Harry Forbes Remembers #14
In the fall of 1951, heavy snow blew in on the 8th of October and continued until the spring of 1952. The Cypress Hills especially had a tremendous amount of snow.
When the spring thaw came, there was flooding everywhere. The flats at PFRA (the former Dixon ranch) were flooded; the bridge across the creek washed out, the floor of the PFRA house was under water. Harry (Opsal) and brother Lloyd had placed everything up on boxes, chairs, tables and benches above the floor as they were expecting the flood.
Harry had built a raft of timbers and planks to try to float from his side of the creek over to Lester’s (Ferguson) side. When he got to the far side, by poking his way along with a pole, he found a fence with an open gate. The fences on both sides of the gate were piled with branches, brush and other debris so the water was rushing through the open gate. When Harry got opposite that point, the current caught his raft and started turning it around. Harry rushed to the other end of the raft to try to head it toward shore, but that end went down dumping him in six feet of water. He couldn’t swim and thought he was a goner. He paddled and splashed furiously and managed to keep his head above water until he finally reached the other bank. Lester’s wife, Frances, was watching him from the shore and also thought he would be drowned.
Near this same spot there was a bend in the creek. Fifteen years earlier, in 1937, when I was working at the Dixon rach, Chester Dixon and his cousin from Medicine Hat were visiting there. They took me for a ride in a small boat. Once they got me there, they did a bit of hell raising. They began rocking the boat up and down and dumped me out the rear end into seven feet of water. I could not swim! When I came up, I caught the back end of the boat. They could both swim like fish and could easily have rescued me. I never did get a chance to pay them back.
Chester joined the Air Force near the start of the war and was killed overseas soon after.