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A valley full of superheroes

I was riding the school bus to first grade in 1988, and I distinctly remember looking north toward the black wall of smoke. I grew up 60 miles south of the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, and I could breathe the evidence of the great fires there that late summer.

I found myself in a heated debate with my fellow bus-riding second-graders about whose potato-farmer dad was the bigger superhero. Each of those fathers was a superhero.

Those farmers were superheroes that day because they were loading up every piece of 40-foot-long sprinkler pipe from their fields and loading them on unlicensed, patched-tire trailers that were never meant to leave a field. They hauled the sprinkler pipe to the town of West Yellowstone, Montana.

My brother was a senior in high school and put to maximum use to load, drive and follow our dad north with his own load of sprinkler pipe. The farmers of Ashton, Idaho helped fire crews surround the town of West Yellowstone with sprinkler pipe. They pumped water out of the Madison River and saved the town from burning. The Great Yellowstone Fire of 1988 came within a mile of the town.

Thirty years later, I am a resident of southwest Medford. Last year my family was evacuated for the Almeda fire. I have always maintained a food supply, 24-hour go bags and a “be prepared” mindset. However, I never imagined the anxiety, unease and surprise I experienced that evening when my family needed to “go.”

Our family of six stuffed our cars with our irreplaceable stuff. While driving in tears, I called a superhero family in Gold Hill who welcomed us. Then we all welcomed another family of eight and another family of three that night, plus pets.

None of us had family in the state or a place to go. I remembered to pack up the school district-issued Chromebooks because I didn’t want my kids to miss Zoom school in case we never came back.

None of our evacuation experience compared to the families who lost everything the night of Sept. 8, 2020. Or the friends who couldn’t get home for a week because of road closures, gas lines, utilities or safety. We had friends who had no electricity for a week and rotting food running out of their refrigerators when they returned. It was a privilege to be asked to bring soup for an impromptu soup feed when a trailer park, which didn’t burn, could allow evacuated residents to return a week later.

A year later, I look back and see only superheroes. Clergy did everything from finding apartments to borrowing generators for people who needed power to operate their well water. Another friend used her barn as a warehouse to collect and distribute donations. There are too many community organizations to list that pulled together donations and are still helping.

This valley is full of superheroes. Superheroes drop everything to help.

Annette Lynn lives in Medford.

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