With an area of flooding described in local newscasts to be “the size of the state of Connecticut,” Coloradans of all stripes were impacted by nature’s power.
After wreaking havoc west of Interstate 25, floodwaters raced eastward, destroying roads, bridges and everything else in their path, including the home of five-time PRCA world champion bareback rider and ProRodeo Hall of Fame cowboy Bruce Ford.
Despite a career of defeating tough obstacles and staring down danger eight seconds at a time, Ford’s reputation meant little to Mother Nature as she spilled the banks of the South Platte River and flooded the Ford’s property near Kersey, Colo., with water, mud and muck.
Like many in Colorado, the house is a total loss, as floodwaters ran underneath it and pushed inside to heave and buckle the floor.
Fortunately, Ford and his wife Sherry were able to get themselves and their animals to safety, even though he was hobbled with a foot problem that is a complication of diabetes.
Talking to them at his mother’s house, which was nearby and escaped the brunt of water damage, they shared what happened and their thankfulness toward their neighbors, the community and their extended rodeo “family.”
“About 5 or 5:30 p.m. on Friday (Sept. 13), a young man that keeps his horses out here said, ‘I’m going to go into town and get us some chicken and we’ll have some barbecue tonight,’” recalled Ford from a comfortable chair inside his mother’s living room as the family discussed how quickly it all happened. “Well, he left and he never made it back. Between 6 and 6:30 p.m., Sherry said the water is right there. We just went to work taking care of the animals. It came two feet high just that fast.”
“We’ve been through fire and flood,” said Ford about this disaster and a previous incident years ago when his arena was lost to fire. “I’ve had my barn arena burn down. My first reaction on both those deals was to cut that rope and get those horses out of there.”
“Sherry jumped in there and was a wonderful helper,” he added, motioning toward his wife who sat across the room. “Those horses, they just almost like to have said ‘thank you.’ They just ran to the hill.”
“They took off,” agreed Sherry as she detailed their efforts to free animals and lead them to safety. “They knew where to go to high ground. They were glad to get out of the water. You don’t have time to panic. You’re just thinking, what should I get that I really need.”
Although the couple’s modest home is ruined, along with some furniture and most of the possessions that were on or near the floor, they are grateful for the outpouring of prayers, encouragement and support coming their way.
Without flood insurance because they lived too close to the river, family members have already set up a flood assistance account at Wells Forgo banks (under Heath Ford “Benefit 4 Bruce Ford”) and a social media page dedicated to raising financial help for them called the Bruce Ford Colorado Flood Benefit Facebook Page received over ten thousand views in a short matter of time.
The demonstration of thoughtfulness seems to be as moving for the couple as the flood damage.
“It seems like people want to help me and I appreciate that,” Ford acknowledged in a voice full of emotion. “And I’ve tried to give back all my life. I’ve put on rodeo schools and stuff like that, but I think we have good communities and good outreach (out here). There’s always something nice that they do.”
“The people in Kersey (are) wonderful folks,” he said as he took a thoughtful pause to collect himself. “Wonderful folks.”
Just like everyone else in rural communities hit hard by flood waters, Ford’s emotions ran the gamut of grief to joy.
Grief at the loss and destruction — but joy in the response of all those who wish to help.
“That’s a wonderful feeling,” Ford said about the extended rodeo community uniting behind them in this challenging time; an example being Greeley Hat Works volunteering to clean all of Bruce’s old NFR badges that were sullied in the flood.
“That goes back to the old rodeo deal,” Ford continued. “Rodeo is a whole different family.”
Asked about his thoughts during the flooding and after, Ford showed his faith in his response.
“I said, ‘Lord, you know what’s going on and there’s always a reason,’” he answered with conviction. “I think we’re going to come out of it even better. I never doubt and worry and say what are we going to do now? Another door will be opened up.”
“It’s devastating,” he admitted. “But we’re just so thankful we’ve got so many people that care for us. And if we all stick together, we’ll make it through this.”
Asked where they go from here, the couple showed the resilience displayed by most rural communities when hard times come calling.
“We know we’re devastated right now,” acknowledged Ford. “But I’ve already envisioned bigger and better things in my mind. Haven’t you, Sherry?”
“At least the worst is over,” she answered while still thinking of her fellow Coloradans downstream. “The water is gone, but the downside of that is that it is hitting somebody else. You think this stuff always happens to somebody else, but it happened to us. There’s that saying of walking in somebody else’s moccasins and now (we) have.”
“Our first content thought was that our family and animals were safe,” summed up Ford about their frame of mind. “Our thought now is that we’re going to move on.
“It won’t take us long,” he said, speaking for themselves and, it seemed, the entire region. “We’ll rebuild here or something. It’ll all come out all right.” ❖