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When There’s Too Much

By Cyrus Bird-Walker, Brainerd Field Crew Leader / AmeriCorps Member

The Brainerd crew was scheduled to work in Banning State Park pulling garlic mustard there. We arrived at the field site ready to hike into the spot we’d start working when we got the call. Crews with Conservation Corps spend time on-call waiting to respond to wildland fires, oftentimes while working on other projects like we were. Although this time we were on call for flood response. And so we got called up before even starting work for the day, despite being prepared for it. Chris and I then made the drive up to Kabetogama on the southern side of Voyageurs National Park. Our 3.5 hour drive was relatively short compared to the crews coming up from the south district and Iowa.

While it was nearly the end of the day, they got us out in the field to help shore up a sandbag wall that was putting pressure on a garage door. We squeezed on our waders and orangies and waded through waist high water to get to the property. Safe to say I drew the short straw as my waders had a good leak in them.

With limited housing, we stayed in Kabetogama’s Town Hall, where they provided cots, blankets, and pillows for us. With the wifi and short commute for daily meals, I did not mind at all. Second day got us rolling and learning. After debriefing, us and the Mankato 1 crew were sent to the sand mines – the name they gave the sandbagging area by staging – filling sandbags all day. Hard work, but it builds good muscle. We got the chance to work with Josh and his crew from the south district, something that only happens on these jobs. Other crews more familiar with the work went out to properties to shore up or heighten sandbag walls with the continued rise of flood waters. With other crews making joint names, we decided to come up with one too. Brainerd + Mankato = Monkeybrains. Can’t work hard without having fun.

There are a few homeowners we got to meet along the way, helping them make their walls stronger or helping recover certain structures that got breached. Some helped build the sandbag walls with us, right alongside us. The lady at one of the resorts we were helping out invited us all to a fire on the last night some of the other crews would be there. Other snippets like getting to hike a bit at Voyageurs, getting cookies and sandwiches from those that helped us, and playing card games at the end of the day (and losing badly…) are what made that experience one that I would do again. Helping people is an opportunity that flood response has afforded us. I look forward to the numerous other opportunities the Corps will give me and my crew.