The October and November Landmark crew didn’t witness the catastrophic floods of late summer. We never dealt with the endless rain and the gumbo roads. We didn’t visit the wreckage of the bridge across Fourchette Creek to the Buffalo Jump. We were never stranded for days in floodplains clear up to our doorstep, listening to the incessant whine of mosquitos.
Still, we have seen the flood. I can read the waterlines in the contour of flotsam piles and the washed-out green of algae in dry potholes. These signs spell out the story of every drop of water on this perennially parched land.
The fascinating thing about this story is that it is clearly visible, even in the dry months—of which there are many—and it is always being written.
The draws run to washes and coulees, the coulees into creeks, and the creeks into the Missouri River, which eventually makes its way to the ocean. They wear history into and out of the land, marking records of rainfall, drought and floods, washing away ancient petrified forests and the dusty remains of prehistoric creatures.