Aunt Dora Baggins
May 28 2010, 11:56pm
They climbed up the hillside in blinding rain, and a minute later their car went down the river. They were airlifted out the next day by helicopter. Twenty-five years later I got to meet that man and thank him. Here's a poem I wrote about him:
A young man on a motorcycle told them to get out of the car.
"Next time there's a flood,
I'm calling in sick."
Big strong hand shakes mine,
Eyes crinkle over a graying beard.
"It was no big deal.
Lucky I was there, that's all.
If I hadn't stopped for that beer in Estes
I'd a' been caught in the Narrows.
Funny how a little thing,
One tiny moment
Can change the next thirty years.
"The water roared up under the road behind me
Like a movie monster,
Buckling the blacktop as I ran down the canyon.
Rain so hard you could drown
Just breathing it.
Put my head down
And it made a tunnel of air to breathe.
"In the dark I passed a car.
Dang! There's people inside!
That can't be good.
I wasn't gentle—
Pushed 'em up the mountain.
Wouldn't let 'em get their coats.
Car washed away soon as they got out.
"Scene in the cabin was worse 'n any horror movie.
Little girl with big eyes
Shining in the dark.
Pink streaks on her face:
Tears through the blood.
"Her mama--I've seen better color on a corpse.
Arm was broke almost all the way off.
I put on a tourniquet,
Got her to the helicopter.
I was sure she was a goner.
"Didn't read the obituaries--
Didn't want to know.
That's why I didn't come to the ten-year.
Afraid I'd find out--
Afraid I could a' done more.
"But at the twenty-year reunion,
Something pulled me,
Made me decide to come.
Got out of the car, and there she was!
I couldn't believe it.
"There she is now.
Still got her arm, and it works too.
Miracles do happen.
"Still don't like the rain, much.
Don't even like my water glass too full.
When it sprinkled tonight,
I was ready to climb the mountain.
But I'm glad about your folks.
It was no big deal."
We shake his hand, my sister and I.
Mom sits smiling up at him, remembering.
It was a big deal, Butch.
One tiny moment thirty years ago,
A young man banging on a car window,
And grandchildren growing up
Loving grandparents they might never have known.
"Yep," he says, "Lucky.
You might a' been lighting candles tonight,
And instead, here we are.
But next time there's a flood,
I'm calling in sick.
Still don't like the rain."
August 1, 2006
[based on a conversation with Butch Hutchins
Big Thompson Flood memorial service
Drake, Colorado, July 31, 2006]
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories
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