When I moved to Arizona I never imagined I would write so much about water. Water is precious here primarily due to its lack that is until I arrived. Now I am not saying I am a rainmaker or a water witch or anything like that, but I am amazed that in the two months I have been here, I am about to experience my fourth flood. These are minor floods but still they trap me, putting me in my place. Each time as the water roars by I hear it laughing at me reinforcing that I, a mere human, am most assuredly not in control. The highest the creek rose was six feet back in January. The third flood came close to that topping out at almost five feet. That was six days ago and it is raining again. I watch to see how high it will go this time.
The landscape is gorgeous. Lush and green, the cottonwoods along the creek bank are leafing out in pale yellowy green, the ocotillo is vibrantly glowing. Mexican gold poppies are popping up, the barrel cactus is puffing out its chest, and desert lavender is filling the air with scent. Everything is filling up, filling out and happy. I can see the elation in every leaf and blade of grass. If I feel the water dampening my spirit, all I need to do is walk outside and inhale. The air is bright and sharp as crystal and it energizes me.
It is Sunday morning and, after checking out the stream flow conditions online, I know the creek is starting a slow upward trend. Slow for now, until the wall of water explodes down the canyon. I know it is coming, but I don’t know exactly when. All I can do is sit and wait for it to come, to rise and to subside.
But I have a group to worry about. Several women spanning three generations came in late Friday afternoon. A few women my age, their daughters and friends, and three infants are here. I insisted all park on the other side of the creek. I transported them across on Friday and will do so today if I am able. If the creek rises too high for my 4WD, the bulldozer stands ready.
Periodically I check the online stats but as I look out the window, the stats are definitely not keeping up with the actual conditions. The water is rising quickly now. I call David and tell him that I am going to try and roust the group and get them out now as I fear that soon I will not be able to cross. I call the ranch house and Moira, one of the older women, answers. She tells me they want to stay. A group has gone out walking in the rain and no one has started packing. That worries me. I tell her to try and get folks moving. I call Pat the Ranger and ask him if he will drive over and standby in case I get stuck.
“Get those people out now. I’ll drive over and help you.” Pat says.
“Thanks so much. I have babies that I am worried about.”
“You have babies? I’ll be right over. We have to get them out immediately.”
I drive over to the ranch house. Half the group is nowhere to be found and no one is packed at all. I tell Moira that we are evacuating everyone now. She jumps to action and I get the young moms moving. I see Pat crossing the creek at the same time I spot the walkers in the middle of the pecan grove. I run outside, waving and yelling at the women that they have to come quickly and get packed. I run over to the truck. Pat rolls down his window.
“How was it crossing? Do you think the Explorer will make it?” I ask.
“Nope. My tires were spinning. I can only do a couple of crossings myself.”
I run back to the house, catching up with the walkers, urging everyone to move, move, move.
“If there is anything you do not need to take with you, leave it. I promise you I will pack it up later and drive it to Tucson later this week.” I shout.
“People first! Belongings second, if at all.” Pat agrees with me. “Let’s get the babies and moms across first.”
Everyone is rushing, throwing things together. One woman, Sabrina, gets in the front of the pick-up truck as Pat and I start throwing things in the back. One baby is ready to go, and we place her in Sabrina’s lap. Another young mom and baby get in the truck, the back is loaded and Pat takes off. A young woman comes downstairs with a bag.
“Where’s my baby?” she asks.
“Already on her way across! Get your stuff together and you’ll go next.”
A little panicked to be separated from her five week old infant, the young mom whirls around and starts to pull her things together frantically. I watch from the window.
“I can’t see the pick-up truck. I hope he’s not stuck!”
I zip my coat and step out the door, prepared to drive over to the crossing. At that moment I see the truck pull up the other side.
“He made it!”
I can see Pat throwing things off the back of the truck quickly. He is back to the house within minutes. One woman asks me if they should start loading my car so I can drive it to the crossing.
“I’d rather make this Pat’s last crossing. The water is really rising. Stuff that you need to take put on the porch. Everyone get in the back of the pick-up truck. We’ll throw in as much of the belongings as we can.” I respond.
“Who is this guy? One of your neighbors?” Someone asks.
“He’s the ranger.” I respond. “I called the ranger.”
“Wow! The ranger! This is an emergency!” She is impressed and suddenly everyone takes things a bit more seriously.
“I live in Arizona. I can’t believe I’m being evacuated!” Another young woman says half-laughing.
The mom with the baby coos to her child “I’m going to write all about this in your baby book. Your first emergency evacuation.”
Somehow we manage to cram everyone and everything from the porch into the truck. Two women and the baby sit with Pat up front, the rest of the women stand in the back of the truck clinging to the sides, belongings all around their feet. Pat takes off and I follow along in the Explorer. I park at the singlewide then run down to the creek in time to see Pat churning his way through the mud and water. I can hear his tires working through the muck. He keeps his foot on the gas pedal and forces the truck across splashing all the way. The women in the back are whooping and hollering! Relief washes through me as Pat pulls up the other bank. Everyone jumps out and starts to load up their cars.
They turn to see me alone on the east side of the creek. I wave and yell good-bye.
“Have a safe journey home!” I shout.
“We’ll be back!” Someone yells and another points her camera at me.
“I took your picture!” She yells and I laugh.
A picture of me, trapped once again, is a fitting end, I guess, to their weekend adventure.