No one got hurt. That was the main thing. But for a few weeks late this summer, my little canyon in Idaho got hit with a huge wildfire, which burned up to a few feet from the house, then a mudslide, which came at us with (literally) 2 million tons of debris, and then a flood which forever changed the landscape and contour of the valley.
This is the story of the last few weeks, told in fragments and photographs as it happened.
August 18th, 2013
This little valley on fire is where Annie and Stella and I live and we won’t know the true extent of damage until we’re allowed back in. Our neighborhood has been the hardest hit so far in this massive wildfire, but we are all ok thanks to the efforts of amazing neighbors and heroic firefighters who are putting their lives on the line.
We still love you, Idaho.
August 29th, 2013
I remember looking in my rear view mirror to see the horse watching me leave to finish the next #ForTheSender album in California. She was reaching her head over this fence and I thought to myself that I should stop and take a photo, but I didn’t. I thought I’d be back in a week and would see her head reaching over that fence soon enough. Mother nature had other plans.
The field and hillsides and fences were black as I drove into the canyon, but I could see the house in the headlights, still standing. I walked into the kitchen, through the patio furniture that the firefighters had thought to bring in. I could see that they had also re-stacked the scattered wood pile, a job I was expecting to do.
And it wasn’t me who took down the flag from the porch so it wouldn’t burn. As I approached the kitchen counter, I saw this. #idaho #forthesender
If you recall the firefighters who left my flag folded on my kitchen counter … the next morning I saw them down at the corner, below a band of trees and houses that they’d somehow salvaged. I wanted to give them something, but nothing seemed to be enough to show my appreciation. So I gave them a piece of myself.
And Stella, almost.
A neighbor had managed to get the horse out before the fire hit. She took her down to Swiftsure Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center, where friends kept an eye on her. A few days after the evacuation was lifted, I put up a small temporary fence so she could at least be here with me. I drove down to pick her up and she came to the fence and nickered when she saw me and wouldn’t leave my side for the rest of the day. We took our first ride through the burn that afternoon, wind blowing and black moonscape everywhere with pockets of trees here and there.
The morning after the ride through the burn I was walking down to the barn when I noticed a small sliver of green coming up from the black. Maybe renewal has already begun.
Deeper breaths were starting to surface in the fire’s aftermath when a huge late night thunderstorm parked over the canyon. As I was walking past an entryway window on my way to put the horses in, a lightning flash lit up the entry, which looked like it was waist high with mud and rock. I thought I was imagining things. I wasn’t.
The day after the slide I found a shoe down in the horse pasture. Not a horse shoe. My dad’s shoe, swept down from the house way in the distance against the hill.
Excavator 1, My Dad 0.
Score at end of regulation: Bee 1, Me 1. Going into overtime. (Expand this section Maybe?)
Over three hundred tons of dirt from against the house have been hauled down to the field and we are finding our footing again. Thoughts going out from Idaho to
I didn’t have time. A couple of hours after I was standing next to Annie and the piles of dirt out in the field, thinking we were on solid ground, the sky opened up again. Except this time it brought rain heavier than before and then violent hail. I took this video when the hail started of the water running down the deep trench we’d dug behind the house to divert what we could. You can see it starting to fill back towards the house.
Before long where we’d just been standing was a wide river and the valley was under the worse flooding since people started living out here.
It rained and hailed hard for only an hour but that was enough. I couldn’t get my trailer or truck out and had to watch Annie run around panicked through a couple feet of moving water until the flood started to recede. She found a small stretch of higher ground and is okay.
You can see the cut in the earth behind me left by the water and debris. The fence I’m standing on is four feet high.
The first day of fall I walked out into the field where the burned soil and rocks has been washed down to a hard clay by the flood. The mountain behind the house framed the mountain of dirt that fell on the house, almost a thousand cubic feet, which is over two million pounds of debris. Two million.
There was a break in the clouds, a bright blue Idaho sky shining down on Stella and the dirt, and I decided that this would also be a good time for a break from this story of mud and fire and water. Next time you hear from me will be from the back of a horse.