My favorite country music icon, Johnny Cash, says it’s five feet high and rising. He sings that at 2 feet high it’s covered the oats crop, and at 3 feet the cows are in water over their knees. After last week, I know that at 4 feet I need to change my underwear.
    Northwest Iowa, along the rivers, has been hit the worst with flooding and evacuations, and our area of southwest Minnesota is second worst in terms of closed roads, flooded crops, houses and livestock facilities. We were saturated already when on the night before the longest day of the year we got dumped on with six more inches. It started raining with a vengeance at 9 p.m.
    What I am about to tell you about the next eight hours is not exaggeration, but the absolute truth about how things really go around here. At 10 p.m., my wife was in the bathtub taking a leisurely bath. I finished watching the Minnesota Twins lose again and went to the basement bathroom to prepare for bed. My bare feet hit cold water on the floor. I calmly went outside in the storm and readied the big shop vacuum to suck water out of the basement. Once back inside, I told deb what was happening, and she started vacuuming while I went outside to check if the house eave troughs were working properly. Par for the course, the huge Maple tree west of our house had done its dirty work of plugging the west gutter. I already had put it on my grandson’s work list for Friday, but it was only Wednesday.
    deb came outside to see that I was contemplating how to clean the rain gutter in pouring rain with a 30 mph wind. I said I’m not going on a ladder in those conditions and asked her if I got the telehandler if she would lift me up. As I went to get it, my brain was telling me she has never ran the telehandler. So, for safety sake, I took the extra time to attach the caged man basket on the front so at least I will fall out slowly if she pushes the hydraulic lever the wrong way. When I got the machine close to the house, she told me she’d go up. My life had been saved.
    At midnight we went to bed hoping for the best and knowing things were not good. At 4 a.m., my phone rang. It was our night shift at the dairy saying they didn’t have water for washing up. I immediately went there and determined our well supplying the dairy had malfunctioned. Our well is in a low-lying area on my home farm about a mile from the dairy. I drove my side-by-side to within 100 yards of the well, then walked deeper and deeper into flood waters until I reached the well house door. The water was above my waist and 6 inches below the electrical service box. I could tell the pump in the newly drilled, sealed well was still working because I had 20 psi on the gauge, and the code was green. The head scratcher was that I should have 70 psi on the gauge. As I tripped the breaker to disconnect all power and shone my flashlight around, I saw the problem. The blue air balance tank was floating sideways on top of the water. Floodwaters had forced the empty steel air tank up off the floor and in the process broke off the water line feeding it right at ground level. To prove my theory, I turned the pump back on and put my head and arms under water to feel well water escaping under high pressure.
    I knew there was no way to force the blue air tank down into the water, heat up the plastic fitting and reattach it all while working 4 feet under. My farmer plumber skills told me I could eliminate the air tank because of the variable speed pumps, so I needed a way to plug the hole. I went to the shop and looked through my unorganized supply of new and used plumbing fittings. I found an old stuck open valve, a hose barb and a short piece of plastic pipe. With the vice, I got the valve shut and jumped back in the muddiest Yamaha ever seen. Back at the well, I realized I was in over my head for strength to do the job alone. I called Joe and with both our heads under water we put our finger in the dike so to speak and plugged the leak.
    Our basement never got more than a half inch of water. deb estimates she vacuumed over 500 gallons of water out in one week’s time. We have five fans, two dehumidifiers and one air conditioner still running 10 days later. Things seem to be drying nicely even after two more inches of rain we had last night. We are going to be 10 days late cutting second cutting alfalfa because of all the ponding and muddy fields. It’s been a tough spring around here but it could be worse. I’m not quoting Johnny Cash’s other song, “Ring of Fire.”
    Vander Kooi operates a 1,800-cow, 4,500 acre farm with his son, Joe, and daughter-in-law, Rita, near Worthington, Minn. Send him feedback at Follow him on Instagram, @davevanderkooi.