Many of you have contacted me, by phone and by e-mail about Rusty and Jo May, where we hold Hammer In, after the big flood of September 12 and 13. I have not been ignoring you, I just haven’t had any good information. As it happened, I left to go muzzle loading hunting the morning of September 12 and was out of communication. I had no idea of the flooding until a full week after it happened, when another hunter told us about it on Friday, September 20.
As soon as I heard about it, just about my first concern was for Rusty and Jo, as I had learned that the Big Thompson had been especially bad, and that the damage was very heavy there. I admit, it was hard to absorb exactly how big, and how destructive this flood had truly been.
I spent substantial time trying to get some hard information on how Rusty and Jo had fared with this flood, but it was frustratingly elusive. The road was closed on the east side of the bridge, and the National Guard was turning people away who did not live in that area. The phone was out, and people were hard to contact, and often had little information to pass on.
I finally was able to contact Jenny Seery, Jim’s younger daughter, whose family is living in Jim’s old house. She had gone to Rusty’s as soon as warnings had gone out. The river was rising fast and in the 20 minutes she was there it had come out of it’s banks and was over the pavement on Hy 34.
The Mays had managed to get out with the horses, and a few other important items, and not much else. But, I did find out that Rusty and Jo had gotten out, and were OK. The place, however, was right in the worst of it. Some of you may have seen the video which was broadcast, I guess nation wide. (Video is below) Water over Hy 34 and up to the window on the front of Rusty’s shop.
I learned through the grapevine that there was going to be a work party to help clean up on Sunday, October 6th. There was no question that I would be there. Frankly, I did not know what to expect. I wasn’t even sure if the National Guard was even letting people in yet.
Getting in was not the problem, but I will tell you I was just not prepared for what it looked like when I dropped over the hill and into the river bottom on Hy 34. Water had been up several feet over the whole bottom. All the homes and businesses there were flooded, and many in such bad shape they are essentially condemned.
Once I got to Rusty’s it was rather strange. It looked like his place and it didn’t. The house and shop were there, like usual, but there were sheds stacked up against it on the west side. The trees along the banks of the river are still there, but there was junk washed up against them five or six feet high. There were places where the bank had washed away, mostly down at the east end. The little park across the river was nothing but boulders and gravel. Having been through both, Rusty is certain that this flood was substantially worse than the Big Thompson flood of 1976, and his place sustained a lot more damage.
The power of the water was just incredible, and the devastation just indescribable. They had been able to get a big front loader on Saturday, and much junk had been moved and something of order had begun to develop around the place, but the amount of debris and damage was hard to take in.
About 30 people spent the whole day working, and much progress was made in getting sand, silt and loads of other debris cleaned up. There was a small bobcat loader and a big front end loader, both of which did huge amounts of work in moving the junk around. There were many tree trunks and branches which had to be sawn up and hauled out. All of Rusty’s horse fixtures, sheds and corrals were pretty much destroyed. The big shed against the carport on the west side may have saved things, as it diverted the current away from the house and shop, but getting it moved away will be a job. While the machines did a lot, there was still a lot which needed to be done by hand.
Rusty plans to stay there, and recover as much as possible. He’s still not sure how much of his leather working equipment is salvageable as the building has been posted for “limited access” and is full of mud and debris. But he is adamant that he will be there, and that he is planning on Hammer In being in what used to be his east pasture.
They are planning on another work day on Sunday, October 20, weather permitting, and anyone who is available and willing to join us is welcome, and there is plenty yet to do. As of now, shovels, crow bars, wheelbarrows, chainsaws and the like are the tools of choice, though I will try to post here if that changes.
Rusty asked me to thank all of the Hammer In folks for their concern and best wishes, and says he’s looking forward to Hammer In next June.
I’ll post more here as there is anything new to add.