It has been a beautiful but rather cool late spring, and there's nothing to complain about. The crops are growing in, and there's fresh-cut hay in the meadows. The lush green of the pastures clashes with the black and white [Holstein] dairy cows. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic about having a good summer, if you're a farmer.
Heartbreak came recently for many, in the form of rain. Rain that started on a Friday and continued until mid-day Sunday. Day and night it came, often in a downpour, until the saturated land couldn't hold any more and it started to run...from the top of every mountain, down every crack, crevice, gully and draught, then into a stream or creek and down into the river valley—all at once! Dry washes became deep, raging torrents of rolling muddy water, carrying away anything in their path—trees, rocks, boulder, logs, fence lines, and sometimes livestock. It all empties out into the swollen Kickapoo River valley.
When the rain finally ended, the entire Kickapoo valley was underwater. Valley traffic had come to a complete standstill, from the headwater town of Ontario down to Gays Mills and beyond.
It's beginning to look like it's time to adjust out lives here to the fact that terrible, "500 year" floods are no longer a rare occurrence.
I'm lucky and proud to know many of my fellow Kickapoogians because when hard times come, these folks help their neighbors. It's one of the few generally good things that comes from a disaster.
By Monday afternoon after the storm, the water in the creek that runs by my house was clear as a bell, and the rocks and sand were washed clean as can be. It will take two weeks for the River itself to run clean again, if there isn't any more rain.
When the water rises in the valley, it pushes much of the wildlife back up to the edge of the water line. Raccoons, skunks, possums, deer, rabbits, squirrels and others may find themselves swimming at times before reaching dry land. The Sandhill cranes lead their flightless chicks to safety, if there's time. Young, flightless ducklings and goslings can swim, so they will quickly be led from danger by their parents. It saddens me though to know that others perished in the high waters. The grassland birds who had nestlings or eggs suffered a great loss. There are 50 to 60 pairs of bank swallows who had built their little mud nests under a small river bridge, which got completely covered by the high water. These stories are many and hard to swallow.
Since the flood I've seen large, slow-moving Snapping turtles along the side of the roads, searching for a place to lay their eggs. Many of these beautiful turtles couldn't make it across the road, and became victims of our fast-moving, motorized society. They may have survived the record floodwaters, but they still face life-threatening challenges.
In spite of all the recent destruction, there are still many reasons to be thankful. Simple, everyday reasons like the sweet fragrance of flowers blooming. This is my favorite time of the year for such fragrances, as they come from every corner of the yard. In the garden, a large bed of grape Irises gives off a sweet scent that can be enjoyed from as far as 50 yards away. This is the week that the Black locust trees are in bloom; their branches are full of creamy white blossoms. Their sweet perfume attracts many kinds of bees and other insects who depend on this source of nectar. The large Mock orange bush is in full boom as well, and is making its bid for being the loveliest aroma in the yard. I can't resist pushing my nose into those white flowers. For a few soothing minutes, my thoughts are diverted from the tragedy and heartache of the floodwaters, to the loveliness of summer's welcome.
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