The Recovering Farmer

Friday, July 15, 2011

This Happened to Me

I received a call recently from a neighbour lady and during the course of the conversation she told me she was calling to see whether I was okay. I found the question rather curious. Was I okay? Where do I start? Define okay. Was wondering what she was after. She then informed me that she had heard that I had almost drowned. Almost drowned? And then I understood what she was referring to.

It happens that our home is perched on the edge of the Souris Valley. We have had a bird’s eye view of the flooding river. People have often asked me, because I am from Wawanesa, whether the flood is impacting us in any way. I often suggest that when our house floods most of Manitoba will be submerged. I have often dreamt of having a lake view property. Well, for the last three months it has been exactly that. It has been interesting, intriguing, and, yes, really picturesque. Unfortunately, I also understand what is a scenic view for me is devastating for many folks that live down stream and around the lakes that the Souris drains into.

Eleven years ago when we built our home we had a difficult time finding a water source. Ended up having to drill a well at the bottom of the valley, not that far from the river. In spring, as the flood began, I could quite easily keep an eye on the well as the trees were without leaves and so with binoculars I monitored the situation. The well was surrounded by water but there never was any danger of it becoming submerged. Two weeks ago, shortly after Minot was devastated by the flood and the forecast looked grim for Wawanesa, I decided that I needed to seal our well. In spite of the well being on a ridge and the well head being a good three feet above ground level, I felt it was better to be safe than sorry. We ventured down the hill with our supplies. The plan was simple. I would wade through the water to the well, seal it, and wade back. I did not realize how deep the water was. Turns out it was too deep to wade across. My wife went back to the house to get an air mattress. Perhaps I could use it to swim across. To ensure my safety she also brought back a life jacket. In my mind, being a man and all, I thought that somewhat unnecessary but to humour her I donned the life jacket, grabbed the air mattress and set out. I did not realize there was a current till my feet could no longer touch ground. Well, there was a current. Instantly, and with some speed, it started taking me towards the river. Not a good idea. I managed to grab a tree and surveyed the situation. My wife offered to go get help. I suggested I could probably make it back but might lose the air mattress. Long story short, I used my legs to push away from the tree and made it back to terra firma. My wife and I decided, at that point, that the well did not need sealing. The water would never get that high. I think that is often referred to as denial. It was the easy way out.

Turns out that three days later our well did become contaminated. Still could not believe that the well could be submerged. Wondered whether there was some other reason for it. So I spent the last weekend putting up a cistern so that we could have water hauled in. Small inconvenience compared to what many people are going through. Earlier this week my son and I canoed to the well. It became obvious that the well had been submerged. By now the water has retreated and the well is again producing crystal clear water. For safety reasons we are getting the water tested to ensure that it is safe for human consumption.

Of course, I never viewed my escapade as being life threatening. However, thinking back it could have been a lot more interesting than it was. I imagine a ride down the Souris, on an air mattress, would have been rather unpleasant. Well, it didn’t happen. All is well. And in the words of Mark Twain, “the rumours of my (near) demise have been greatly exaggerated”. Make it a good one.

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