Getting out and about yesterday I learned of the devastation that Hurricane Irene had visited on our small upstate towns. It turns out we got nine inches of rain in six to eight hours on Sunday, causing flash flooding. While I was dealing with loose sheep in the pounding rain, water in the valleys rose five feet in minutes.
Above is the bridge at the foot of the mountain in Keene. Up the road the Keene Fire Department building was swept away, leaving only the front frame and doors, like a false front for a movie set.
Almost all our local bridges were or are closed, making travel to some towns nearly impossible. The highway bridge at the Olympic ski jumps is one-lane only, with traffic backed up for long waits. Crossing one vehicle at a time, one can understand why. Uprooted trees are pressing on the high-water side of bridge in a tangled mat towering twenty feet high and fifty feet across.
Descriptions of trees and boulders shooting down the rivers in thundering walls of water sound terrifying.
My friend Larry’s farm on the River Road lost thirty feet of pasture and fencing to the roaring Ausable. A neighbor’s horses had to be evacuated to Larry’s barn on higher ground and were led a quarter mile down the road through rushing water up to their bellies.
Crops were drowned and the topsoil carried away. Roads have washed into fields and some highways are a foot deep in mud. The familiar face of Cascade Mountain above us has been ripped by a new landslide.
Just to add to the anxiety, last night at evening chores I turned out the animals and then realized something was wrong with Lucy’s horse Birch.
He was colicking and trying to roll against the pain. I got him up and called both Larry (my horse mentor) and the vet. The vet said she could try but thought there was no way to reach me over the blocked roads. Instead Larry kindly drove out and gave Birch some prescription meds he had on hand. Lucy walked Birch up and down the driveway for an hour.
I was back at the farm checking him at 9 PM when the vet called back. She thought that as an old horse Birch might have colicked due to anxiety over the storm, the banging doors, and the change in routine (staying inside for 24 hours) and that keeping him in his stall overnight, without the cows, might make him worse. He certainly was not happy alone, neighing and anxiously biting chips out of the stall walls. On the vet’s recommendation, I turned him out.
He was a white ghost in the darkness at the pasture gate, his head lifted high and his nostrils flared, frantically bugling, “Where are you?” to the herd high in the pasture. Then he galloped up the hill, tail streaming, and was gone.
This morning he is fine, thank goodness, and I’m heading to Larry’s to help him try to salvage some fencing in his back pasture.