We had a couple of other terrific entries, but new submissions take precedence over those who have already been magazine contributors, and while judges are allowed to link up, they are excluded as actual contestants. Well-written thought-provoking work nonetheless: The Summit from theinnerzone whom we’ve already had the honor of representing, and from Kelly Waite, one of our judges, The Thread of Ancient Memories
Along the Big Buddy is a moving and memorable account of the severity Mother Nature can wreak on even the smallest of creatures. Congratulations Katy B!
The first remarkable sight was a multitude of tiny amphibian carcasses smashed flat and turning gray on the pavement of the bridge.
Apparently the frogs had tried to swim for their lives but wound up here, albeit on higher ground, only to be run over by cars. This was before state authorities closed the thoroughfare when the Great Flood of 1993 threatened traffic on the old cantilevered truss bridge on that stretch of Missouri Highway 41.
In the flood, farmers’ fields were swallowed by the raging currents and crops decimated by the rising water level. It was a record-breaking amount of rainfall, an incredible deluge, and the flood peaked at levels not seen in 50-odd years, according to the locals. A spot of dry ground could scarcely be seen in any direction, from the overhanging northern shore of the Missouri River.
A frightened buck swam the river for all it was worth, instinct directing the animal farther away from its human enemy but inevitably to be drowned in the flood’s depths. Mature deer in those parts might fall to a hunter’s rifle in November but not drown in June. Onlookers gasped, watching the wide-eyed animal’s rigorous effort leading only to its own ultimate demise.
Breached levees meant water eventually reached the platform. No entry, no egress. Cars were rerouted from the short passageway. With no access to ferries, some trips were lengthened to 50 miles. Resident numbers in surrounding communities were relatively small but affected nonetheless. That stretch of road was a fraction of the 30,000 square miles flooded that season, yet anyone without a boat and a vehicle parked on the other side saw their daily commute doubled or tripled.
The summer months drifted into fall, and the rain continued. People rallied to fill sandbags in hopes of keeping the tide at bay. Those slogging through the murky flood waters were warned to get vaccinated against tetanus, and Anhueser Busch sent in canned drinking water during the boil order, as the potability of submerged wells couldn’t be trusted. Their fortification efforts were thwarted.
The Mighty Missouri had pulled similar tricks in the past, and the people who lived anywhere near the river’s bottom knew to expect the unexpected. Other vivid mishaps in the not-too-distant past lived on in the memories of long-time residents. At Mother Nature’s mercy, farmers braved the floodplain and rolled the dice every planting season. They waited for the channel to pour from its banks and obliterate those months of their work, their livelihoods submerged.
Other tragedies had befallen those same shores. The current forced swimmers into its powerful grasp, pulled children to their deaths despite signs warning of the powerful undertow and swimming being prohibited. Bodily remains were never found, likely swept away to the ocean in tiny fragments, prefaced by a parental torrential downpour of tears.
Another 20 years passed before tragedy struck again, this time to a visitor in the summer of 2013 – an overnight paddler succumbed to a heart attack following a leg of the Missouri River 340 race to commemorate the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Exhaustion and heat turned out to be the least of the man’s physical challenges just after dropping out of the contest. Another death along the river’s banks.
When we may look nature in the eye, humanity’s comparative insignificance is obvious. No personal strength can match nature’s severity. Natural forces can overwhelm people as if they were tiny, four-limbed creatures melding into asphalt along those passageways across the Great Plains and those waters traversing the planet.
New Prompt: BLUE
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