Wednesday and part of yesterday was a bad day for the flood-fighting effort. The city had brought in one pump, but it had problems and wasn’t working properly. When I got home Wednesday night, the water around my home was higher than when I had left Wednesday noon after checking my home, but the city workers had erected the clay dike and were busy maintaining it.
Parking was a problem, but I found a spot up the block from my home. A huge pump was brought in and set up out in the street at the northwest corner of my house to try to get the water pumped back over the dike.
Pump brought in by the city – the St. Marys is visible yet at the top of the dike-the sandbags piled in the middle are holding down a manhole cover where the river was backing up onto the street
Let me digress for just a moment. In July 2003 when we flooded, the city had brought in dump truck loads of sandbags to use, and we got those put in place. But the water was still getting through and running down into my basement. I am the lowest point on the block, so naturally the water came down to my one, little old corner to build up. And since the yard was a total disaster anyways, we dug a trench from three houses up down to the corner of my house.
My neighbors, who own the rental property next door, and I went together and rented a four-inch pump to decorate the corner of my yard. I had never run a pump before, so that meant I needed to learn the ins and outs of how to run the thing – not that it takes a rocket scientist to figure it out.
We put down plywood to support the weight of the pump. During the day while I was at work, one of the owners of the rental house watched the pump. When I got home, I grabbed a couple of hours of rest, and then went out at about 7:00 p.m. to spend the night on the porch swing. It was July, so at least it was warm.
I took out a couple of pillows and a light blanket and slept in the porch swing for three nights straight. I would doze – kind of hard to sleep really comfortably in a porch swing with a loud pump running close to you. I would get up every two hours to fill the pump with gas. My worst fear was that I would be so tired, I wouldn’t wake up and then the pump would run out of gas.
To further complicate things, my youngest son and I had just refinished the narrow strip of yard running along side my house the summer before. We had laid landscaping fabric down and lined the length with landscape timbers. We then put down lots of pretty red mulch to brighten it up. Let me tell you, pretty red mulch does a number on a pump. But good old ingenuity set in, and I brought out one of my spaghetti strainers, and we secured it to the end of the hose.
The first time I shut the pump off to put gas in, I forgot how I had been instructed to turn it back on. Dang – where was that rocket scientist manual when I needed it. I about panicked when I thought I couldn’t get the thing started. After talking to myself a minute or two and fiddling with every switch on the thing, I remembered how to turn it back on. And at 2:00 a.m. with not a soul around, I could laugh out loud at my stupidity. And, I could laugh with relief. I didn’t forget again how to turn it back on.
So back to this ginormous pump sitting in the street by my house rattling and humming right now. It is huge. Wednesday night as it tried mightily to begin throwing the water back out into the river, I could feel the vibrations. All I could think about was my basement wall which had a large crack in it and had sprung a leak Wednesday night. One of my neighbors who had been helping me told me to just plug it with my finger like the little Dutch boy. Uh huh, right.
So tonight as the pump growls for the third night in a row, I have been keeping the city workers supplied with coffee and snacks. It is the least I can do for those who have put in long, tiring hours to protect us and help us save our homes. It is cold out, and I thought about sitting out on the swing for a while, not that it would do me any good. But it is also hard to relax. The workers don’t complain, and they don’t even ask me why I don’t want a wall along the river. And for that, I am thankful.
How do I explain the love I have for my little area and for the St. Marys and Thieme Drive? How can I make anyone understand when they see these pictures and wonder why on earth I wouldn’t want a wall to protect me and my neighbors? I can only ask that you sit on my front porch on a warm summer’s day with a breeze blowing softly and the trees green with life and the twitters and chatter of the wildlife along the river bank and the sun shining down and the river peacefully flowing through the city – then tell me you don’t understand.