When you think about disasters it’s easy to be relieved that the cost in human lives was low or non-existent such as our disaster. But the aftermath of our disaster was going to be huge. 1000’s of gallons of very polluted water containing a much higher acidity just filled a cave. Caves are formed by acidic water flowing through the soft limestone and carrying the calcium downstream. This process of course assumes a normal level of acidity in the water.
Higher acidity in the water means more “erosion” in the cave.
That is a problem that would plague our fair city in the future. For now, the sheriff was combing the disaster site seeking clues. He was finding more than he bargained for…
The water started pouring into the sinkhole which for a time made people happy we had the sinkhole (until someone mentioned that the water is in fact highly polluted and it would effectively pollute the water table of our area for the next decade or so).
Our great flood waters were gone by Tuesday morning and people were able to get up to the sluice gates. It had to have been a pretty massive explosion. But the important thing was the town council meeting that happened Monday evening.
After nearly 20 years of anonymity our small little town was now noticed, and not noticed for our fabulous corn festival. All that notice for our corn festival would have been a wonderful thing. The problem was that for the second time in less than 3 months our lake, former mayor and sinkhole were all causing huge problems for everyone south of us in the State of Indiana.
Instead the issue was the polluted lake that had once served as the picnic grounds for the corn festival parade participants.
“Sheriff Brownlee would you like to present your findings to the town council?” One of the members asked during the Monday emergency meeting.
“Well, we are not certain at this point. We do know for a fact that it was not an act of Eco Terrorists. They, Eco Terrorists prefer to stay away from explosions that cause ecological problems for a much larger are after the terrorism. Instead we are examining who may have wanted to do this horrifying thing. The good news is that no one was killed. John Withers did manage to fall and injure his back while trying to protect some of the valuable circuitry in his store. But in the town as a whole we survived with just a few bumps and bruises.”
“We can see the hole in what used to be the sluice gate” the Sheriff’s voice crackled over the hand held radio sitting on my father’s desk.
“Roger.” My dad said.
“There is something painted on the wall. Willy is reading it right now. Free the waters of our mother earth, signed GEIA.” The Sheriff said.
“Why would a group concerned with saving mother earth release all that toxic water by blowing up the dam?” my father asked the sheriff.
“Doesn’t make a world of sense to me right now.” The sheriff answered. “but if you wanted to confuse some country bumpkins, that would be the way I would do it, throw a big old flaming oil can in front of them and yell fire.” The Sheriff continued.
“Yes it does.” My father replied.
The lake was completely empty by the next morning and people were able to get to the sluice gates and see what the real damage was. The damage was considerable. The army corps of engineers said it would take between 2-4 months to get the gate operational again. One of the young soldiers pointed out that Eco Terrorists are often very well educated and seldom spell the name of mother earth wrong. The sheriff asked him for the correct spelling (Gaia) versus the spelling on the wall (Geia) and wandered off on his own for a while.
The big city news vans were all at our little lake. Chicago, South Bend, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Fort Wayne and even Grand Rapids Michigan had a film crew onsite. My dad had taken us to Grand Rapids Michigan on a fishing trip once, it was neither Grand nor did the river have any rapids to speak of. But still it was cool to have all those news trucks in town.
Water, water everywhere and not a drop you could drink
My kingdom for safe water
Look upon my works ye mighty and despair, but all we saw around us was water that really smelled bad
It was a nightmare. Everyone was on their porches looking at the water. People didn’t know what to do. Dad got back in the car after he dropped mom and my brother off. I begged to come with him and he said ok. It was hard to drive because you couldn’t see the street.
“If we had a canoe, we could paddle downtown” dad said. But the current was pretty bad and I doubt we would have been able to make it.
Downtown there were a number of people standing on the only patch of dry ground between the general store/city office building and the road. There were probably 200 people standing there and the area was pretty full. Most of them were just watching the water roll by.
“What happened?” my father said to Sheriff Brownlee when he spotted him in the crowd. The sheriff was wearing hip waders, he was well prepared for a flood.
“Not really sure yet John but Billy and I are heading up to the dam to see what we can see.” Deputy Billy was standing right behind the sheriff also in hip waders. The sheriff tossed my dad one of the police radio’s. “There is no one else in the office building, can you run basecamp for us?” The sheriff asked.
“Sure” my dad said as he caught the radio.
But something was wrong. Not that my dad knew about but maybe he did. You know you always read about people having moments where they know things before they really should be able to. Who knows about things beyond what we know and understand?
Something was wrong and it was coming fast.
As we turned the final corner to our house there was water in the street.
Not a little water.
A lot of water as much as 2 feet in the street and lapping all the way to the edge of our front porch. Dad slowed down as the rush of water blew past us.
Bikes, toys, wood from construction sites and small tree limbs were heading away from us and borne by the water.
My brother and I played at the fort for a long time that particular Sunday as my parents walked around the park on the trail. There were a lot of families doing the same thing, kids playing at the old fort and parents wandering around the park on the trails. It was a typical Indiana Sunday afternoon.
We headed back home around 4 in the afternoon. It was after all Sunday and my brother and I were excited about that week’s 60 minutes show. It was all about industrial waste. We figured it was the perfect topic to take back to school with us for Monday. Everyone in my class planned on watching and then talking about it the next day. What with us probably making that show in some form or another (corporate greed was my guess).
My dad was quiet as we drove home. Usually we sang and talked and carried on as well you had to do when your father wouldn’t buy a car with air conditioning or an AM/FM radio. We only had the AM radio that cut in and out of stations so after a while we just turned it off forever. I was 23 years old before I realized that driving in the car and playing the radio was a part of being American.
Mom on the other hand was having one of her on days. We were singing all her favorite songs and didn’t really notice dad was quiet until we got almost all the way into town. We were only 11 stop signs and five one way streets away from home when mom asked dad “what’s wrong?”
My dad looked like a person struck by lightning for a second when mom asked.
“Nothing is wrong dear.” He answered.
From Dave’s it was roughly a 7 minute walk to the old Fort Park and museum. The park and museum sat on top of a winding hill that of course was the perfect place to build a fort. If the French or Indians attacked you, you were on top the hill and could rain cannon balls down on them. They still had cannons sitting in the old fort, although there isn’t much of the old fort left and what was there was actually rebuilt in the 1950’s as part of the sesquicentennial celebration of Fort, Fort Wayne. It was later discovered that the fort was actually built in the 1780’s, but that wasn’t really talked about much.
The fort also had a restored home from the period and a couple of other buildings that we would tour each time we came. They didn’t change much year over year, but we went in each time like they were new. The Fort at Fort Wayne played a pivotal role for the British during the time leading up to the Revolutionary war. It gave them a staging fort that would allow them to conduct raids against both the French and the Indian tribes that were aligned with the French.
During the revolutionary war the Fort was the subject of a number of attacks and changed hands a couple of times. It was, the primary English fort for attacking Vincennes and southern Indiana and Illinois. “Long Knife” as he was called by the Native American’s living in the area. George Rogers Clark as he is known in history gained fame in forcing the British out of Indiana. His brother William Clark would go on to be part of the Lewis and Clark expedition that discovered most of the upper western United States. George, the older brother spent his own money in the revolutionary war and died a penniless patriot.
There are three historical markers on the road from Lake Architectless to Fort Wayne. There are two markers that are actually in downtown Fort Wayne on the site of the first church and the site of the old fort that the town got its name from.
In its heyday Fort Wayne was a booming metropolis, but like many of the smaller bergs in its hey day it too fell prey to progress. Once the Erie Canal had no market value Fort Wayne began to decline. The Sunday after helping Sheriff Brownlee mom and dad decided to take us into Fort Wayne for a day of museums and wandering.
As a family we did this from time to time. Wandered over to the big city and wandered around that city for a ½ day. We would cut out of Lake Architectless right after church and hop in the car. Mom who almost always packed lunch would never pack a lunch on those days. A couple of times she did and we ate in the park that sits where the old Fort used to be, but most times we went to Dave’s Diner on the outskirts of town and had a country lunch. Country lunch is not anything that anyone outside of Indiana ever has. IT is a combination of Indiana treats that no one outside the state really understands.
You start with a standard hamburger bun. You then bread a piece of pork tenderloin that is two to three times larger than the hamburger bun. You then add mustard and three pickles placed on the left side of the bun and a tomato under the bun. The piece of lettuce should be bigger than the bun. Add to this a huge helping of mashed potatoes and gravy on the side and finish it with fresh Indiana ColeSlaw. Indiana Coleslaw is slightly different in that it of course, has corn in it.
This lunch would always lead us to want to take a nap but we normally left Dave’s and walked around town (slowly) for an hour or so.
We wandered around the general store for a bit and finally selected some candy each. Sheriff Brownlee walked us back to my father’s office to explain why we had candy I suspect or so maybe dad wouldn’t be suspicious.
My dad looked up for a second as the door opened and saw the Sheriff. For a second you could see that look of horror parents have when they see their children in the hands of the law. You could see the question roll across his face, what have the done.
“Jim,” my dad said acknowledging the Sheriff
“John, your boys helped me out today with a little out of town problem,” Sheriff Brownlee said as we stepped through the door and into my father’s office.
My father seemed to deflate and the fear left his face when he heard that. “Glad to hear they were of help,” he said “for the most part they are good boys.’ He finished.
“Yes they are.” The Sheriff said.
The Sheriff and dad started talking about the weather so my brother and I headed back out into the computer room. Adults talking about weather is nearly the most boring thing on earth.
For a second Buck looked like he was going to say something. It was as if the words had a mind of their own and were struggling to release into the world around them. Buck was fighting the good fight though, as the sheriff looked at him quizzically wondering if he would say something. Buck paused and then said “can I pay the ticket in cash?”
“Surely, take the ticket to the checkout counter of the general store and they will take care of you. Thank you very much for your prompt attention to this matter.” Sheriff Brownlee answered.
Deputy Harris pointed out the door towards the cash register of the General Store. For a member he actually stopped leaning to indicate that the hallway required a left turn. No words were used but the gesture caused him to lean away from the wall for a second.
Buck left the office and head to the front of the store to pay his fine. We wouldn’t see Buck again for a few days, but what happened then is a different story.
“Sure was a sad thing, them signs burning down.” Deputy Harris said.
“Sure enough was,” Sheriff Brownlee answered. “Boys,” the sheriff said looking at my brother and I, “The two of you were sure enough helpful. Why don’t you go out into the store and pick out a treat, tell Maggie it’s on the Sheriff’s tab.”
The Sheriff’s tab at the general store was legendary. You could get candy, milkshakes or if the Sheriff was in a really good mood an entire meal. People talked about that tab and the generosity of Sheriff Brownlee. Sometimes, people who couldn’t afford to eat got meals from the Sheriff on his tab.