determined and hardworking.
The media fails to show the 89-yr-old man that I met in the 9th ward cutting his grass with a pair of scissors one week after the storm- and I could give first hand examples of the same determination everyday

What an inspiration! I hope I inherited 1% your strength and determination! Great job, Uncle Bob! I can't wait to share this with my kids.

God is good--all the time. All things to the good for those that believe in Christ Jesus. Thank you for being a living testament to the Living Word of God.

What an inspiration of Christianity at work Mr. Frick is!! Please send me pictures of his house. God bless you all!

Way to go Uncle Bob, I think that there should be more stories like this in the media. I think its terrible that the Mississippi Gulf Coast hasnt gotten the kind of exposure that New Orleans has. Sure New Orleans was under water for a couple weeks but the Gulf Coast looks as if it was leveled by a bomb. Yet when you compare the 2 it is clear that Mississippi has done much better in recovering even without the media attention and I think its because the inspirational, hard working and determined spirit that lives within the people of the gulf coast people like you Uncle Bob.

I don't know why everyone has to compare the tragedies of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, both areas were devastated. Both areas have wonderful hard working people who are amazing in their resilience. Both areas as well as the rest of the country have people looking for handouts.
This man is an inspiration to all who read his story. There should be more people like him. Truthfully there are lots of people who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and gotten back to business in a really difficult environment. Maybe not quite as resourcefully as Mr. Bob who is rightfully applauded in this encouraging article. Mississippi has been in a different situation for lots of reasons, political, socioeconomically and because of the media. In some cases it has been to their advantage and in some cases to their disadvantage. All involved would be better served if they would stop complaining and do the work themselves but it's more difficult to decide what to do in an area like New Orleans who is at the mercy of the levees to determine whether or not they will be safe if they rebuild. It is a time consuming process. You can't make everyone happy and the media often focuses on people who are upset with their personal situation. I'm glad that isn't the focus of this article


I have truly been touched with all this good talk. We need alot more of this kind of fellowship. Let`s keep up the good talk. May God bless everyone. THANK YOU everyone.

Truly Amazing the strength of this family. What an inspiration. I would love to see the finished home if you would be willing to share them.

I just came upon this article and am thankful I took the time to read it. So much of the time we hear the negative aspects of Katrina, it's refreshing to hear of something positive coming from the aftermath of this catastrophe. Mr. Bob is an amazing, strong willed, and resourceful person! He definately gets a big "THUMBS UP" from me!

That is great! Danny Schott Jr did the same thing by rebuilding his house that had been destoyed in Clairmont Harbor. He had a portable sawmill and cut trees from his property to rebuild. He was the first one to rebuild in that area. Bob, I really admire you and Danny for your ingenuity. It is wonderful to see how you responded to a disaster with hard work and determination. I wonder how many others in the area did the same thing! Good luck and keep up that spirit of determination. Sandra

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