The performance art aspects of the holiday (the cleaning, cooking, baking and decorating) took over for a while. Then everyday adversity, weather and illness ruptured my guest list, leaving more empty places at the glittered table than there were guests.
A Christmas Mass that filled my heart, reminding me of the layers of significance in incarnation, the ultimate being. Dave sitting on the floor, building an intricate, balanced marble maze with the two older grandchildren. In 1935, in the Republican River Valley of southern Nebraska, many people were barely scraping by.
In the midst of the Dust Bowl, who could imagine the vast quantity of water that would soon come their way, in Nebraska’s deadliest flood?
For a back-in-the-day newspaper account of the concurrent flood and tornado events, you may find it interesting to read this special edition published by the Omaha World-Herald in June, 1935, scanned and offered online, courtesy of the NOAA. It’s something worth remembering, during this Memorial Day week, how small we are here on our planet, and how deep are the places we inhabit. Playing on the farm, shopping on what was then a thriving main street with two grocery stores, a Ben Franklin five and dime, two drug stores, clothing stores, a drive-in burger joint and several cafes .
These childhood and family memories form the backdrop and my inspiration to research and write about Nebraska history, especially events that unfolded near the Republican River. Historians suspect Jesse, a hunted man, intended to leave his criminal life and settle down, but couldn’t quite afford it. With permission, I drew this sketch of a sacred bundle on display at the Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site near Republic, Kansas. As I consider this object, I think about the manual labor and arts of preparing the skins and the pipe. If I had to send my child running for survival today, with only seconds to decide, what bundle of meaning would I thrust into those young hands, to inspire my future generations?
Gilda the WunderSchnauzer is sitting at my side as I type, not in adoration, but trembling with anticipation. When I heard of this week’s overnight deluge, I immediately recalled the Big Thompson flash flood of 1976, which occurred while I still lived in Colorado.
To make a long story short, my parents are both stressed and blessed, spending the last week stranded at a motel in a small community along I-25.
So, whether you’re riding in the car together, or at the supper table, teach your children well…and teach them to harmonize! Multiple choice question time: What did this author do during this week after publication of her first novel? The internet marketing manuals tell me I should have been spending this week sending out press releases, organizing bookstore and blog tours, tweeting the name of my novel ten times a day and pressing that marketing pedal to the metal.
The family, the house, the garden, the creative writing and the music…these things have waited, set gently aside since my surgery in March. This time, a few simple lines of dialogue struck me, and as I haven’t been able to verify the exact words, I paraphrase here. Even though I’ve traveled a bit and lived in many different places, serial mobility was a challenge. My time with the Benedictines reinforced my notions of hospitality and my creative side sees holidays as an opportunity to go a little crazy. There was little of what I’d planned, yet we still enjoyed bright visitations, abundant grace and presence, such as . Although I never heard them mention the deluge of 1935, now known as Nebraska’s Deadliest Flood, I learned of it as I researched that region for my first novel, The Darkwater Liar’s Account.
The national economic depression, so intense as to be capitalized to the Depression, took its toll. Who could anticipate the devastation such an ordinarily peaceful river, the Republican, could bring? The Weather Bureau in the early 1930s began to replace its weather-tracking kites with airplanes, to gather weather data, particularly in tracking cold- and warm-air masses.
Over that Memorial Day, then commonly known as Decoration Day and celebrated on Thursday, May 30, the rainfall increased dramatically. The catastrophic storm that moved east on Decoration Day, 1935, dumped 24 inches of rain in one day and followed a nearly-perfect course for disaster, flooding those tributaries—the Arikaree, Frenchman, Blackwood, Beaver, Buffalo, Red Willow and Sappa Creeks, to name several. In their oral history, they recalled that tame-looking water source to have risen so high, it spread from bluff to bluff. In the last days of May and into June, 1935, the Republican raged, cresting twice in a few days. I’ve heavily researched the flood, delving into personal accounts, newspapers, local histories and weather analyses. The land under us, its rivers and the weather that swirls overhead, these are beyond our measurement, reckoning and control.
To survive, we do well to walk humbly and embrace the history, stories, wisdom and community that preceded, surround and root us. Some curl up like baby mice on too-small chairs and sofas in the waiting room, reaching for sleep. Resonant harmonies and hopeful melodies lift and carry my tired mind where sleep won’t. Music, backlit by lightning, lives here in the dark, washing through the blinking, whirring monitors and pumps, breathing hope and strength into my tired body and mind. Some of that local history infuses The Darkwater Liar’s Account, while more details move to the forefront in the novels I’m currently writing.


There was another man who inquired to purchase a farm south of Franklin, back in March of 1882, decades before my grandfather settled there. After visiting the Nebraska farm, he made the fateful decision to round up a gang and rob the Platte City Bank to finance his retirement.
Because of the bundle’s ongoing sanctity to the Pawnee people, on-site photographs are prohibited.
Only a woman could possess a bundle, which usually hung on the west wall of a home or above an altar, while only men could utilize it in ceremonies. A young Pawnee girl named Sadie carried it away on horseback from the famous battle at Massacre Canyon near Trenton, Nebraska, in 1873. The soybeans and corn tell us what time it is, so to speak, as sprouts crack through brown soil, leaf, spread and canopy the ground. Right now my daughter, along with our whole family, is growing impatient for the birth of her third child and even all these years later, I remember what that feels like, that sense of fullness, holding that squirming, beautiful life who’s just on the verge of visibility. This is how we are blessed, breath by breath, but we must be patient for what matters most. Photos and video at our fingertips give us a safe, distant view of things we’re thankful not endure. That was a disastrous night of 12- to 14-inch rains that fell within four hours around Estes Park, and 144 people died. The family gathering was a great idea actualized at the worst possible time, but, who could have guessed? Most days they haven’t been able to leave the facility, due to a combination of physical disabilities and rising water. This was the hardest part for me and I pretended to be useful by searching online (my sister lost her internet access) to check county and state road maps for passable roads.
The whole notion of music as a social experience has receded in a cultural tide of personal music collections, earbuds and mp3 players. Editing, proofreading and publishing have been such solitary activities, I hadn’t anticipated that so many other people would cheer when I released that story into the wild.
As Amelia talked over the radio to her husband, he remarked that when she returned from circling the globe, they would go home. As a child, I was often the new girl, as my father’s career demanded; we called IBM “I’ve Been Moved” for good reason. About fifteen years ago, I was blessed to fall among Benedictines, finding fellowship and education at a monastery near my home. Benedict wasn’t simply recommending to his followers that they commit to a geographic place, although that is implied and can be a good thing to consider, maybe especially so in our lightfooted (dare I say “landloping?”) culture. Daily life anchors me in its blessed routines and my daily wholeness practices support my health, contentment and creativity. While radio programming was a big deal in the cities, radios and telephones were considered luxuries, even a waste of money, for many rural Nebraskans.
Church and social gatherings pulled people together, and gossip was a means of sharing and rehashing not only scandal, but also politics, national and international news. For the average person on the Great Plains, the impending weather was rarely forecast with any real accuracy.
What became Colorado Spring’s catastrophe, its own Memorial Day Flood, seems now to have been not only a tragedy there, but also a herald of an unfolding disaster on the Great Plains.
As the water gushed into the North and South Forks of the Republican, it created a wave of destruction that spanned three states and took weeks to ebb, defying prediction or belief. They camped on high ground and warned the first settlers away from the river bottom, but the water seemed so peaceful, and the soil so fertile there .
It took 113 human lives, killed tens of thousands of cattle and other livestock, destroyed homes, farms, businesses and crops, and coiled railroad iron like barbed wire. I’ve driven and walked along much of the river’s course, from Kansas to Colorado, and it’s hard to believe, standing beside its gentle current, that it could have ever had such destructive power. We do our best to predict and direct our activities in line with the environment, but the earth holds us, not the other way around. One member of that last gang was Robert Ford, the man rumored to have shot Jesse in the back of the head while Jesse straightened a picture on the wall. He might have grown restless after a season or two, called out of the furrows and barn, back to his old ways, by wail of a train whistle or the clank of a bank vault door. On that day, a thousand Sioux surprised 350 Pawnee men, women and children on their summer buffalo hunt, and approximately seventy Pawnee were killed.
We watch breadth, height and fanning of leaves that wave like water under the summer winds, until the colors peak and begin to fade. She is the only person left in the world who shares my memories of our childhood, our parents, our Shanghai, our struggles, our sorrows, and, yes, even our moments of happiness and triumph.
It was there on the hymnal pages, too—those stacks of notes that told the basses, altos and sopranos in the congregation how to sing together nicely, climbing with our voices to heaven. Choirs and musical groups still practice and perform in secular and sacred settings, but your average person doesn’t sing much outside the shower or commute, let alone with other people.
I like seeing some movies more than once because the best films, like the best fiction, are deep with resonance and meanings that don’t jump out at me; on review, my mind links together ideas and themes that weren’t obvious, at first. The first implies a traveling show, a potentially solo journey around the world where, whenever you land your plane or pitch your tent, tada!
It’s a reluctance to commit to a community, to other people, that carries the spiritual risk. Yet, I’ve noticed whenever I have a long (self-imposed and moderately ridiculous) to-do list, I shift into a state of less presence, becoming less settled in my being.


How that love was to be incarnated into handcrafted chocolates is a mystery I won’t explore now, after the fact, but it felt symbolic at the time. Farmers couldn’t get a break; rain fell only sporadically, drought scorched crops, grasshopper plagues devastated what did grow and dust storms carried off topsoil. Many country homes weren’t yet tied to electrical service and relied on generators and battery power for lights, radios and telephones, if they had them. What was known or could be guessed at from widely-spaced weather stations and basic weather maps, was only sporadically communicated to the average citizen.
Those heavy thunderstorm systems moved east across the high desert, down into Nebraska and Kansas. Given the forecasting and communication limitations of the day, and no flood control established along the river course, tragedy ensued. It washed out over 300 miles of roads and over 300 bridges, effectively isolating whole towns from the outside world for weeks, even  months. It’s easy to see why the settlers were skeptical, and today it’s even easier to underestimate that river.
My grandmother, Laura, operated Laura’s Cafe on the highway for years, while Grandpa Henry farmed and worked as a janitor at the county courthouse.
Franklin gave me a great taste of small town life in Nebraska, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s. Ford may have gotten his $10,000 reward, but Jesse never fulfilled his dream, and Franklin never had its notorious outlaw farmer. A long smoking pipe, fragments of arrows, a fork tipped with bone and small American flags adorn the outside.
Minds and bodies overflow with affection, aching to stroke little fingers and kiss a downy head, to breathe in those “new baby smells,” even the not-so-fresh ones!  To hear that voice for the first time. The whole event gives a new dimension to the quote above, from Song of Songs, part of the epigraph to my novel. My sister, who lives north of Longmont, forged countless heroic trips on back roads in and out of her own flooded and possibly-to-be-evacuated neighborhood to bring food, water, aid and comfort to the stranded travelers, whenever she could.
Benedict of Nursia recorded in his Rule about restlessness and stability impressed me the most. Committing to another person is the hardest work we face as human beings, whether he or she is a spouse, friend, child or co-worker; I’ve learned this the hard way, through trying and failing. I start to let my self-preservation practices slide out of priority, because that list of to-dos behaves like a loud bar customer sitting at my kitchen counter, bellowing for another drink. Rural customers with telephones usually had party lines, where the customer would listen for his or her number of rings, to answer . While today we can track oncoming weather with radar, tune in to special weather television broadcasts, receive alerts on our mobile phones, and even send instant messages to those in the weather’s way, in 1935, most people were at the mercy of the elements. There’s a reservoir in Harlan County, begun in 1946 and completed in the 1950s, that’s meant to tame the Republican.
My paternal grandparents lived there, too, until they died, so Franklin holds many great memories for me.
I teased her that I wasn’t sure if I should send her flowers or a sump pump, in gratitude. My mother has a beautiful voice and nothing pleased me more than singing beside her, hearing her voice rise and lead and blend with those around us. It brings to mind the spirit of the American West, cowboys around their campfires and homesteaders crossing the plains and mountains in prairie schooners.
He mentions “gyrovagues” (translated in some texts as “Landlopers”), monks who move from one monastic community to another, failing to commit to any one and living at their ease until something disturbs them, at which time they leave for another, more pleasant place. We can’t hold every person equally, but when we make a commitment, we may do well to remain, to strengthen that meaningful bond. A Kansas Historical web site reports that this particular bundle was once x-rayed, and contains stuffed bird bundles, hawk bells, counting sticks and a leather strip decorated with glass beads. The bones in those bird bundles once bore feathers high above the earth, with bright eyes looking down on prairie grasses, earth lodges and the twisting Republican River.
A sign of enduring faith for a struggling people, suspended behind glass for this writer to sketch and ponder. When that last combine pulls out of the field, headed for the machine shed, it means another cycle is complete and it’s time for the earth, and farmers, to get a little rest.
She’s reunited with one of them today, finally, and another is driving from Denver to visit her tomorrow. Trains brought in newspapers for national news, and local presses did their best to keep up with world news.
Choirs were part of life and I grew up believing people were meant to sing together, different voices and notes together. Sadie kept it safe as her family’s spiritual legacy, and her daughter entrusted it to the Kansas State Historical Society. In emergencies, the operator could ring through to these fortunate few, and telephone switchboard operators proved themselves heroes in Nebraska, 1935, warning many of the oncoming disaster.
He later indulged his love for harmony as an adult by being part of various barbershop groups, even in competition.



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Comments to Switchboard nowthis

WELCOME_TO_HELL

02.10.2014 at 13:11:31

Different concerns connected to civil 5-year terms, the Do Not Call Registry is actually funded.

SCARPION

02.10.2014 at 19:54:58

Re-fingerprinted when transferred to yet another agency or correction facility.