Letter: Gratitude found along the road less . . . graveled

There are many reasons why I love living in Rappahannock County, of course. But this past weekend provided a vivid illustration of several.

After the great rainfall (5.5 inches in less than 12 hours on Saturday), our newly planted lower kitchen garden was under muddy rushing water, our road (Mount Marshall Road) gone, taken over by the raging river. As of Monday night, we still could not leave by car.

On Sunday morning, a neighbor downstream found a chicken waterer, assumed it was ours (it was) and set it beside his driveway for us. He was dismayed to find shortly after that someone took it.

Not an hour later, a friend, a couple of miles up Harris Hollow on the other side of the hill, sent a message to say she found our chicken waterer (she was sure it was ours) at the bottom of so-and-so’s driveway, and took it for safekeeping until we could retrieve it (She actually tried to bring it back, but could find no road. It still was under a few feet of water at that point.)

The same downstream neighbor who had access to Harris Hollow Road, whom we could reach by walking across the field, offered rides or to fetch us things we needed.

On Sunday afternoon, two friends called with the offer to park one of their vehicles on Harris Hollow, where we could walk to it. We were fine, we said, we have a big pantry, electricity and Internet, so we could work. We were, however, getting a little low on cat food and that might get tricky depending on how long the road is impassable.

Our friends showed up in the afternoon, walking across the hill with several dozen cans of cat food (and our milk share).

Someone else (in Sperryville!) offered one of their vehicles. More people called offering to get things for us at the store.

After seeing pictures of the flooded garden that I posted on Facebook, someone I have met only twice (a dedicated gardener himself in Madison County, who must know how dear my garden is to me) offered extra seeds if I need to replant after the flood. (This one almost got me teared up.)

As it turned out, most of the seedlings managed to hold on. They were battered, some of them thoroughly flattened by the rushing water, all pointing downstream, their roots severely exposed . . . but holding.

We spent a good part of Sunday cleaning up debris and mashed-up fences, retrieving tomato cages (the ones that did not float away, that is) and hoses and pushing seedlings back in the ground.

On Sunday night, our modem died — unrelated to the rain, just plain old age. Hmm. I had a few deadlines and so did Keith, so we wondered if it was time to walk the five miles to the library or accept an offer of a car.

A few phone calls and some things are rescheduled. On Monday afternoon, weekender neighbors who could drive out let us borrow their modem. My husband walked over the hills and back to retrieve it. We were back in business by Monday evening!

By 9 a.m. Monday, VDOT was working on Harris Hollow Road. We were told it looked a lot like Gid Brown Hollow Road — although the new bridge held uncommonly well, just as Ben Jones uncannily forecasted. By 10:30, heavy equipment was riding up the new Mount Marshall River — actually driving through the water.

By 11, VDOT had built a temporary berm on what remained of Mount Marshall Road to prevent the water from crossing it (clogged culverts in three spots had forced the river onto the road). At 3, the excavator was at the first set of clogged culverts (next to our place), clearing the boulders and rocks that had accumulated in the stream in front of the culverts, preventing the water from passing through. Whoa! It’s pretty amazing, watching them work. They even rammed a huge log into the culverts to dislodge the rocks and soil inside.

At 7 p.m. Monday, my husband took a walk and found that we could now walk dry-footed across the road: one of the culverts was cleared. (Earlier, I had heard the thumping sound of big rocks falling in the water as I was working outside). We were able to drive out by Tuesday — although there was still a six-foot-deep canyon upstream and lots more work for VDOT to do.

At 7:45 p.m., we sat down to dinner — a huge pan of freshly picked Rappahannock morels. (Walking has its compensations.)

Thank you to all who helped and offered to help — you know who you are, and so do we. We are grateful.

P.S.: If anyone finds any tomato cages downstream in the Rush, they are probably ours.

Sylvie Rowand