FLOOD (109,930 words): Rain, usually the farmer’s friend, becomes the enemy of the Conklin family farm, a farm that began as a homestead on the western Iowa prairie, grew into one of the largest and wealthiest farms in Humboldt County only to be washed away in a catastrophic flood that also destroyed one marriage but gave rise to another.
Download to your Kindle (eBook)
b f oswald
Nathanial Conklin wanted be a farmer from the time his was a little boy and the Homestead Act of 1862 gave him that opportunity. With a gift from his father and instructions in hand on how to build a sod house he leaves his Ohio home for the Iowa prairie. An astute businessman, he soon greatly increases his holdings, marries, helps grow a village into a prosperous town, and becomes the patron and defender of a beleaguered Amish community. Although his wastrel son will not inherit the farm, he gives Nathaniel a granddaughter who does, but who has to struggle to hold onto the land, only to lose it all and her marriage to the raging waters of Tadpole Creek. Although not immediately, the receding water grants her the opportunity for a new and happier life.
It was an innocuous little cloud, scarcely darker than the other scattered grey clouds mixed with puffy white ones being pushed lazily across the sky by a gentle southwest breeze. For a moment it paused, blocking the merciless glare of the mid July sun, wept several large drops of rain – but not enough to do more than dampen the over heated asphalt on which they fell – then moved on, keeping pace with its kin.
It was followed not long afterwards by a bigger brother, darker than its predecessor in a sky now more cloudy than clear. It too paused, then opened its belly disgorging large drops again, this time in greater numbers, enough to thoroughly wet the pavement and cause rising steam to mark its passing.
The breeze freshened causing the clouds to move faster. The few remaining white clouds were pushed to the eastern horizon and began to disappear, as did the patches of blue sky that had smiled down between them. Darker clouds soon covered the sky from horizon to horizon and it began to rain, gently at first, then harder.
The farmers in this part of Iowa looked up from their chores and smiled. They had worked through too many dry days of record heat, and worriedly watched crops begin to wilt as a result. This rain looked like it might become a good soaker – the kind of rain that fell at just the right rate to gently sink into the parched earth giving the corn and beans a much needed drink, stimulating the recently cut timothy and alfalfa to put up new growth in preparation for the late summer haying.
Tadpole Creek, scarcely wider than fifty feet at its widest was, with the exception of a few, small, stagnant pools, bone dry. Even though its source was a beaver pond and hundreds of acres of very well drained fields several miles north and west of town, it usually only ran fresh when the winter snows melted and during the heavier spring and fall rains. No one around could remember the last time it had run to flood.
During the night the rain lost its benevolence but none of its steadiness. What started out falling at the rate of a half-inch an hour was now pouring down at two inches an hour – and raining harder by the minute.
Dawn seemed to take a long time coming; the sky was so heavily laden with waterlogged clouds that scarcely any light could get through. Farmers looked out of their windows, no longer smiling, at the small ponds that began to appear in the dips and swales of their fields; the harbingers of drowned crops.
Tadpole Creek became a freshet, burbling merrily along, happy that it had been released from the drought.
The rain continued throughout the day, now at the rate of three inches an hour.
By noon the creek was making angry sounds. Its ripples and rapids had disappeared, replaced by a rushing brown torrent bearing detritus that in quieter seasons had accumulated in its bed and along its banks.
As the farm families and residents of the nearby town sat down to their evening meals, Tadpole Creek exited its banks and began to spread its roiling waters into nearby low lying areas.
And still the rain continued.