Football season was over, and we were moving into Christmas. Unlike years to come, the Fighting Sioux footballers were not in postseason play, so the football season did not cram up against Christmas. Tim and I wondered what we might do for Christmas. We thought of staying in place, and probably inviting Mom and Dad, and perhaps the others of the Gang in Minneapolis, to join us. We also thought of heading down to Minneapolis. But I think both of us were yearning for a little travel. Perhaps with friends.
Our thoughts hadn't really gone beyond that when we got a telephone call from Jeff. "Charlie, Dick and I are fed up with snow-we've had more than the usual so far this winter, and the season is just getting started. Let's go south for the holidays."
"My God, Jeff. Tim and I have both been thinking about going somewhere, with someone, but we hadn't made any decision about it. You called at the perfect time. Where did you have in mind going?"
"Any place where we're guaranteed not to have snow. Dick and I didn't have any particular place in mind. Nor had we thought whether to invite more people than the four of us. What do you think?"
"Well, there are four other Gang members living in Michigan, Paul and Amanda in Ironwood, and Sam and Beverly in the Detroit area."
"We see Sam and Beverly from time to time. They're an interesting couple. I'll bet they'd like to go, and they might have an idea of where to go. Why don't I call them, and you call Paul and Amanda?"
We each made our calls, and within the hour were back on the phone together. I reported that Paul and Amanda loved the idea, and they were sure that Amanda's folks would take care of little Nettie at their home in Ashland. Jeff reported that Sam and Beverly thought it was a great idea and would love to join us. They also had a great suggestion of where to go: the Canary Islands.
I wasn't real clear where the Canary Islands were, but I seemed to remember that they were the location of Tenerife, the site of the terrible airline accident in the late seventies when a Pan Am 747 ran into another 747 taking off on a runway. They were in the Atlantic somewhere. Before Christmas was over, I would know a lot more of the geography and history of the Canary Islands. It seems that Sam and Beverly had thought of going to the Canaries before, but had never arranged the trip. The weather would be great, the beaches beautiful, the scenery lovely, and as long as you stayed away from the main tourist islands, the crowds slight. It immediately made Tim think of his island trips to Nevis!
Tim thought it was a great idea, but wondered whether Jeff and Dick, as well as Paul and Amanda, could afford such a trip. I said, "You know, Tim, Fred created a fund to support activities like this for the Gang. It's seldom been tapped. You and I have the authority to tap it, but I think we should talk to Fred first."
"What a great idea. Let's talk to Fred right away."
"Right away," meant the next day, and I called Fred the next morning.
His response to my question was, "Don't ask me. I set that up so that you and Tim would make those decisions. Don't try to suck me in. But, since you asked, it sounds like a great idea. I'd suggest that Marty and I might join you, but we're heading to Mexico for Christmas."
"And you didn't tell us?"
"We're sneaking away. Great beaches. Great swimming. Great sex. Just the two of us."
"Sounds wonderful. Just where are you going?"
"We're not telling. Someone might decide to join us."
"You're serious? You're not telling?"
"Not till we get back."
"Well, have a good trip."
"You, too. The Canary Islands sound more exciting than Mexico, I'll have to admit."
Sam was put in charge of making arrangements, and he did a magnificent job. Christmas in 1980 was on Thursday, and UND and the Ironwood schools would close on Friday the 19th. We'd leave from Detroit on Saturday afternoon. It was 600 miles from Ironwood to Detroit, but Paul and Amanda would be leaving from Ashland where they left Nettie with her grandparents. Ashland is about 60 miles further away. They decided to fly to Detroit. They could take tiny Midstate Airlines from Ashland to Chicago and then had a choice of several carriers to get on to Detroit. They'd get to Detroit about noon on Saturday. We couldn't make connections that were that good, and had to overnight in Chicago. But then we easily made Detroit before noon, getting there ahead of Paul and Amanda. Sam and Beverly picked up Jeff and Dick and the four of them drove together to the airport, meeting first Tim and me and then Paul and Amanda.
We flew to Kennedy Airport in New York, and took an evening flight to Tenerife South Airport in the Canary Islands. We were glad to note that the Pan Am crash had been on the much smaller Tenerife North Airport. In fact, Tenerife South had been built after the crash and partly in response to it.
We'd flown overnight to Tenerife so we were able to fly straight on to La Gomera Island, one of the three western Canary Islands, and the island with the second smallest number of inhabitants. The smallest, and furthest West, was El Hierro, where Sam had been tempted to take us, because it had the least people. But it didn't have the lovely beaches that could be found on most of the Canary Islands, and La Gomera did. Sam had arranged accommodations at a charming inn called the Parador de la Gomera in the tiny town of San Sebastian La Gomera-the island's capital. The inn had been built in the 1960's and overlooked the ocean from about sixty feet up a cliff. It was a beautiful spot, and Sam had booked a suite, which turned out to be two large rooms with connecting doors. Each room had two queen size beds. We instantly knew what Sam was thinking, and I think all eight of us were thinking the same! It was going to be an interesting week! Sam reminded us of the rule we had agreed to before we left: There were to be no Christmas presents, except the giving of ourselves to each other. We had no doubt in our minds about what he meant.
We rented bicycles and found that we could easily get around the island that way, and get good exercise as well. From one extreme of the island to the other was just under twenty miles. We decided to put off any significant cycling until the next day-Monday, December 22, 1980.
We had a lovely dinner that evening, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We were on the east coast of the island, so our view included the island of Tenerife in the distance. Sixty miles beyond that was the western coast of Africa-well out of sight.
After dinner we took a little walk around the inn property and then headed for our rooms. We were all looking forward to the coming events of the evening, but nothing had been said about who would do what and with whom. I said to Tim, "You know, we really don't know how comfortable Paul and Amanda are going to be with a lot of sex, especially with Sam and Beverly whom they don't know very well."
Tim thought for a moment and then replied, "They're comfortable with us. Let's partner with them tonight and we can talk to them about their comfort zones. The four Detroiters are experienced with each other, I'm pretty sure. They'll be fine together." As we got back to the inn and headed for our rooms, Tim said, "Charlie and I claim Amanda and Paul for tonight. Tomorrow we can talk about variations on the theme."
Everyone agreed, and we headed into our separate rooms, after appropriately adjusting the locations of suitcases. As soon as the four of us were alone in the room, Paul said, "Tim, you don't fool me for a minute. That invitation was really to protect us from getting into a situation we weren't ready for, right?"
Tim said, "Yes and no. I knew you'd be comfortable with Charlie and me, and we'll have a chance to talk tonight. But, Charlie and I are quite eager, I assure you, for the pleasures of the evening, however they evolve."
Amanda said, "We talked about it before we agreed to come. We knew what would be going on, and we decided that we were ready. After all, we've played with Dick and Jeff, and, of course, you two. Only Sam and Beverly will be a new experience."
I said, "They're old enough to be your parents. For some that's a turn-off. Are you ready?"
"I'll admit it isn't the stuff of my wildest fantasies, but I can deal with new experiences," said Paul, and Amanda nodded her agreement.
Tim said, "OK, we aren't going to say anything more about it. We're all part of the Gang, and we're all ready for whatever Christmas brings. Now, who's going to fuck Amanda?"
Amanda refused to choose, so we all did. I slept with her that night. At breakfast the next day we all agreed that for the first six nights of the trip we'd sleep with a different person, not including our partners. As to what would happen in the time before we settled into bed, between wake up and breakfast, and during afternoon nap time, we decided to let that play out any way it happened to.
The next morning we set out to explore the island. It was quite beautiful, with lush vegetation and wonderful views of the ocean as we bicycled around the shore road. We'd be riding along with trees and shrubs blocking any view of the sea, when all of a sudden we'd make a turn and see a vista with a view of the next island. There was one area of the island that was scheduled to become a national park, but we decided to visit it another day, proceeding past and on around the island.
We stopped for lunch at an overlook where there was a trail down to the beach. We locked our bikes and hiked down with our picnic lunch. We got the surprise of the trip when we got to the bottom. The only other people on the beach were two couples sunbathing on towels off at the far edge of the beach. All four of the sunbathers were completely naked, and didn't seem to be hiding that fact. They watched us as we settled in a little ways up the beach in the opposite direction. We got out lunch and started to eat, stealing furtive glances at our neighbors from time to time.
We were clearly being watched by the sunbathers, and soon one of the two men stood up, wrapped a towel around himself, and walked over to us. He was very pleasant in greeting us and welcoming us to the beach. Speaking excellent English, he indicated that the four sunbathers were from Holland. He went on, "You know this's a clothing optional beach. But that really isn't true. The users of this beach really act like it is a clothing prohibited beach."
Tim said, "I take it that, in a nice way, you're telling us that we should either join in the spirit of the beach or find someplace else to each lunch. Put another way, if we can stare at your naked bodies, you'd like to be able to stare at ours."
The man laughed heartily. "We really don't mind if you eat and run, but if you're going to stay, it'd be nice if you played the game."
Sam said, "Tell us more. I take it that you've been here before. Should we expect others to be joining you this afternoon?"
"Perhaps. Winter's the off season. There are seldom more than two to four couples here. In summer, many more."
"OK," said Sam. "Answer another question. On most nude beaches people pretend that their clothing is removed for health reasons, to get a suntan, to be 'back to nature' or some such. Most nude sunbathers never admit the sexual underpinnings of naked sunbathing. How about here?"
"You do get straight to the point, don't you?"
"It seemed a reasonable question. Does it get an answer?"
"Sure. I can assure you that those two girls over there expect to get laid before the afternoon is over."
"And the other visitors usually at this beach wouldn't be offended?"
"Oh, I don't think so. They're more likely to join in."
I asked, "OK, you've made your point. But you'll note that there are six men and two women in this group. If we pair up, we're going to have pairs of men. Is that going to upset things here?"
"Not in the least. Gay coupling here isn't uncommon. But I need to get back to my friends. Please enjoy your stay at Carmina Beach."
"That's it's name?"
"Not on any map, but that's what visitors call it." With that the man, who had never given us his name, headed back to the other sunbathers, taking his towel from around his waist and hanging it around his neck. We watched two lovely bubble buns wiggle away from us.
Beverly asked the group, "Well, do we eat and run?"
No one provided an affirmative answer to that question. Rather, Tim's response was to take off his shoes and socks. He said, "They're going to be watching. I don't think we should rush this; I think they'd enjoy a little strip tease. We'll just lose a piece of clothing now and then for the next little while, and eventually we'll all be naked. Then I think we should walk over and introduce ourselves."
I moved the show along by taking off my shirt, leaving me naked to the waist. It took us an hour to finish our picnic and have all of us naked. We decided to approach the sunbathers by taking a swim and climbing out of the water in front of them. The skinny dip in the Gulf Stream warmed Atlantic was refreshing and we splashed and swam for most of an hour. Then we headed to shore at our neighbors' feet.
We were met with an unexpected reaction. All four of the sunbathers stared at the men in our group as if they'd never seen a penis before. A return glance told the tale. Both of the male sunbathers were uncircumcised; all six of the men in our group were! The women, in both of our groups, seemed to be the most confused. As we all realized the situation we started laughing, but it soon turned to question and answer time. None of the sunbathers, all Dutch, had ever seen a circumcised penis before, and the women had never even heard of circumcision. A quick survey of our group showed a relative unfamiliarity with an uncut penis, but all of the men had at least seen one. The women had not.
Tim got brave with our new friends and said, "You know, I've never really understood what was cut off my penis. I was only a few days old when it was done, and my memory fails me."
The man who'd originally spoken to us came over to Tim and said, "You may take a look, if you like." As Tim stared, he was told, "You may touch it. Try pulling the foreskin back." Tim handled the cock very timidly; certainly not the way he handled mine! The man said, "It won't hurt, go ahead."
Tim did as he was told and saw the head of a penis that looked pretty much like his own exposed penis head. Soon everyone wanted to look at, and handle, the penises they were unfamiliar with. This went on about a half an hour, until everyone had completed their lessons. These included watching penises, of both kinds, go erect. As that happened we Americans saw how the head of an uncut penis sort of sticks itself out as the penis hardens. We all learned that there was much less difference between erect penises than between flaccid ones.
One of the Dutch women then spoke up. "This has been most interesting. We've all learned a lot. I don't think any of us want to have sex with strangers, but I'd like to suggest that we might like to watch each other. In particular, I know the four of us would like to watch men have sex with each other. That's fairly new to us, because most gay couples on this beach stay a good distance from the others."
What an invitation! We weren't sure if we were ready, but the pressure was increased by Beverly saying, "I agree with that. Hubby and I would like to watch the four of you as well. I think our friends from the UP would enjoy it too."
Jeff said to Tim and me, "OK, you two. I know you guys like sucking and the two of us like fucking. We'll give them a two-ring circus."
One of the Dutch guys tossed us a couple of beach blankets, and we spread them out side by side. Jeff lay on his back on one and Dick mounted him. Tim and I lay side by side in a 69 position and wasted little time. Our audience was restrained and quiet. The four of us on the beach blankets were neither restrained nor quiet. There's nothing like an audience to heighten the sexuality of any situation, and this was no exception. It didn't take us long before we had four organisms. Only Jeff's jazz (Dick's terms as we talked about it afterwards) wasn't swallowed up by a bodily orifice. As soon as Tim realized that, he dove on Jeff, pushing Dick aside, and licked up all of it. I think that shocked our Dutch audience more than anything!
Dick then said, "OK, we'd like to watch you all. But I think we'd like to see hand jobs, so that we could watch all this uncut meat."
I wasn't sure that the slang would be clearly understood by the non-native English speakers, but they completely understood, and complied. Our earlier assumptions about erect uncut penises were correct, they looked pretty much like ours when hard and ejaculating.
Then I turned to Sam and Beverly, saying, "OK, you old folks. We want to see our future. Show us that we can expect to continue to have fun on the beach for years into the future. You two Youpers better show off as well."
Tim looked puzzled and asked, "Youpers?"
I said, "A slang turn for UP-ers."
"That's a new one on me."
"You live and learn." And we did, and more than slang vocabulary!
Whew! Our old folks were anything but slackers. Beverly started on Sam with her hands, but soon switched to her mouth. Then she slid up on him and dropped down on him cowboy style. She rode him a while, but then tumbled off, got on her knees, and told him to come at her. He lubed her ass with some lube that Dick had left by the bed, and entered her gently but firmly. With the visual excitement that had preceded, and then the stimuli of hand, mouth, and cunt, he almost exploded upon entering her ass. At that moment he reached around her leg and fingered her clit, bringing an almost simultaneous orgasm. Clearly their age was no barrier to sexual activity or variety.
Sam turned to Tim and me and said, "Life with you guys has certainly gotten us out of the sexual rut we were in. We owe you a big thanks."
Paul and Amanda were much more mundane in their approach to sex. Paul mounted her in the missionary position, but they had a good go. Sam and Beverly were more fun to watch, however.
As both couples finished another group of sunbathers appeared on the beach from the trail. We weren't sure how much they'd seen, but all of us clearly were of the same mind: back to nude sunbathing, preferably with the sun on our backs! The newcomers glanced our way and decided to head for the other side of the beach before disrobing. Fun and games were over. We soon packed up and headed back up the trail.
We got back to the inn in time for another swim and a time to relax before dinner. Sam, Beverly and Jeff had cocktails, Paul and Amanda had lemonade, and Dick, Tim and I had Coke. Nobody felt any pressure to conform, either with or without the alcohol. Nobody overdrank. Dinner at the inn was delightful, overlooking the ocean. The inn had a special every meal, and we learned to try it; it was always delicious and introduced us to good Spanish cooking. We all probably gained a pound or two on the trip.
Our nights were mix and match affairs. The first night that Beverly and Amanda ended up in the same room Sam announced: "I think the two girls are going to have at it tonight. Let's all watch." All six of the men trooped into the room the "girls" were in and watched them perform, cheering them on. They were all over each other with their mouths and tongues, ending up in the 69 position. Amanda didn't seem phased by the fact that Beverly was old enough to be her mother, and Beverly kept up with Amanda seemingly with no effort. They put on a good show.
The second day there Paul announced: "I have had a busy fall. I just need to relax. I'm going nowhere today. I'm just going to sit here in this comfortable chaise lounge and watch the ocean. I just might stir myself to swim from time to time, and eating and drinking will be an acceptable distraction. I'm sure that I'll doze off from time to time."
Everyone but Tim thought that was a great idea, and joined him with pleasure. Tim's nature simply didn't allow for doing nothing all day. He headed to the beach and decided to take a walk along the shore. I offered to go with him, not wanting him to have to go alone, but he told me to stay. "Look, Charlie, I know you would prefer to relax with Paul. Do it. I'll enjoy a long walk. I'm going to take a sandwich and a couple of cans of Coke, and I don't expect to be back before about 3:00 p.m."
We began to worry a little at three, but at 3:45 he reappeared on the beach, coming back from the direction he'd set off in. He thought he walked about fifteen miles, out and back. "I had to swim a few places to get around barriers, but it was a great day." It was probably dangerous for him to undertake the hike alone, but neither of us thought in those terms. Fear was never much a part of our lives.
The next day we all set out as a group for the Garajonay area in the middle of the island. The Spanish government was in the process of declaring the area to be a National Park. The area is mostly laurel forest, made very lush by the presence of springs and streams. It was green and quiet, a lovely place for walking, picnicking, and napping. I slept for about two hours that afternoon, so I can't tell you whether the others slept the afternoon away, or engaged in "other activities." Does anyone really care?
On our last full day there Tim said to me at breakfast (we hadn't slept in the same room the night before), "Let's just the two of us get away together today. I know the perfect place." We put on swimming suits, put towels and lunches in little canvas bags and set out along the beach where Tim had walked before. After about fifteen minutes we reached a point where a rock formation extended down into the sea, forcing us off the shore and into the water to swim around it. It wasn't a difficult swim; we swam on our backs holding our bags up out of the water. On the other side of the rocks was the most delightful little cove, with a lovely sand beach-small and secluded. Tim hit the sand and called to me, "Come over here, lose your swimsuit, and be prepared for a day of rest, relaxation, and lust."
I'll admit I was ready for all three. We were totally undisturbed the entire day. Our activities ranged from swimming to sleeping, from sunbathing to fucking, from sucking each other to sucking Coca-Cola. It was one of the better days of our lives together!
"Tim, has your life turned out the way you dreamed that summer at Camp White Elk? Gosh, it seems so long ago." We were laying on our backs on the sand, holding hands, and slowly digesting lunch.
"In one way, exactly as planned. In another way so much better than I could ever have foreseen."
"You, Charlie. I could imagine the Olympics, college, graduate school, being a school administrator, but I could never have imagined the delights of a day like this. Of sleeping with you spooned behind me every night. Of feeling you harden in response to my little wiggles. Of waking up to your love and affection. Of having you my partner in both work at the University, and play at home. What about you, Charlie?"
"Tim, before I met you I had little direction. I might've ended up with the Red Cross, and it's clear that if I had, I'd have had a successful career. But nothing like the life I've had with you. And don't forget the Gang. Forty-nine of us. Not only have you shared yourself with me, but with 48 others as well."
"I've loved every minute of it. It's kind of like being married to 48 people. But you occupy a special place, Charlie."
"I wonder what it's like for the threesome and the foursome. Do they really feel equally towards each other?"
Tim said, "I think that's the case for Ronnie, Sharon and Lyle. In the case of Jim and Andy and the two girls, I think they all would admit that Jim and Andy are the primary pair. But the girls accept that, and the boys don't treat them as second class; it's just that everyone knows that the boys are each others' first loves."
"It seems to work for them."
"It certainly does. I've never heard the slightest hint of discontent."
"Well, I certainly have no discontent with our arrangement. But I think it's getting time to head back."
"Not without a last orgasm. I'll take it any way you'd like."
"On your back!" I ordered. He lay back, and I knelt between his legs. I handled his dick and balls pretty roughly, bending it down, slapping it around, and gently (maybe not always so gently) squeezing his balls. I pushed his legs up and spit on his ass, using the spit to work in two fingers, and feel for his prostate. After exploiting that a few minutes, I went back to his dick with a vengeance, but slowly shifted to a stroking that quickly brought a squirt which hit about his belly button. If he hadn't had three previous orgasms that day, it would've sailed much further up his front.
He reached up and grabbed me, saying, "Oh, are you going to get it." He pushed me over on my back and pounced on me at once. He pushed my legs into the air and spanked me-pretty hard-and then dove for my genitals and chewed them. Teeth can be sharp, and his were. He pushed as far as he dared, and I'll have to admit that while it hurt a little it was very sexy. Then his tongue headed for my ass and flitted back and forth from my anus to my scrotum, sometimes licking my dick. Then he dove for my nipples, biting each of them. The he laid down with his full weight on me, his mouth on my dick and his body stretched out so that his genitals were shoved in my face. He sucked my dick as he played with my balls and I quickly came in his mouth.
God, it was wonderful.
Tim said, "I never know just how rough to be, but we both seemed to be pushing it."
"I was. So were you. I'm not sure that I'd like that every night, but it was fun."
"For me, too.
The next day we were on a plane back to the snow-covered north country. Grand Forks had three feet on the ground and was expecting more. Carl and Carol invited us for dinner at their house a few nights later, and the subject of the piles of snow came up. I asked, no one in particular, "Where does all this snow go when it melts?"
Carl answered, "The snow here melts into the Red River and is carried off to Lake Winnipeg. From there it heads to Hudson Bay via the Nelson River. It usually doesn't pose a flooding threat, because it melts and is gone before flood season. But, if the river is still frozen in Manitoba, then the water has no place to go, and it becomes a potential flood. This can be added to by melting at the higher elevations up river from Grand Forks-in Minnesota and North Dakota. If you have spring rains in this area, that adds to the flood potential. And last, but certainly not least, is the possibility that the rains will come on top of the melting snow, which speeds the melting. Add it all together, and you have a river quite capable of flooding the city of Grand Forks."
I said, "Carl, you seem to have spent a lot of time studying the matter."
"There were serious floods here at the end of the last century, and again in 1950. No architect should be designing buildings in this area without having that fact firmly in mind."
"What can you do-as an architect?"
"Well, what I can't do is tell people not to build in a floodplain. In some areas there's high ground available, and it's negligent to build in low areas when high ground is available. But there isn't any significant amount of high ground along the Red River. It's a low valley, and you either abandon the town or accept the fact that you're building in a potentially flooded area."
"OK, so what does that mean?"
"It means that you spend a little extra money on your buildings and design them to withstand a flood. You put utilities on the second floor or the roof. You use cement walls on the ground floor, maybe also on the second floor. You put electrical connections well above ground. You don't design a basement for storage; if you're going to have a basement use it for activities that don't involve expensive equipment-put your wrestling room in the basement, a children's play area, a theater in the round, a dormitory lounge, that sort of thing. In the Alumni Towers the first floor has open air spaces, and only the corner squares are filled in. It'll be easy to move everything up to higher floors. We used rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpeting on the first floor, so we'll simply roll up the rugs and carry them up the stairs. The elevator machinery is all on the roof, so they'll run even in a flood-they simply don't go to the first floor or basement. The basement is all basically empty rooms that are used for various events. The chairs and tables are metal and plastic, and could survive a flood without being moved."
"How about The Carl."
"Same thing. Except in The Carl we had to take a little risk. At first only the first and top floors were finished, so half of our stuff, including a lot of files were at risk. But now floors 1, 3, 4 and 5 have been finished, and we can easily move the stuff on 1 to the bare second floor. We didn't put in a basement."
"What about Marty's one story building?"
"Not a bit of plaster or sheet rock in it. Floors and walls of cement and cement block. If it happens to flood to the top of the first floor, he'll lose some ceilings, but it wouldn't be too costly. However, we made the ceilings high, so I don't think it'll be a problem. Of course, since it's a one storey building, he'd have to move a lot of equipment, files, etc. There's no way to avoid that with one storey."
"My far-thinking brother!" said Tim.
I said, "That's why he's the most sought after architect in North Dakota."
Carol said, "In all of the northern Midwest. But he didn't earn his reputation based on flood planning."
I said, "Wail till there's a flood, and we'll see what people are saying."
Carl said, "This could be a flood year. There's a lot of snow. But it'll depend on the weather patterns of March and April; the big pile of snow is simply one ingredient."
Well, the weather patterns of March and April did not favor the residents of the Red River Valley, including Fargo, the Grand Forks area, and right up to Winnipeg. The rains came at the right moment, the upstream snow melt hit at the same time, and downstream freezing in Canada made it impossible for the spring melt waters to be carried away. That's one of the hazzards of a north flowing river-of which we have very few in the United States.
By late March it was clear that we were going to see floodwaters in the Grand Forks area, but it was too early to tell how bad it would be. Tim got in touch with the mayors of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks and they put together a flood response task force. The Red Cross was invited to participate. I'd been keeping in touch with the local Red Cross chapter that I'd founded years before. I was glad that I'd kept in touch, and was equally glad that the chapter had held its own since I'd left. The present director, Frank Gilson, seemed to be very competent, and didn't seem to be threatened by my offer of assistance. Many people in his situation would be threatened by the return of a former director, particular the founder of the chapter. Frank seemed to understand that I could be helpful, and wouldn't undermine his decision making.
The previous serious flood in Grand Forks was in 1950 when the Red River crested at a little above 43 feet (flood stage is 28 feet). There'd been evacuations in some areas, and considerable damage, but the city has easily survived. Previous to that was a much more serious flood in 1897, when the river crested at a little over 50 feet. Flooding was extensive and damage equally extensive. But there was so much less city then, it was hard to use it as a measure of what might be in front of us that spring.
Grand Forks was ready for a flood the equal of 1950. In fact, the dikes and levees were designed to protect against a flood of about 45 feet, which was considered to be close to the 100-year flood level. Predictions from the National Weather Service put us on alert for a 45 foot flood, and we thought we were ready. Residents in areas that couldn't avoid flooding at that level were evacuated, with as much of their valuables as they could move. Some were well prepared and suffered little damage. Others were less prepared, or lived in homes that couldn't be expected to withstand any kind of flooding. In general, the city considered itself ready.
We weren't. Two things combined to hit Grand Forks badly. First, the National Weather Service was seriously in error with their flood predictions. The Red River crested in Grand Forks at 48.8 feet. The city, and its sister city across the river, East Grand Forks, were totally unprepared for that level of flooding. It wasn't unprecedented, but it was unprecedented in the 20th century. Not since 1897 had the water been much above 43 feet.
The surprise factor was the English Coulie, a little river-really a creek-that flowed out of North Dakota, through the northern section of Grand Forks, and then emptied into the Red River. A huge amount of water was trying to flow down the English Coulie, and the river was unable to carry it all, and the water that it could carry couldn't go anywhere because the Red River was full. A major portion of the flooding in Grand Forks came, unexpectedly, from the English Coulie.
While early efforts had been aimed at prevention-piling sand bags, checking dikes, building up levees-all such efforts were meaningless when the Red River got to 46 feet and rising. Our efforts turned to rescue, damage control, evacuation, care of evacuees (a vital role of the Red Cross), and-eventually-rebuilding.
Most of the Gang, Sid and Cathy being the obvious exceptions, lived in areas of the city which were flooded. Carl invited all of the Gang to move to The Carl, which, though it stood in four feet of water, was high and dry and fully functioning on the second through fifth floors. The second floor was still unfinished, and Carl had asked Tim to use some of Fred's "Gang support" money to purchase a dozen king size beds, comfortable chairs and tables, and refrigerators and a commercial stove. There was a total lack of privacy, but other than that, it made for very acceptable living. And who in the Gang was going to worry about the privacy issue? Most considered that a plus.
As soon as it was clear that much of the town would be flooded, Tim headed to our old house to check on both the house and its residents, which by now we were all calling "the Circle." We knew that the Circle had been augmented by one with Al living with them, and we understood that Alex was pretty much living there as well. It was now April and Al was ready to get off of crutches. That meant that Alex would be assigned other duties by the Transportation Office, but he wasn't inclined to move out of the house with Al.
Al had discovered that Alex' initial appraisal of his need for help moving around campus in a wheel chair had been correct. Alex had provided the help and support he needed. Unlike the rest of the Circle, who were more than willing to help when needed, Alex had no other responsibility. Tim had told the Transportation Office to assign Alex and the van to support of Al until he was out of the wheel chair, and perhaps until he was off crutches. Al and Alex had become very good friends, and Alex had taken to sleeping in the last, and smallest, guest room in the house, so that he didn't have to get up so early in the morning. He had been living alone in a small apartment and quickly came to prefer life with the Circle.
He'd suggested to Al that he might move his bed into the room with Al, so that he could help him when he had to get up in the night. His assistance to Al went far, far beyond his Transportation Office assignment, but he didn't mind. On the contrary, he seemed to thrive on helping Al, and on the relationship he had with Al.
Early on, Margie had addressed a key issue for the other residents of the house. She said to Al and Alex one evening at dinner, "OK, you two. There's one thing about this house we need to talk about. We all have a habit of treating the house as clothing optional. We don't bother to throw on clothes to move around. We've been covering up for our two guests, but now it's time for you two to be beyond being guests. We don't care what you wear, but please don't be upset if you run into naked boys, or a naked lady, from time to time."
Alex replied, "And just why would that be upsetting to red blooded American males?"
Nate had said, "It shouldn't be, but it often is. I take it that you won't be offended."
Al replied, "Certainly not. And I assume that the same rules apply to us."
"This could be interesting," said Alex.
By March Toppy had noticed that if he called Alex, he was likely to pop out of Al's room naked. The general drift of the relationship was confirmed one day when Al asked Toppy if he thought it would be all right if they got a double bed for his room. The two twin beds could be moved into the room that Alex had originally occupied.
Toppy chuckled, "Are you telling me that gay is catching, and that you and Alex got caught?"
"I'm not telling you anything. I just asked if it would be all right for me to get a double bed for the room."
"The answer is, 'No, it wouldn't be all right.'"
"Because Tim and Charlie would have a fit."
"They don't seem to be too upset about you and Murray in a king size bed. They don't seem to get upset by Nate and Pat sharing a bed. Why would they care about Alex and me?"
"They'd skin me alive if I let you buy a bed. Murray and I have a house fund to buy the furniture we need, and we're expected to use it. So you and Alex head down to Bedding Barn and pick out a good bed. Tell them to deliver it here ASAP, and bill it to me the same as previous beds delivered here."
Al was stunned. "I really didn't expect that. I'm quite willing to pay for the bed, I just wanted permission to do it."
"Well, now you know the rules of the house. Go pick out your bed."
Now we were worrying about the possible impact of the impending flood on that new bed, and everything else in the house. We understood that in 1950 the floodwater had come up to the porch, had flooded the basement, but hadn't reached the first floor. It appeared that this year it might get a foot or two above the floor level on the first floor. Everything moveable had to be moved up to the second floor. The group was up to the task, and eager to respond to Tim's request for action. Everything was up and moved out of the way so that life could go on in the house as long as possible before the flood forced them out. They were invited to join us at The Carl on evacuation day, and they accepted. They were also warned about the lack of privacy, and had responded as a group that it wasn't much different than their present arrangements.
The National Weather Services flood stage predictions were woefully inadequate. They were predicting a peak of 45 feet up until two days before it hit 46 feet and if you look over their advance warnings, you will find that they weren't predicting 48 feet until the day it reached 48 feet. Just how much better prepared the city would've been had it had better warnings is controversial. They didn't have the capacity to raise the dikes to protect against 48 feet, even if they'd had six months warning. On the other hand, many people, who could've been much better prepared with better warnings, were caught totally unprepared.
That was certainly true for the university, which was pretty much caught flatfooted. It had fared pretty well in 1950, and had expected to do the same this time around based on the flood crest predictions. Tim was very upset with both the National Weather Service for the bad predictions, and with himself for accepting them. I tried to convince him that wasn't his fault, but he'd have none of it. "Charlie, I have the resources of this entire university: top flight scientists, hydrologists, geologists, statisticians, you name it. Don't tell me that we couldn't have done better. And believe me in the future we will." Little did any of us know!
The university was forced to close and cancel classes. Arrangements were made for work to be completed over the summer, and by fall we'd pretty much bailed ourselves out and gotten things back in working order. The same was true for the town.
During the flood itself, most people that had to leave their homes-almost a third of the city's residents-went to the Grand Forks Air Force Base about twenty miles west of town. They had huge hangers which were filled with cots. The Red Cross did yeoman's work feeding everyone, and providing a myriad of other services to meet the needs of about 5,000 people for a good part of a month. Many others went to friends, motels, or simply headed out of the area, some as far as Florida and Arizona.
Most of the Gang and the Circle ended up at The Carl. For most of the time we were there we could get to the building in boots or waders, but at the peak we had to come and go in one of three Zodiacs (inflatable outboard boats) that Fred's Sporting Goods produced. Carl let Tim occupy his wonderful office on the top floor, and from that command post Tim managed the response of the University to the flood.
Life on the second floor was interesting to say the least. We soon realized that our privacy was limited at all hours of the day and night. Because the elevators couldn't run to the ground floor, people had to come up the stairs to the second floor to get the elevators. This included Carl's entire staff, who'd all moved into their offices with their families. The only exception was Prince's family, who moved in with Sid and Cathy. We decided that to get privacy we'd erect a temporary wall around the area from the stairwell to the elevators, and that was done with cubicle walls borrowed from the university and blankets from a huge supply that Fred had produced for us to use.
We also had a passel of children to care for. Franklin and Phil decided that their major role would be as babysitters. They had decided early on that Democracy House could not function during a flood. Some of their clients were able to return home, and others were sent to Democracy House in Kansas. Before they all left, everything moveable was moved to the second floor, except the mattresses, which Franklin and Phil moved over to The Carl, setting up a bedroom/play area for the kids similar to what they'd had at the Pike Lake cabin. Blankets were hung around it, and the kids had a ball. It also allowed for more adult activities outside the blanketed area!
We started our time together as a pretty staid lot. We were working long days in various capacities fighting the flood. This ranged from filling sand bags to going door to door with evacuation instructions to helping people move their belongings either away or to upper floors. For many of us, it meant helping our workplaces meet the crisis, again from moving to trying to function from remote locations. As the waters crested, there was less to do until they went back down. Our initial inhibitions caused by the addition of the nine members of the Circle were quickly overcome by the need to keep occupied, and our natural tendencies to think of sex as an obvious way to keep occupied. The young squirts in the Circle quickly figured out that the old folks in the Gang could teach them a thing of two, and from our observations they were quick learners. Toppy confirmed months later that the sexual patterns at our old house were radically reshaped by their flood time experiences!
The waters went down. Grand Forks' fifteen minutes of fame in the national news quickly dissolved along with the receding waters, and we were left to our soggy, muddy messes. But, like the horrible mess in the kitchen when a child spills a glass of milk, the mess succumbed to our cleanup efforts and wasn't as bad as it initially looked. With the efforts of thousands of residents returning to their homes, determined to rebuild their lives, homes, community, and university, things gradually returned to normal. And, in fact, as the university opened its fall term in September of 1981, things were pretty much back together.
Our houses suffered amazingly little damage-both our old house now occupied by, and cleaned up by, the Circle, and our new house, Dakota House, cleaned up by us and a crew from B&G.
For us, personally, the worst thing about the flood was that we were so busy that summer that we never got to the Pike Lake cabin.
Author's Note: The historical flood that this is based upon was in 1979, not 1981. The floodwater did crest at 48.81 feet, the highest since the previous century. The rest of the story approximates reality, but this is fiction, after all.
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