High water

I have no immediate plans to head home to the town where I grew up, but if I were going that direction, I’d need to make sure that I chose my route carefully. There are two routes that we take when heading that way. One is to follow the Interstate. We’ve gone both directions on that road many times. My preferred route is to take the older US highway that cuts through the corner of Wyoming and cuts across southeastern Montana. Right now, the intersection where Highway 212 meets Interstate 90 near the Little Bighorn Battlefield is under water so neither route is available. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t get there if we were heading that direction. the quickest route would be to cut up to Coalstrip from Lame Deer. We could also take the road from Broadus up to Miles City and then follow I94 into Billings.I’m thinking that is what some of the truckers are doing.

One of the amazing things about the flooding of this spring is how quickly we are receiving photos of the affected areas. With Facebook and other social media, we can see the conditions almost as soon as they occur.

Flooding is causing big problems in Indian Country, It isn’t just the major routes that are flooded. On Pine Ridge the flooding has cut off families. In places with entrenched poverty, there aren’t any surplus supplies in the first place and folks who are cut off by the waters are hurting. The story made the national news yesterday. Some folks had been cut off for a dozen or more days and it doesn’t look like the waters will recede for a few more days. Temperatures in the high forties in the hills with much of the ground still frozen underneath means that the runoff is coming quickly. The good news is that there isn’t much snow left in the hills. The bad news is that it will take days for the moisture that is running to get past the low-lying prairies to the east.

The National Guard is out helping folks, including delivering safe drinking water to a distribution point at Sharps Corner. The governor has paid a visit. Henry Red Cloud summed up things this way: “Things are hard and have been hard here for generations.”

These folks are our neighbors. It takes maybe an hour and a half to drive to Sharps Corner. Pine Ridge is a bit farther away, about 2 hours. But the distance between the communities is much more than a drive down the highway. 150 years of mismanagement and broken promises have built up a wall of mistrust. The reservation plan is largely a failure of historic proportions. The traditional way of life of plains tribes has been largely destroyed. Unemployment and generational poverty make life very difficult for those who live in reservation communities.

Despite poverty and a lack of resources, or perhaps because of those issues, the folks from reservation communities come to Rapid City more often than we go to their homes. They come to shop at discount stores to stretch their meager resources farther. They come to receive health care and to visit those who are in the hospital. They travel however they are able. There is no public transportation so often the journey is made in a car that we might not consider to be roadworthy. I don’t know how many times i’ve pumped a bit of gas into an old car so those riding in it could get back home and while I pump, I wonder whether or not the tires will make the trip.I wouldn’t want my family out on the highways with tires that are so badly worn.

Terrible accidents are part of the cost of this way of life.

The Pine Ridge Reservation is country that is usually very dry. Some of the “streams” that are flooding are really only dry creek beds most of the year. I’ve been down there often enough when there is just a little bit of rain to know that when that country gets wet it means mud - lots of mud.

It’s supposed to get up to 65 degrees here today - it may be as warm as 70 in Pine Ridge. We’re feeling pretty good about the warmer days. We’ve seen plenty of winter cold this year and we’re ready for things to seem like spring. The two highest fuel bills I’ve had in all of my years of living in this house have been the last two. I’m ready for some relief. We’ll probably spend as much time outside as possible. The ground in our yards may even being to dry out a bit. That warm weather, however, might not be a good thing for our downstream neighbors. Flood levels are expected to remain high and even rise a little bit due to the rapid melt of the snow in the hills. A search for a missing person that had been partially suspended due to the very cold weather has been moved up to tomorrow because there will be virtually no snow left in the search area.

My yard is practically begging me to rake up all the pine needles that have piled up over the winter. I’ve even seen a few shoots of fresh green grass out there, something that I’m sure is welcome to the deer that visit our yard every day. They’ll be spending more time there in the next few days, relishing the fresh grass.

Like other years, spring is coming. Summer isn’t that far away. And we are really looking forward to the change of seasons. But we also know that the times are changing. More weather extremes are part of our future. We need to do what we can to address the underlying causes of global climate change. At the same time we need to make sure that we are prepared to weather the storms. Most important of all, we need to make sure that we are prepared to help our neighbors. We might complain a little bit, but we don’t have it bad. Every season needs to be a season of sharing. We’re all in this together.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!