After being gone from the Sunchild Reserve for about six years, we had moved back because we were asked to return by many of the people, and there had been no mission operating for several years. The Band administration had plans in place to put in a good bridge and develop the area across the river where we, and many others had lived before. So we decided to move back in the same spot where our log house had been, and let the area develop around us. We set up a camp of three wall tents to live in until we got our house built. A work crew was coming from the States to build the house for us, later that summer.
Just two weeks after we moved into our tent camp, it began to rain day and night, and before it was over the highest water levels ever recorded were reached in many areas nearby where records had been kept. I got our pick-up truck out ahead of time, and parked it up on a hill on the other side of the river, because our camp was in a wide flood plane area. I also borrowed a canoe, because we had left ours up north in the Yukon. The night it came over the banks we were trapped in between two raging channels, but I managed to get Karen and our small children through the smaller one, and up on a hill, where we built a fire and everyone sat under a tarp all night, completely cut off from the world.The next morning a helicopter flew Karen and the children out, but I stayed with our son Seth, who was 11 years old. Our tent camp was in the flood waters, but our tents were elevated on wood floors, and the water came one inch from going over the top of the floors. The current of fast water was going in channels where lower terrain was, and our camp was not taken away. The valley was completely flooded, making the river a mile wide. Great changes were carved in the terrain by the flood. All three access roads to our camp area were taken out. The bridges on the roads leading to the Reserve were all gone, isolating the Reserve.
We had our summer Vacation Bible School scheduled to be held by an outreach team from the Northwest Indian Bible School. About a week after the flood, the first temporary bridge giving access to the Reserve was put in over Brewster Creek, just a few hours before the VBS team arrived. Our family was all back in our tent camp, although the water was still very high. I had to return the borrowed canoe, and the only way we could get across was on a small log raft in one spot where the river was deep and the current slowed down considerably.
When the VBS team arrived, I met them and took them up to the field by the Band Office where we were to hold the VBS in a large tent. I had made arrangements for the team to use the bathroom facilities in the Public Works building. This was about three miles and on the opposite side of the river from where we were living in our camp.
All this has been introduction, and now 'the plot thickens'. I don't mention this to be unkind, but it is essential to understanding the story. The leader of the team was a brand new staff member from 'back east', and this was his first experience out on a Reserve. He obviously was stressed out, in confusion as to his surroundings, and didn't have a clue what was going on. He was so fearful of his situation that he was prepared to turn around and leave, though they had come 500 miles, with an entire team and large amount of equipment and supplies. We consistently had 150 children in VBS here, and was expecting at least that many this time also. I waited around to see what would happen, and finally they began to settle down, and prepared to spend the night. Before I went home that evening the team leader explained his requirements.
He insisted that we do the cooking for the camp, instead of his wife. Even though Karen was pregnant, living across a flooded river several miles away, and had to cook over an outdoor fire. He also insisted I provide an outhouse toilet, even though I had given them the key to indoor bathroom facilities in a building beside their camp.The next morning was a beautiful, hot, summer Sunday morning. But we had our work cut out for us. Karen started early to cook a huge dinner of fried chicken and rice, while I took all of our small children on an unusual task. The outhouse we decided to take up for the workers to use, was one we had in our camp. It was made from thick rough lumber I had a friend saw on his mill, and was very heavy. Our task was to get it across the rough field, a half mile to the river bank, then get it across the still flooded river to where my truck was, load it on the truck and haul it up to the VBS camp.
We cut fence post size poles to use as rollers and laid the outhouse on them. As we pushed it along, we would move the rollers to the front, and thus we slowly progressed with difficulty over the rough field. This took all morning to get it to the river bank, and we were hot and exhausted. My plan to get it across the river was one in which I had little options. I tied a long rope on the outhouse, and coiled it over my shoulder. I would swim across the river, tie the rope on the pick-up truck, and then drive ahead and tow the outhouse across the river.