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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


I'm back. Charlie, that is. This is more Tim's story than anyone else's, but Tim would never do himself justice. So you'll just have to listen to me as I look back in admiration of "my kid" as he proved to be an enormously effective civic leader as well as educator.

The streets had hardly had the mud scraped off them following the great flood of 1981 when Tim had started to assemble a task force to deal with the possibility of future flooding. He started with a small group of faculty members representing the sciences of meteorology, geology, limnology, civil engineering, agriculture, and sociology. His charge to the group was simple, "Consider how the university can bring its resources to bear on the problem of predicting future floods and responding to them." They were not to be concerned with the clean up from the recent flood, but were to concentrate on the future. The first job was to define the task and recruit those additional persons needed to accomplish it. Full university resources would be available to the group, including released time of faculty members to participate. He was to be kept fully informed of their progress.

The first task that the task force set for itself was an analysis of the flood forecasting of the 1981 flood. The forecasts had been consistently low until the rising river virtually forced them to admit how high it was likely to rise. Was it bad science, politics, refusal to face reality, fear of the consequences of exaggerated predictions, or what? The task force concluded that it was all of the above, but that the most serious reason wasn't bad science, but inadequate science. No single agency, office, or research center had collected all of the available data, or even tried to figure out what all of the data might be. The task force's first recommendation, coming about four months after its creation, was that a special research center be established as part of the new Center for Aerospace Sciences which was then being created-and which would become a reality in 1982. John Adelbart, an atmospheric scientist, was put in charge, but his function was mainly as coordinator. He was the only staff of the flood prediction center, authorized to borrow and utilize all of the human resources of the university-and beyond. They went to work, capturing all kinds of data, much of it-at least on the surface-irrelevant to river height: weather data, weather forecasts from various sources (even if incorrect), snow data, agricultural data, flow data from upstream and downstream, shipping information, ice accumulations, and more. Further, they collected it for the full length of the river system: the Red River, Lake Winnipeg, and the Nelson River all the way to Hudson Bay. They realized that for useful predictions they needed as much historical data as they could assemble. Some was available back for decades, some for only a few years. Some of the data they sought wasn't currently being collected, and they had to initiate new procedures, and, of course, for these no historical data could be obtained. The first thing they did was relate all of the data available to the known river stages for the past years-specifically avoiding the year 1981. When they felt they'd massaged the available data as much as possible, they applied their model to the available 1981 data. They limited the time period of their data to the period ending two weeks before the maximum flood. That input data predicted a flood stage of 49.5 feet. The actual flood stage was 48.81 feet. The National Weather Service hadn't predicted a flood stage of 48 feet until the day it actually reached 48 feet. Such predictions were useless; if you're going to do anything about a 48 foot flood, you need to start well in advance. The task force believed that they'd shown that it would often be possible to predict such floods in advance.

Beginning in 1983 the Center for Aerospace Sciences issued river stage predictions each spring, and at the few other times when unusual weather made flooding a possibility. Their track record wasn't perfect, but they were consistently more accurate than the National Weather Service.

Other groups within Tim's task force looked at different issues, mainly what kind of protection the town could devise, and how to respond to a flood when all else had failed.

Then came the winter of 1996-1997. Blizzards were the norm that winter; it seemed that one began almost before we'd recovered from the previous one. In late February John Adelbart, now Flood Warnings Manager in the Center for Aerospace Sciences, came and visited Tim and me, giving warning that this could very well be the year of a record flood. He warned that the flood prediction, right then, was above 45 feet. Since the 1981 flood the town had built levees, dikes and diversionary channels that it believed would protect them from a 49 foot flood-higher than any on record in the twentieth century; only one previous flood had exceeded 49 feet: the flood of 1897 which was just over fifty feet. The town felt pretty secure behind its 49 foot protection system. Tim asked John, "Are you suggesting that your current prediction of over 45 feet is conservative?"

"Tim, you know a lot depends on the regional weather in the period just before a possible flood. We have a high snowpack right now, but its height isn't the only factor; how will it melt? How fast? Will it be raining as it melts? And, equally important, will the weather north of here be so cold that the river is frozen and can't accept our melting snow?"

"Why are you here, telling me this?"

"I think we need to issue a warning that fifty-plus feet are very possible this year. People are too complacent about 49 feet."

"How much advance notice do you think you can give for an over-fifty event?"

"I'm hoping ten days to two weeks, but you know that isn't always going to be possible."

Tim said, "Charlie, do you agree that we need to get this information out?"

"What's the National Weather Service saying?"

John said, "They remain firm in their belief that anything over 49 feet is extremely unlikely. Of course; they're right, but it won't help when that extremely unlikely event occurs, and I think it may this year."

Tim said, "Call a news conference. Lay it all out. Don't hold anything back. Provide your data. As your high school math teacher used to say, 'Show your work.' I'll be on hand to support you. People don't want to hear what you're going to be saying, and they'll want to shoot the messenger."

Tim was, of course, right. The general reaction in the town was to condemn John, and the university, for being doomsayers. Tim was determined that the purpose of the news conference and the warnings the university was issuing wasn't to be able to say, "I told you so," in the middle of the coming flood. Rather, it was to change behavior in a way that would lessen the damage that would certainly be caused by the coming flood. That there would be a flood that spring was not in doubt; the only question was how high? Specifically the question was, will it go over 49 feet, and if so how much over?

Tim immediately got the mayors of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, county officials from both states, the Governor of North Dakota and a representative of the Governor of Minnesota, as well as lesser emergency officials from all those levels of government together in his office. Remarkably, they all had come; well, Tim had virtually made it a command performance, reminding a couple of reluctant participants that news coverage in the middle of a serious flood that reported their absence at this crucial meeting would be very bad politics-and he made it clear that he would so report to the news media. Tim could be very tough when he had to be, and I was proud of him that he wouldn't back down with any of them.

At the meeting he let John Adelbart speak first. After he spent about fifteen minutes explaining the reasons behind his prediction of a rise over 49 feet, Tim asked him, "Specifically, John, what's your prediction of maximum flood height this spring, based on all the information you now have available?"

John took a deep breath and spoke the words that nobody in the room wanted to hear, "At least 53 feet. 55 wouldn't surprise me."

"You're saying that you're virtually certain that we will have flood water rise 4 feet above the 49 foot protective walls that now protect the city?"

"Yes. I'd bet my last dime on it. However, I need to caution that the specific minimum height now being predicting by our models is 51.3 feet. But as data are added, and the timeline shortens, that number seems to rise daily. I am confident of 53 feet."

Tim turned to the flood engineers present and asked a question to which he-and everybody else in the room-already knew the answer: "Can we, in the next 2 to 4 weeks, raise those protection walls to 53 feet, not to mention 55 feet?"

There was no disagreement that the answer was, "No."

He turned to John, "Is there any point in investing money and labor in trying to raise the protection levels of the present dikes, levees and walls?"

John said, "None whatsoever. The walls are going to fail."

Tim had spent the last couple of years working with John's Center on the best response in this situation. He knew what the answer to his next question would be, and he knew that nobody in the room wanted to face this answer: "So, John, what do we do?"

"We go to Plan B. That is, open the dikes and walls when the water gets to about 46 feet. That way the flooding will arrive gently, not in a massive wave that begins when the first dike breaks."

"What else?"

"We've located a line in the city that we believe can be held at 56 feet of water. The plan presumes at least a week of work with a massive work force to erect temporary dikes, mostly with sand bags. [He showed a map of where the wall would fall, crossing through about the middle of the campus.] This would reduce the flooded area by about fifty percent, from the area that would flood if we try to hold the present dikes and fail."

Tim summed it up, "You mean that if we sacrifice the lower areas, we can reduce the damage by 50%."

"No, we can do better than that. We can reduce the area by 50%, but by having the water rise gradually we further reduce damage in the flooded area, and if we use part of our available work force to move property to higher floors or out of the known flood area we can reduce damage even more."

"So, you're saying that with the proper action we ought to be able to reduce the losses in the overall area by about 60 to 70%."


Tim turned to the others present. "So, what do we do?"

The Mayor of Grand Forks spoke first. "The people in the sacrificed flood area will scream bloody murder. It would be a political disaster."

"Most of the rest of those present agreed."

Tim said, "And no one here is willing to act on good science instead of bad politics?"


Tim said, "Well, I am. If you all won't go to the public with this proposal, I will. But to sell it, I really need you folks behind it. It's the right thing to do."

Inevitably, the discussion came back to John. "Are you sure?"

"Nobody's sure of anything. I live in the flood area. I've already started to move almost everything I own to the upper floors, and real valuables are already at my mother's in Bismarck. This, gentlemen, and lady, is the year of the big one. It's going to take political guts, but it's the right thing to do, and in the end, I think you'll all be heros."

The discussion literally lasted all day. The clincher arrived in the afternoon in the form of a weather forecast from the National Weather Service of heavy rains in eastern South Dakota, forecast for the next day. John simply said, "That won't affect my personal predictions, because I've taken such into account. But it'll be added data to our computer model. It will add a foot to its minimum prediction." By the next morning the computer model was predicting a minimum river level in excess of 52 feet, and the numbers continued to rise.

They adjourned for dinner in the President's Dining Room. As they left for the dining room Tim kidded them that they would get Army MREs for dinner, because that was what people were going to get to eat during the coming flood. Tim answered the inevitable question with, "That's a 'Meal, Ready-to-Eat'-but not fit for human consumption until your hunger level rises to that of a man on a three day fast."

When they sat down to eat (not MREs), Tim turned the discussion. Acting as if they'd already decided to go ahead with the sacrifice flooding plan, Tim turned the discussion at dinner to how they would inform the public, and when. Tim insisted that they needed to move quickly, as they needed enough time to build new temporary walls and dikes, and prepare the area that would be allowed to flood in order to minimize damage. His strategy worked. They'd worked out a plan to inform the public before they'd actually decided that was what they were going to do. Tim didn't let them back down, and they left there that evening with a news conference scheduled for 6:00 p.m. the next day, to be broadcast on live television.

The TV news conference the next day was like dropping a bomb right in the middle of Grand Forks-right in the middle of the area that was going to be allowed to flood. People were outraged. They were ready to fight. They threatened to personally dismember anybody who dared to open any of the dikes. And on and on. The politicians were running for cover, but Tim wasn't fazed. He requested time on television that evening to explain the situation further. He had no trouble getting TV time; it was going to be Grand Forks' most watched show in years! Tim was there, with all of his scientists from the university. They carefully went over all of the data and their predictions. They ended by repeating for the umpty-umpth time that it was virtually certain that water would rise to 53 feet, and that the walls and dikes simply couldn't hold that water, no matter what they did.

Tim then turned to the camera and said, "So what do we do?" He continued, "We have no choice but to accept the fact that many homes are going to be flooded. Our job is to minimize the number of houses and buildings flooded, and minimize the damage to those that are flooded." Then he dropped his bomb. "As of this moment I'm cancelling all classes at the University of North Dakota. I expect all students to be available beginning at 8:00 o'clock tomorrow morning to start work on our flood plan. We'll start by erecting dikes along the line where we believe we can hold a 56 foot flood. As soon as we get it organized, we'll divert as many students as are needed to help people in the flood area move furniture to the second floor and remove valuables to warehouses outside the flood area. We urge all citizens to join the effort. Time spent arguing about what area will be flooded will only increase our suffering."

The idea that about 7000 students might be available to help was staggering. In previous floods students had remained in school until the flood was getting serious and then efforts had been for a last minute push to use sandbags to raise the dikes-an effort that had miserably failed in 1981, and people were beginning to realize that it would fail this time.

I'm sorry to say that the mayor ran around wringing his hands for the next few days. The fire chief and police chiefs were effective, but needed leadership. Tim filled the vacuum. With no more authority than the fact that people seemed to listen to him, he took command of the entire effort. The Governor was reluctant to call out the National Guard before the river had at least reached the first level of flood stage, but Tim demanded the Guard, and he got it. I was put in charge of damage control within the flood area. With hordes of students we went door-to-door with an information handout and crews ready to go to work to move what needed to be moved. Every truck in the town was mobilized, and we were ready to move out of the area things that needed to be moved-that meant virtually everything in one-storey homes-of which there were many. Fred had a large warehouse complex just west of town-well out of the flood area. As the snow had begun to accumulate over the winter he'd seen trouble coming and had stopped all shipments to his warehouses, diverting them to other facilities in his system, and to rented warehouses elsewhere in the Midwest. At the same time he moved as much inventory from his Grand Forks warehouse complex as possible. Now it was virtually empty and ready to receive people's treasures from the town.

Over in East Grand Forks things didn't go so well. The Mayor and other community leaders couldn't stand up to popular demand that the dikes be raised and saved. However, even when that course of action was agreed to, people didn't turn out in serious numbers until the waters were dangerously rising. By then, even if it might've been possible to save the dikes, it was too late. East Grand Fords would face the worst flood in its history, flooding almost the entire town.

And the water did rise. On April 15 the water reached the 49 foot level. Amazingly the National Weather Service didn't revise its prediction of maximum flood to more than 49 feet until that day! The flooding of town began two days before that, when the dikes were opened at the 47.5 foot level. This allowed the water to come into the area that we would allow to flood, but to come slowly and under control. There would be no rushing water to cause damage, shove cars down the street, and drown unsuspecting persons. We were ready-ready to get wet, but ready.

I need to back up a little, and tell one critical story. In the summer of 1989 Tim read a story in the New York Times about New York Harbor getting a spiffy new fire boat to add to its fleet and retiring an older one. There'd been some controversy about retiring the old one, because it was still fully operational, but the fire department had pointed out that a boat without a crew was useless.

Tim was on the phone in a minute. Could the University of North Dakota buy the old boat? A deal was struck. Tim had known that the University didn't need a fire boat, but he'd also known that he'd never get support from the town to buy one. So the University of North Dakota was the owner of a fire boat, tied up at a city dock downtown, and Tim was the butt of numerous jokes. He had thick skin and simply smiled. After one editorial in the newspaper talked about the ridiculous purchase of a fire boat for the university, Tim wrote the editor-a good friend and usually a supporter-a little note saying, "Surely you can do a better job of roasting me than that! But, beware, you may have to eat those words."

By the end of the day on Wednesday, April 16, the water was reaching the second, new, dike-constructed mostly of sandbags, which had been filled and placed by literally thousands of students, citizens, and guardsmen (and women). Then we got the report that the Security Building downtown was on fire and fire engines couldn't reach it. Do you believe that nobody thought of the fireboat until the report of the fire got to Tim? He had a trained crew of students standing by, and they went into action. The boat has a low draft and could go right down the street to the fire. It didn't need fire hydrants, water pressure, or electricity-none of which were available. Totally self-contained it pumped water from the flooded streets and within an hour and a half had the fire contained. Only a single building was lost. It stayed on patrol in the flood area (the student crew slept on board) until the receding water forced it to move back to the Red River.

Half the campus was under water, and students in dorms on the wet side bunked in with students on the dry side. Dorm furniture and personal belongings were all moved up to the second and higher floors-while the area was still dry and the elevators could be used.

For the previous few years, at Carl's urging and Tim's direction, buildings had been reorganized so that a minimal amount of expensive or heavy equipment was on the first floor. Science labs were removed from ground floors and their former space turned into lecture and seminar rooms. Faculty offices-with their tons of books and papers were all moved up-by 1996 not a single faculty member had a ground floor office-whether they liked it or not, and some didn't. That preplanning meant that the amount of moving that needed to be done in advance of the flood was kept to a minimum.

We reached the point where there was nothing to do but watch the water rise. Tim reopened the university! He told me, "The work is done, if we don't put them back in classes they'll simply drink themselves silly. We've lost enough school. He had an emergency plan all devised for where classes would meet (some simply couldn't, but they were few), how rooms would be doubled up, etc. It actually worked, to everyone's surprise, but Tim's. And mine-I'd helped Tim work out the plan with a small team of far-thinking staff, faculty, and students (who turned out to be the most effective members of the team-they got real creative about where classes could meet with about 40% of our classrooms unreachable).

On April 14 the university flood prediction team issued their last prediction: 54.6 feet. At Grand Forks the final figure for the highest flood stage was 54.35. The university had been startlingly correct! And they'd provided that figure two days before the National Weather Service raised their figure above 49.

The damage was, of course, incredible. A significant portion of the town was under water. All commerce stopped. One major building burned, not to mention a few smaller ones, including one fire near the edge of the flood where the water was too deep for fire engines and two shallow for the fire boat. The final damage estimate was about one and a half billion dollars. East Grand Forks suffered proportionately much more than Grand Forks: they'd tried to hold the dikes, which failed with a surge of water on April 16, ultimately damaging every home in town except for seven. The damage was horrific.

Over in Grand Forks, as the waters began to recede and people were able to get back to their homes, it became clear that things could've been much, much worse. Tim and the university kept a low profile at this time. He wanted some agency other than UND to try to figure out what it would've been like if they'd tried to hold the dikes as they had on the Minnesota side. FEMA and a task force from the town's emergency planning agency, did come up with an estimate. The flooded area had been reduced by more than half. The damage by about 65%. Recovery that might've taken years could be accomplished in months. Almost two billion dollars had been saved. No one could estimate the fire damage to the downtown had the fire boat not been available to fight the fire in the Security Building. In short, Tim and his university team were heros.

OK, those were the basic facts. How can I put a human face on it all? For personal stories of tragedy one had to look to East Grand Forks. The Bar and Grill was simply gone-its building floated away. Mac saw what was coming, removed everything valuable (there wasn't much), said goodbye to the rest, and left town, driving east to...he knew not where. It was six months later when we heard from him. He called his old friend, Hamilton Fry. He had settled in Duluth, contemplated opening a new establishment but decided against it, and simply retired. Hamilton didn't think he sounded very happy, but he seemed to be putting on a good face.

Mac wasn't the exception, he was more like the rule. The population of East Grand Forks shrank 17%, pre-flood to post-flood (measured a year afterwards). Luckily there was no loss of life, but the property damage was beyond belief. It was a decade before you could say that the town was fully recovered.

Things weren't nearly that bad on the North Dakota side. Major FEMA dollars were available for rebuilding and Tim stepped into the middle of the controversy surrounding how to spend the dollars. He got a major grant to employ 2000 students over the summer for the clean-up and rebuilding efforts. They were available to help anyone in the flood area with any kind of clean-up or rebuilding project they needed. They called themselves the Good Samaritans, and that's exactly what they were. The did everything from carry Aunt Sally's books back to the first floor, to cleaning Mabel's basement, to replacing the dry wall in Fred and Janet's entire first floor. It was amazing what that kind of work force could accomplish, and by fall the town was beginning to again look like a town rather than a disaster zone.

For the Gang the whole thing was a grand adventure. Carl, and others, had been warning us for years that the big one was coming and we needed to be ready. First of all we knew that The Hideout, The Roundhouse, and The Lighthouse would be flooded in any serious flood. In our remodeling we had removed all the plaster and sheet rock from the first floor and replaced it with special plastic panels that could withstand a flood. While the walls were open we had replaced many, if not most, of the wooden studs with metal ones. Rising water would neither ruin the walls nor make them unable to support the upper floors. There were enough inhabitants in The Roundhouse and The Lighthouse to easily move virtually everything from the basement and first floor of all three houses to the second and third floors. Before any water was spilling over the dikes, they were ready.

Many other houses in the flood area were similarly prepared-though our replacement of wood studs and sheet rock was definitely the exception and not the rule. People, helped by many students and townspeople that lived outside the expected flood area, were as ready as they could be when the water came. When the water flowed, cars and busses poured out of town to the Grand Forks Air Force Base where they slept in hangers on cots. The Red Cross and National Guard were ready with mobile kitchens, and they provided almost a million meals before everyone had returned home.

The Gang did exactly as it had in the 1981 flood, they camped out in The Carl, which was in the flood area but had been designed in such a way that it could remain operational on the 2nd to 5th floors, even while the 1st floor was flooded. However, this time Tim didn't have to make his operations headquarters in Carl's office. Since they were confident that half of the campus wouldn't flood, Tim established himself in the Knight Sciene Hall, a new building on some of the highest ground on campus. From there he managed the whole operation.

The flood came at an interesting time in the personal relationship between Willie and Sally. It'd been the previous November when they'd realized that they had a pretty serious relationship. But Sally was only a sophomore, and neither of them had seen any reason to try to push the relationship faster than it seemed to be progressing. So things hadn't changed much between their first fuck in November and the following March when a possible flood loomed onto the horizon and into everyone's consciousness. At first it appeared that the flood would be a major disruption not only of their lives, but of their budding romance. That turned out not to be so. As Sally told the Gang later, "Having the chance to see Willie in action under difficult and stressful conditions simply made me certain that he was the one for me." Willie's reaction was much the same.

Sally lived in one of the dorms on the "wet" side of the campus and was going to have to move into a shared room in a dorm on the "dry" side. Instead, Willie invited her to move into The Carl with him and the others from The Lighthouse. There was limited space on the second floor of The Carl, but it was nothing new for the Gang to bunk together. The Lighthouse crew were all put together in one office. Considering their open relationship at The Lighthouse, that suited them fine. However, Sally, though a frequent overnight visitor, had thus far limited her sleeping to Willie. So a blanket curtain was set around a single mattress in the corner and that was reserved for Willie and Sally. Sex took a low priority during the time we battled the flood, and people arrived back at The Carl tired and ready to sleep. The curtain was all the privacy that Sally and Willie needed.

For Sally, the important thing was her opportunity to watch Willie function. She had feared that his self-importance might go to his head. He was, after all, considered to be the best diver in the world; he dripped Olympic medals; as the oldest of the COGs he was looked up to by some pretty impressive young people; and he was deferred to by a lot of folks who were quite his senior. These things had never seemed to go to his head, but Sally had wondered how things would work out in the stressful environment of a flooded city. She needn't have worried. Willie was very strong, and used to working long hours. He didn't need to be a leader or manager. He realized right away that Sally was very strong, but with her leg she needed a job that put her in one place-that was filling sandbags to build the fallback dike. So the first day the university closed and students were assigned to work details, Willie and Sally went to work turning great piles of sand-dumped down the streets where the new dike would be built-into great walls of sandbags. It was awful work, and it was often wet and cold-if it'd been dry weather they wouldn't have needed the sandbags! Willie was the first to work everyday and the last to leave. Sally could just barely keep up with him. Not once did he tell anyone who he was, and he deliberately introduced himself as Will and not Willie so that he could remain anonymous. One of the work crew organizers from the university recognized him and suggested that he could be more useful running a crew instead of just as a worker. His response had been, "I have no more idea of how to organize this job than anybody else. My diving experience is worthless, but my strong back isn't. Besides, if I try to lead a crew, people talking about who I am, and how neat it is to work for Willie, would get in the way of getting the job done. I can be most useful heaving full sandbags."

Sally told us, "He was right. His greatest contribution was his strength and his stamina, and he contributed enormous amounts of both. I knew right then and there that Willie was the man for me. We were engaged before the flood waters receded. And, yes, I asked him; I wasn't going to wait for him to figure it out. Men can be so slow."

Tim was a site to behold. He boldly took charge of everything. He had no legal authority; his authority was simply based on the fact that everybody followed his orders. Nobody questioned him. At first the Governor didn't want to call out the National Guard as early as Tim had asked. Tim simply asked, "What will you say to the newspapers when I point out that the damage would be substantially less if we'd had the Guard earlier?" From that point on, Tim was in charge and nobody challenged him.

It's a good thing, too, because Tim knew what he was doing. And when he didn't, he acted like he did. He realized that indecision was his greatest enemy, and he never succumbed. Decisions had to be made, and he made them, fearlessly. He made a few goofs (the public library lost more books than necessary because he didn't make sufficient students available early enough to move them; he didn't adequately organize the sharing of campus housing space, and some students had to head for the hangers at the Air Force Base and weren't around when classes restarted), but the damage caused was a fraction of what would've been lost had the town been paralyzed by indecision.

Carl was a pillar of strength. One doesn't usually look to an architect in times of flood. But Carl, realizing that he'd be working in a flood plain, had been studying floods and flood defense since he first came to North Dakota. He knew more about floods than anyone. He stayed behind the scenes, letting Tim be the public face. But they consulted constantly, and Tim rarely made a decision without talking to Carl. The town doesn't know it, but it owes an incredible debt of gratitude to their father and mother for teaching the boys to work together in almost perfect symbiosis.

Life for the Gang was interesting. In 1981 we'd had a dozen COGs underfoot at The Carl, all age five and under. In 1997 we had those dozen plus four more, and they were ages 13 to 19. Not all were living at The Carl: Auggie and his family lived way outside the flood zone, and Shel joined him (for obvious reasons). However, the rest of Shel's family came to the Carl-I think mainly because they perceived that that was where the action was. Merle and Tina lived outside the flood zone, but Milt and Max insisted on moving to The Carl when all of the other COGs did. We told them they were welcome.

Having everyone at The Carl presented one problem: Gangland. It was perfectly all right for any member of the Gang that wanted to use Gangland to go ahead and use it, but we all agreed that the occasion didn't warrant letting the COGs or other non-Gang members know about it. If you were going up to Gangland, you didn't take COGs and you didn't discuss with them where you were going. We soon realized that we'd be better off simply going there very seldom, rather than risking having kids ask too many questions about where their parents were.

The COGs were all old enough and strong enough to carry their load in helping with flood preparations, and they all did more than their share. At the same time, they all thought it was a wonderful lark, especially the fact that they were all living together in The Carl. In the previous flood, the second floor had pretty much been unfinished open space. This time it was finished offices and workrooms. Carl had his staff out helping with the flood, except a few that he simply had to keep working. That made room for all of the space on the second floor to be available as living space for the Gang. The COGs quickly looked the place over and put a sign on the workroom door, "COGs Only-all others upon invitation." It was normal teen behavior, and none of us resented it-and we followed the sign. Evenings after dinner the kids would retire to the workroom for talk and games. We realized that the games were often sexual, leading up to all kinds of interesting sleeping arrangements. We'd long since learned to trust all of the COGs, and that attitude prevailed at The Carl. We had no births on the flood plus nine months schedule, but we assumed that referring to any of the COGs as virgins after the flood would've been absurd, though several of them remained technically virgins-if to lose your virginity meant to be involved in actually inserting a penis into a vagina and having an orgasm. Penises in mouths, anuses, hands, and only temporarily in vaginas did not count, so we were informed. Oh well, it works for them!

Sid was in a dilemma the whole time. The first day the work crews were out building the dikes and helping to move people's stuff, Sid joined in the effort. Tim happened to see him and went over to speak to him. Tim said, "Sid, you are-right now-designated as the official flood artist. We need a record, and while photographs are loaded with visual facts, they do not convey mood and emotions they way an artist can-at least not in the way that you can. Put the sandbags down and get out your easel and sketch pads. Sid knew he was right and did what he was told, but he never got over the fact that he should've been carrying his weight on the work details. However, he produced a magnificent body of work (pencil, charcoal, and oil) depicting the flood and our response to it. At the height of the flood Tim arranged for him to tour East Grand Forks by helicopter, landing just east of the water for a brief stop and again on a rooftop. His pencil sketches of the east side flood are chilling.

Auggie was told to get out his camera and be the official photographer. He wasn't alone, working with newspaper photographers from the local and student papers, as well as the world press. Auggie's were some of the best pictures of the flood, and at age 15 he got his first, but not last, Time Magazine photo credit-for the cover! As soon as he knew that was coming he got on the telephone to Lynn in Madison to tell her to get hold of the next issue of Time. In fact, she should buy lots of copies. Lynn, of course, was expecting to see one of his pictures, and turned immediately to the flood story-the cover story. There were lots of pictures, and there was one small little picture of the flooded bridge to East Grand Forks with "Auggie Madison" beside it as a credit. Certainly that wasn't worth all the excitement, but then getting any picture in the magazine was an accomplishment for a fifteen-year old, she guessed she shouldn't blame him for his excitement. She showed the magazine to her mother who tumbled immediately. She looked at the cover, found the cover credit, and quietly handed the magazine back to Lynn. Lynn almost screamed when she read the credit, which was a brief narrative that briefly quoted Auggie as preferring to take pictures of boats on the water than of buildings in the water! As soon as he could get free of photographer obligations in Grand Forks he flew to Minneapolis and took the train (still his favorite way to travel) to Madison. He would've made the entire trip by train, but the Empire Builder, nor any other train, couldn't cross the flooded Red River. In Madison Auggie had a celebration with Lynn and her family.

Stuff a bunch of teenagers in a room together and things are bound to percolate. Because these kids were used to each other, and had lived in an environment in which sexual experimentation was acceptable-and possible (think of The Hideout), nothing much new happened at The Carl. The exception is that Bud and Jenny became very much a pair. Bud was a high school senior, but the age of a junior since he'd been advanced a grade in first grade, and Jennie (Jennifer, daughter of Jerry and Judy) was a tenth grader. They had, of course, known each other for years, but hadn't paid a lot of attention to each other. Well, that was our assumption, because in previous situations when the COGs had paired up, those two had ignored each other. On the Grand Adventure Bud had paired with Nettie, and Perry had paired up with Jennie. But neither of those pairing had matured. Nettie hadn't been able to deal with the fact that Bud was very much absorbed in his computer. Jennie liked Perry, but it wasn't going anywhere. But Bud and Jennie had pretty much ignored each other as well.

Now it became clear that Bud hadn't been ignoring Jennie. Well before we all moved out of our soon to be flooded homes and into The Carl, he arranged to be on the same work crew as Jennie, going door to door explaining the flood plans and offering to help move belongings upstairs or put them in trucks to take them out of harm's way. They ate together, and he walked her home each evening. When we all moved into The Carl sleeping together followed very quickly. They were inseparable for the two and a half weeks that we all lived in The Carl. Even though Tim had reopened the university, it had been impossible to reopen the high schools-too many families had been evacuated out of the area. (The elementary schools that served unflooded areas were kept open to keep kids busy and not playing in the flood zone.) To the extent possible work was found for the high school kids, reinforcing the dike, helping with meals, and a myriad of other tasks.

Bud didn't have much trouble getting hold of a rowboat. You really weren't supposed to be in the flood zone, but people with boats were generally allowed to check on their homes. Bud decided to check on The Hideout, and took Jennie along. They tied up on the front porch, and could've gone in the upper half of a first floor window. But they would've had to wade in 3 foot deep water to get to the stairs. Without a ladder they couldn't get to the second floor on the outside. So Bud rowed over to The Roundhouse. Since it was a multiple family dwelling, it had to have a fire escape on the back, and they tied up there and walked up to the second floor. They entered through a window and found a bed conveniently empty. There they made love for the first time. Back at The Carl they'd talked about sex, and had used their hands and sometimes their mouths. Jennie had urged Bud to fuck her, but he'd said he wanted to be alone for that, and alone they certainly weren't in The Carl. Besides, he wasn't sure he wanted to fuck her while they were still in high school. Maybe never unless they got married-which they'd talked about but were far from certain of. He knew that a lot of the Gang had drawn the line at fucking.

Jennie understood all that, but had simply said, "I want to be fucked. I don't see the point in a line. I'm 15 and you're 17, we're both pretty grown up, sexually mature, and I don't see the point in waiting. Sex is fun, if you use protection it's harmless. I want to be fucked."

"Are you on the pill?"

"Not yet, but I will be. You can use a condom."

Bud wasn't sure he was ready, but he was pretty sure that he was falling in love with Jennie. Her boldness hadn't put him off, it had turned him on-not so much sexually; he had just responded favorably to her enthusiasm for life. OK, I know you don't really believe this part of the story, but I have to tell it like it is. He had talked to his parents! Hal and Sue weren't surprised, neither by Jennie's suggestion nor by his coming to them to talk about it. Sue had said, "You know, Bud, when I was a few years younger than you I was raped. It took me a long time to get over it. It makes it very difficult for me to put myself in your shoes. When I was your age, sex was a terror for me. It took your father's kindness and patience to turn me around. I simply can't put myself in your shoes at this point. Maybe your father can."

Hal told Bud, "Well, Bud, my first sexual experiences were homosexual-within the Gang. That was before I met Sue. Sue and I moved very slowly, because of her bad experience being raped. So our experience isn't really a good guide for you. But let me say this. Some people draw a special line around intercourse. Others draw that line around all sexual relations-thinking that only married people should cross the line. Others don't draw any lines. Clearly Jennie doesn't draw any line between you and her. I don't think that's bad, but you have to decide for yourself what you think."

"Dad, I'm not really sure what I think. I can't give any reason to stop short of fucking Jennie. I just know that a lot of the Gang do draw a line there."

"Yes, and they all cross it at different times and with different people. Some want to be sure that they cross it with the person they will eventually marry. Others want to be married. Others think you need to reach some age-probably 18 when you're legally an adult-before you cross it. Nobody can make a logical case for their own line. But, don't cross the line unless you're comfortable doing it. Don't cross it for Jennie; cross it because you're ready, and because Jennie's ready."

"I gotta admit that fucking Jennie would be fun."

"Would it be more than fun?"

"What do you mean?"

"Would it be a loving adventure, or just good tingles below the waist?"

"It would certainly be that."

"But would it be more?"

"With Jennie? Yes, I think it would."

"I think you just answered your own question."

"God, thanks, Dad. I love you."

"I love you, too, Bud. And I think Jennie does, too."

The next day he got hold of the boat. One of his buddies in school loaned it to him-the boy and his father went fishing in it. It sat on a trailer in their yard, only a block from the new dike line-on the dry side. Now they were laying beside each other on the bed, totally naked. He got out a condom, and for the first time Jennie understood that she was going to be fucked. She said, "Oh, Bud, thank you. Can I put that on you. I know how."

Bud said, "Suck me and get me real hard. Then roll it on."

That's exactly what she did. As he started to sit up she pushed him back down. "I've read a couple of books, but much more importantly, I've checked out the porn on the web. I'm going to sit on you." She put her knees on the mattress on both side of his hips and slowly let herself down on his penis. He used his hands to aim, and soon he was inside her; she was bouncing up and down, excitedly. The only thing that the porn had left out was the name-neither of them would call it the cowgirl position for years, though it was their most common position all their lives.

Though Bud and Jennie were well down the road to romance, they still had a long way to go. Flood waters receded, people slowly returned to their homes, the second floor of The Carl returned to being architectural workspace, and Bud and Jennie went back to being students, but students in love with each other.

They had become, in the teen parlance of the day, "an item." Bud had his own car and picked up Jennie every day for school; they ate lunch together, and drove home together after school. They might end up at either of their houses, or at The Hideout, but most likely it was at Bud's house, where they went immediately to his room and turned on his computer. Both of them were computer nerds-that had probably been the basis for their mutual attraction. One of two things would pull them away from the computer-the urge to eat or the urge to fuck. Urges satisfied, they would head back to the computer.

I'd love to be able to tell you that they developed a great new search engine and dominated the web, or this really neat social networking site and became instant millionaires. Alas, it isn't so. But they did find themselves helping friends set up their computers, troubleshoot their computers, establish networks, etc. This led to their being asked by the parents of some of their friends to help out with business computers, small networks, and the like, for which they were paid. It wasn't long before the calls for paid help exceeded the time they had available, and they juggled school and their growing computer business all through their school careers. It was an easy transition from college at UND, where they both majored in computer science, to the world of work-where they became their own bosses and ran a successful computer service operation for years. They set up and maintained dozens of small networks for small businesses throughout Grand Forks. As presence on the web became a business necessity, they realized that there was good money to be made in web design. While they were both quite competent on the technical side, they realized that there were other design elements to a good web page, and they sought a good graphics designer to join their business. That would be Max. Son of Merle, Max had broad interests, but always had seemed to have the germ of an artist in him. He had eagerly embraced the computer, had majored in computer science at UND, graduated with honors in 2004, and was kind of footloose looking for a job. Computer graphic design was his main interest, and the field was just beginning to explode-but it hadn't yet in Grand Forks. Bud and Jennie asked Max to join their business, which they then set up as a formal partnership, making them all equal partners. Max protested that he hadn't done anything yet to warrant that, but they assured him that, first, they knew him and were sure he'd succeed; and, second, they weren't bringing much into the partnership either, except a short client list. Besides, it was the only fair way to go.

With Max doing webpage design-and before long getting national attention for his attractive, informative, and user-friendly pages-they were able to offer complete packages to their Grand Forks clients. While their support operations for local networks had to be limited to places they could actually visit to set up machines, etc., their web design business became national in scope. Don't get the impression that that was all Max. He was the design genius, but it took a major chunk of Bud and Jennie's time to do the programming behind the graphic creations of Max's fertile mind.

Max lived.... Whoops, that's another story. I jumped right over his teen years to explain how wonderfully things worked out for Bud and Jennie. But Max and Milt have their own stories, which will be told in due course.

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