Friday, August 15, 2008

High water marks

As you can see, the proprietors of the 1846 Mason House Inn at Bentonsport are taking no chances. Sandbags remain in place in front of the venerable building, flooded many times in its 162 years but spared when the Des Moines spread beyond its banks and crept onto the street in front during June.

There was some joking at the Greef Store, when I stopped in Monday headed back upriver from Farmington, that the bags painted red and green would look cheery for Christmas. I doubt it will come to that.

Still, the old river is running high, as you can tell from this photo shot upstream from the old 1883 bridge connecting Bentonsport and Vernon toward the new. This is less a factor of recent rain than it is of the Army Corps of Engineers managing the level of Lake Red Rock at the dam southwest of Pella, but it looks darned intimidating.

Here's a shot looking east toward Bentonsport and the Mason House from the footpath that since 1994 or so has used the old bridge as a base to connect the two villages for pedestrians. Driving across that old bridge, when it was the only bridge, used to be a major treat --- approach cautiously from either end to make sure no one was headed your way (if you were careless enough to meet someone on the bridge there was no option other than one or the other backing off), then drive slowly across as the old girl rattled and shoook. Ah the good old days.

Bentonsport and Vernon have taken a couple of big hits lately as towering figures in their recent history died. Burretta Redhead, who with her husband, Herbert, literally shook Bentonsport and brought it back to life, died during February of 2006. And Wendell Mohr, acclaimed watercolorist who turned the 1851 Vernon School into his home and studio in 1970, died on 25 May of this year. The old bridge that connects their former homes isn't a bad place to remember them and say "thanks!" for lives superbly lived.

Here's a final photo --- from the bridge toward the back of the 1852 post office building that used to stand just south of the Mason House until it was moved onto the riverbank --- and beyond it, the 1853 Greef Store.


Ed Abbey said...

I hadn't heard that Wendell Mohr had died. Such a big loss.

This town is always on my list of places to go with people from out of town. Everyone always likes the bridge and Greef store.

"JEANNELLE" said...

Hi from northeast Iowa, I'm happy to find another Iowa blog.....I linked to your site from yesterday's Mason City Globe-Gazette article. Your photos are great and the history interesting! Southern Iowa is pretty much foreign territory to me.