Spring floods worried Bill and Liz until they were sick. In times when warm, moist air masses blowing out of the South collided with the North flow of the Juniata River, disaster seemed imminent. Bill stayed up all night when it rained, sipping cups of Maxwell House, sneaking beers and smoking cigarettes to ease the burden of river fear.
Bill, in an insulated shirt and two pairs of long-johns watched with the window in the kitchen open as the river rose like an overflowing toilet. He guarded with a flashlight and judged the creek’s course based on the distance of the fling of his smoked Camel butts . If things got too bad, there was not much they could do but run upstairs and wait. The passing river ice and trees in the yard were like watching a train wreck.
The home in which they lived for more than thirty years was a wooden, two-story dwelling– taller than it was at the base, but with a good foundation. The house on numerous occasions was shaken to its beams by several hydriodic floods that gushed through the Petersburg yard, wearing away the many layers of enamel paint that insulted the structure.
Spewing Spring floods had eaten entire woodpiles that Bill had carefully chopped and stacked against the house. The losses made him sick.
A charcoal barbeque grill with near-edible pieces of day- old chicken skin still clinging to embers of doused lumps of coal floated like a marshmallow raft atop the dirt-brown flood water. The boat of picnic slowly made its way onto the front porch like a carcass dragged in by the cat, although the river itself was not an animal.
The charcoal grill was kept far down the yard near horseshoe pits. Cluttered around it were piles of beer cans and bottles that vanished when the time was right, as did charcoal grills, or gardens planted in hopes of dryer seasons.
The floods were fierce, but the house that lasted those floods for almost a century is as whole as the woman Liz who still lives there and takes pity on those in Fargo.