For the past week, Curt’s family has been keeping us informed of a seemingly dire situation that is about to take place in his hometown of Percival, Iowa. Located roughly 10 miles from the Missouri River, the little farming community of Percival, as well as a few adjacent towns, are expected to flood completely as the overflowing river spills over the levees in the next few days. This could mean floodwaters in the range of 2 to 10 feet drowning homes, roads and farmland.
As I last heard, Curt’s dad (Paul) and stepmom (Judy) had packed up the contents of his grandparents’ home in two days and moved it all to storage in Nebraska City. At the same time, his Aunt, Uncle and cousins, who also live in Percival, boxed up their belongings and were temporarily relocating to a friend’s vacant home.
I tried to make sense of how this flooding occurs, and Curt did his best to explain it to me. Flooding is not new to this area in the spring and early summer. However, the last major flood happened in the ’50s and this one is predicted to be worse. I struggled to imagine how the river, quite a distance away, could flood the homes and livelihood of his loved ones, a place filled with many memories for everyone in the family.
Soon after I first met Curt almost 15 years ago (wow, time flies!), he drove me 45 minutes south of Omaha to his cozy home in Percival. I had to laugh when we drove through the “town.” If there was ever a defintion for “small town,” Percival would be it. About a mile long, if memory serves me right, main street is compromised of a gas station, a small fire station and an assortment of ranch-style houses and baseball field. There might be more there now, it’s been a little while since we’ve been back. Once through the town center, we turned down the main road to Curt’s house, passing endless acres of corn and soybeans. Arriving at the gravel road fronting his house, I suddenly realized I had finally arrived in the country.
I immediately fell in love with the vast, open landscape that beckoned me to kick back and relax. I cherished morning strolls with Peanut and Mango (and the resident dogs, Duffer and Duchess) through his grandpa’s apple orchard that separated their houses. The dogs equally shared my joy at being in the country, and could often be seen sniffing out and chasing down rabbits, tails wagging of course. The sound of insects and birds never seemed to stop and the smell of clean air engulfed me. Both Grandpa and Paul were corn and bean farmers, an incredibly demanding job that required long, grueling hours during the summer and a lot of praying for good weather and abundant yields. Though I never had the chance to meet Curt’s mom, Theresa, he often shared memories of her amazing vegetable garden; a cornucopia of tasty produce that was eventually eaten fresh, canned or frozen. I often thought I could settle down in a place like Percival.
It was a sad day when Paul eventually had to sell the farm and all his equipment due to dropping corn prices and diminishing income. This feeling of sadness only worsened when we found out that Paul and Judy were selling their home on the farm as well and moving to a suburb of Omaha. I had a flashback of all the memories spent on the farm, as I’m sure Curt did too, and realized how lucky I had been to spend quiet time, in the slowness of the country, just enjoying life. Thankfully, his gradparents, aunt, uncle and cousins continued to live just a half-mile down the gravel road.
To visit Percival is to not care what time it is, nor be concerned about rush hour or traffic reports, to savor the peacefulness of the farmland, to be amongst people that all know each other, to watch an array of colors fill the sky with the setting of the summer sun, to count fireflies at dusk and to gaze at the infinite stars that illuminate the sky from a blanket on the lawn.
I can’t begin to imagine the stress and uncertainty that Curt’s family is enduring; packing everything they own and cherish in the span of a couple days, leaving homes handbuilt by loved ones and praying that God will spare them from the worst damage. Thankfully, unlike a tsunami or tornado, they have ample warning and time to prepare. Yet, not knowing what will be left of their homes must be nerve racking. Please (please) keep them in your thoughts and prayers.