ALONG HIGHWAY 2 — After he plowed snow all winter for the Valley County Road Department, Floyd “Shorty” Doke’s home is now surrounded on three sides by meltwater. After what has seemed like a never-ending winter, Doke is again battling the snow, now in liquid form.
Doke’s blue home sits above the first floodwaters that travelers see when arriving in the Glasgow area from the west. Tight along Highway 2, the home stands atop a mound, high and dry along with a couple of tractors and Doke’s wood splitter, which were moved to the higher ground. From the surrounding cold water, the cricking of frogs can be heard. Doke jokingly called the knob SOB Island.
All across the Hi-Line, drifts of snow still speckled the brown hillsides and coulees on Wednesday, but in any low spot in the valleys, water was pooled across acres of farmland, creeks raged out of their banks and trees were surrounded by pooled and running water the color of melted Fudgesicles.
The first sight of floodwaters traveling east from Malta is near the eastern end of Nelson Reservoir. After topping a rise, drivers see an expanse of brown water engulfing both sides of Highway 2, this area’s main travel artery.
At Saco, the next town to the east, a strong west wind raised waves that lapped across flooded farm fields.
“We’re not in any danger,” said Howard Pippen, Saco’s mayor, after lunching with neighbors in the town’s cafe. He has lived in the area for more than 70 years and says he saw worse in a freak September flood in 1986 and a spring flood in 1978.
“I expect it to last here another week to 10 days,” Pippen said.
Farther east, at Hinsdale, Chris Christensen was taking a coffee break at the Raiders Quick Stop. His boots caked with mud, he was relaxing after moving 75 head of cattle off property he had the heifers on northwest of town. Water had risen to within a foot of flooding a corral, making it necessary to load the cows in horse trailers and haul them out. A week earlier, he had moved newborn calves by rowboat from the same area.
Christensen’s friend, Jerry Arnold, talked about a neighbor’s home that was surrounded by floodwater, with an unexpected effect.
“All the water forced the mice into his house,” Arnold said. “It was just terrible.”
West of Glasgow along Second Avenue South, Herb Fullerton of the Valley County Road Department was placing “road closed” and “water over roadway” signs on Bentonite and Billingsley roads. He ticked off a number of other county routes that had been shut down because of the flooding. Glasgow looked more like a bayou settlement than a prairie town.
With Highway 2 close to their front yard, the Dokes don’t have to worry about losing access to their place. They built their home atop a mound intentionally after suffering through earlier floods. On Wednesday, the biggest worry was keeping the home’s sump pump working in the crawl space. It hasn’t been used in years and it was acting cranky.
“Shorty has been up all night because the sump pump hasn’t worked,” Laurie said.
Doke has gotten little rest while nursing the machine. But he was in good spirits anyway.
“You can take all the water you want back with you,” he told visitors.
Walking to the dining room window, Laurie Doke pointed to stakes that her husband had planted in the backyard to mark the floodwater’s edge. The first stake, planted Friday, is no longer visible, swallowed by the advancing Milk River. The river, usually 150 yards to the south, is now 10 yards from the Dokes’ home.
“We used to have two doghouses out there, but they seem to have floated away,” Laurie said.
The problem seems minor compared to what could happen, or to the problems faced by friends and neighbors. Some are stranded, some have only boat access to their homes, some are fearful that the Milk River could sweep their home off its foundation and downstream.
“It’s a good thing this doesn’t happen every year,” Doke said.