Close quarters nurture close family ties that live on after floodwaters recede

Good-bye, little house near the Split Rock Creek. The floodwaters won in the end, but we’ll cherish the memories forever.

My husband’s parents, Arden and Mary Ellen, said good-bye this week to their little house on the banks of Split Rock Creek.

The rolling green pastures, lush farm ground and thick grove of trees are deceptively tranquil considering the destructive force of the river in high-water years.

For decades, a closely monitored sump pump kept flood damage at bay — until last week when an 8-inch deluge 30 miles upstream sent the Split Rock Creek surging through the entire property.

With cookies baking in the oven, the couple, ages 85 and 83, watched from their kitchen window the river roaring through their pasture as it had many times before. 

But when water rapidly crept over the front lawn to the front door, they realized they should have evacuated ... and now it was too late.

Their driveway and gravel road were submerged, as was the bridge over the Split Rock Creek, preventing travel by traditional means.

By the time a DNR rescue boat docked at their front door, the two were sitting at their kitchen table in water halfway up to their knees.

They reached dry ground with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a small bag of personal items and fresh cookies.

… Which were immediately shared along with repeated, earnest expressions of thanks. “How will we ever repay you?”

We smiled about rescued cookies, but the gesture showed gratitude, humility and generosity in the face of adversity. 

And it’s how they built a lifetime of relationships with family, friends and neighbors … who know what to do when disaster strikes.

When the waters receded Saturday morning, help arrived in the form of cookies, bars, sandwiches, pizzas and coolers of beverages.

The farmyard became a staging area for trailers, a roll-off dumpster and an army of workers who removed, cleaned and dried what could be saved from the flooded house.

Which, sadly, could not be saved.

For most of their 65 married years, Arden and Mary Ellen lived and worked on the scenic green acreage, raising four children — three girls and a boy.

The family of six shared three small bedrooms and one tiny bathroom that was a pantry converted in 1963 when indoor plumbing arrived. 

My husband, the baby, claimed his closet-sized space behind a curtained doorway just off the dining room.

As boxes of photographs and heirlooms were carried out, the siblings chattered about memories of their beloved home.

The close ties nurtured within those close quarters now thrive today with their own children and grandchildren.

Today the soggy old home sits empty and abandoned, but those treasured family ties remain afloat — alive and well.

Good-bye, little house near the Split Rock Creek. The floodwaters won in the end, but we’ll cherish the memories forever.

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