THOMSON, Minn. - Could it get much lower than walking in waist-deep brown water to retrieve a few belongings from a flooded home?
That's what people in Thomson faced this week as they returned to their homes to pick up the few items they could carry out on their backs or in canoes.
"The jeans and my blue and red jacket, the one I wore to church last Sunday," Carol Balow instructed her husband Mick. Soon he too is headed toward to water.
It should stand to reason, the higher the water in Thomson, the lower the spirits. Yet the most peculiar things keep happening: less tears, more laughter and optimism.
"I got clean underwear," laughs one resident who, then slightly embarrassed by her own enthusiasm, declines to give her name.
The good spirits seem almost out of place among neighbors who were awaken in the middle of the night just 36 hours earlier and chased from their home.
We've seen it time and time again, in one disaster after another: Minnesotans remarkable ability to keep their chins up, when ill waters are swirling around them.
"I think it really points out that people need each other and people are together here and the kindness is unbelievable," said Sue Graber who braved the waters to help a friend retrieve belongings in a canoe being paddled by a man she just met.
Bob Halli helped Sue help her friend even though his own belongings are floating in his flooded home.
"You do what you can, you've got to do the neighborly thing," he says.
"Yes," agrees Graber, "it's a chain of help."
Not long after, Chuck Jacobs and Dar Radtke paddle by in a canoe themselves.
"We're going home," proclaims Radtke. Neither is sure what they'll find when they get to their house, though on the way they are finding plenty of empathy for their neighbors.
"Our spirits have to be up, we're better off than most of these people," says Jacobs.
The couple need only look a few blocks down to see the worst of the damage in Thomson. That's where the overflowing Thomson reservoir made a rushing river of Vermillion Street, tearing up pavement and tearing away parts of houses.
But even that comes with a weather-hardy Minnesota perspective.
"Alright young lady, you're home!," Jacobs says to Radtke as the canoe approaches their home. The water has reached their curb, but the house is dry. "There's nothing like home," says Radtke. "And we're home and we're not leaving."
Wherever the river takes them, the residents of Thomson are going there together.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)