(This month I’m posting excerpts from my books and telling you the story behind them.)
I remember several floods while growing up on the farm I featured in my Butter in the Well book series.
The creek runs through the middle of the farm, with the river on the west border. Most times the creek is dry, but it can flood quickly as Kajsa found out there first night on their new land.
“March 31, 1868
…Tonight and for quite a while we will sleep in the wagon and cook on the campfire. We stacked the lumber beside the wagon, so we have more room in the wagon bed. Carl may sleep on the ground, but Christina needs to be protected from the damp ground and the creatures that I’m sure will check us out tonight.
Thank goodness Christina has stayed healthy. Many children died on the long trip to America and were buried at sea. It broke my heart to hear about parents burying their babies along the wagon trails going west. The families had to move on, knowing they would never visit the grave. One woman told me she hoped her little one would be left in peace and not dug up by a wolf looking for food, or an Indian looking for clothing.
My thoughts have been interrupted several times by the dark clouds building up above the bluffs to the west. We experienced a few thunderstorms in Illinois and Christina was terrified. I was pretty uneasy myself. We were in a house then, not out in the wide open, lost in a sea of waving grass…
April 1, 1868
It poured all last night, maybe a slight pause, and then more buckets of rain. Carl and I were soaking wet, trying to keep Christina and our supplies halfway dry. Our poor animals were tied to the wagon, having no choice but to be miserable where they stood. In the dawn light we saw we were surrounded by water. The creek had flooded its banks and was rising around us. Our stack of boards was floating away so Carl and I had to jump from the wagon and splash around in the muddy waters, shoving the lumber back into the wagon. We had to move farther up our land to the northeast to escape the floodwater. The creek I was so happy about had become a life-threatening curse. It is evening now and the water is receding. We now know that the land will be our master and not the other way around.”
(Excerpt from Butter in the Well, © by Linda K. Hubalek)
The creek has flooded the farm on occasion for over 140 years. Sometimes it’s been a decade between floods, or a week depending on the year.
You can hear the floodwater coming up the “alley” between the corrals before you see it. It has seeped into the barn and granary, ruining things sitting on the floor of the buildings if they weren’t moved out in time. I remember tying the horses and 4-H calves up to the fence east of the house to be out of harm’s way when I was in grade school.
The house is on higher land but the cellar has been flooded a few times. I don’t know if their first home, a dugout was ever threatened.
Can you imagine Kajsa’s worry as the waters crept up towards their farm? It would have been the same as my parent’s worry decades later… with the same creek and the same buildings.